With his gentle spirit and quiet wisdom, Raymond Lukaszewicz fundamentally impacted the lives of nearly everyone who crossed his path. He was a true patriot who served his country during a time of need and was so proud to have done his part to preserve the freedoms all Americans enjoy today. There was no greater love in Ray’s life than the love he had for his family as they were his true reward. Although he was a hard worker who believed in a good day’s work for a good day’s pay, Ray was a firm believer in living life to its fullest and was a master of finding the beauty in each new day. Life will never be the same now that Ray is gone, but those who knew him will be forever changed for having been loved by such an extraordinary man.
The decade of the 1920s was a vibrant time within our nation’s history and 1923 was full of noteworthy events. This was the year in which Vice President Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office after President Warren G. Harding fell ill and died, and it was also the year that a vaccine was developed for whooping cough. It was on March 24th of that year that Joseph and Joanna (Kobbs) Lukaszewicz were pleased to announce the birth of their son, Raymond. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Ray was raised in the family home at 2609 East Denton Avenue in St. Francis, a southern suburb of Milwaukee. His father worked in maintenance and set up store window displays while his mother also worked full time in an office to provide for the family . Throughout the 1930s, our nation was held tightly in the grip of the Great Depression. Ray, like so many other young people during this time, found fun in things like roller skating and baseball. In fact, Ray was quite a good ballplayer who had dreams of one day being a big league pitcher. He also worked a bit during his younger years delivering baked goods and candy for Weber’s – a downtown Milwaukee chocolatier and bakery where his father worked. Ray attended local schools as well.
After graduating from high school, Ray joined the military as countless American servicemen and women were serving overseas in WWII. He was just 19 when he joined the Army, serving in Battery D 460th AAA AW Battalion. Ray was part of the European Campaign from Normandy to Germany, and he fought in the historic Battle of the Bulge. Throughout the rest of his life Ray was proud to be a veteran and although he rarely spoke of his experiences during his time in the military, it was clear that it was a time in his life that deeply affected him.
Life was forever changed for Ray when he met the young woman with whom he would share a lifetime of love. Ray’s best friend set him up on a blind date with the sister of the girl he was dating, and her name was Audrey Schleif. It was Ray’s birthday that night and they went to the roller derby. They hit it off right away and from that point forward, the two were inseparable. After dating for a time, Ray and Audrey married on May 22, 1948, marking the beginning of a new chapter in a love story that would be written over more than 60 years.
Nothing could have made the couple happier than being blessed with four children: Tom, Denise, and identical twins, Dean and Dale. Ray viewed being a father to be both his highest calling and his greatest blessing. It was an especially challenging season of life when they had three children all in diapers since Denise was only 13 months older than the twins, but they made it through. Ray and Audrey worked opposite shifts so that someone would always be with the children during their younger years. Ray left for work and usually told his children, “listen to your mother,” since she was on her own with all the children at night while Ray worked second shift.
Although Ray recognized that children are a tremendous amount of work, he also saw that children are a bunch of fun, too. Family vacations were treasured times and were often spent up north near Eagle River where they would fish, swim, and play plenty of games. On one such trip, Ray lost his wedding ring while playing with the kids. He was thrilled when he found it days later under the cottage. Ray once took a rafting trip down the Wisconsin River with his boys and their Boy Scout troop even though he could barely swim. He took everything in stride, too, such as the time he took his family to the open house at work. Denise was all dressed up in white tights and although she was instructed to stay clean, she took no time at all finding the grease in the machine shop!
In order to support his family, Ray worked many different jobs while his children were young including as a roofer, a homebuilder, and a bricklayer. He found his niche when he began working as a turret lathe operator at Kearney & Trecker. Ray was a dedicated worker who was proud of the work he did and after more than 40 years of service, he officially retired.
Later in life, Ray continued to delight in each day he was given. He and Audrey did some traveling together including to Hawaii three times and on two cruises including one to Alaska. They also went to a dude ranch even though Ray didn’t care for horses, took trips to Las Vegas, and spent many winter seasons in California. Their family continued to get together for every holiday, even this past Thanksgiving, and all special occasions as well. Ray loved hosting his family in the house he called home for 58 years. Always looking for a way to keep busy, he put his bricklaying skills to good use laying pavers alongside his son Tom’s driveway, and he also loved square dancing, golf, and bowling.
Raymond Lukaszewicz will be remembered for his strong work ethic, his fun-loving spirit, and his positive attitude, but it was his steadfast love for his family that was his greatest legacy. He was blessed to share his days with the love of his life and viewed the day they met to be the greatest day of his life. Ray leaves behind lessons in honesty, dependability, and integrity that his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be proud to carry on.
Raymond Lukaszewicz died on December 23, 2010. Ray’s family includes his wife, Audrey; children, Thomas (Helen) Lukaszewicz, Denise (James) Payne, Dean (Carol) Lukaszewicz and Dale (Suzie) Lukaszewicz; grandchildren, Amy (Joe) LaMacchia, Sara (Ryan Flynn) Lukaszewicz, Jennifer (Jeremy) Hilgendorf, Laura (Ryan) Mokelke, Adam (Hannah Jahnke) Lukaszewicz, and Paul Lukaszewicz; great-grandchildren, Ruby LaMacchia and Ella Hilgenforf; sister, Elaine Sergio; as well as other relatives and friends. Family and friends will gather to celebrate Raymond’s life Wednesday, December 29 at the Funeral Home from 4:00 p.m. until time of the Memorial Service at 7:00 p.m. Arrangements provided by Suminski Family Funeral Homes, Niemann / Suminski, 2486 S. Kinnickinnic Ave 414-744-5156. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a favorite memory.