All who knew Richard Jankowski would agree that no one met him and left unchanged. It was easy to see that he was a man of faith as his life exemplified what it means to be the hands and feet of the Lord he loved. Rich was a loving and devoted family man whose entire family was his greatest source of pride and joy. Although he accomplished so much of which to be proud, he was a humble man who lived to love and serve others in ways both great and small. Life will never be the same without Rich here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
The decade that we commonly recall as the Nifty Fifties was an exciting time in America. James Dean and Marilyn Monroe were big names on the silver screen while Elvis Presley took the music world by storm. Amidst this exciting time was a time of great joy for Richard J. and Jeanette (Krpan) Jankowski as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Richard Michael on April 7, 1956, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He became the oldest of six as he was joined in his family by his younger siblings, Deborah, Robert, Francis, Christopher, and Jackie. Rich spent 10 years living in Milwaukee until the family moved to Frackville, Pennsylvania, to take advantage of a job opportunity for his father at Zapata Industries while his mother was a homemaker. Family was always important to Rich, and as someone who had a gentle heart was referred to as a son any mother would love. Throughout his life, he was helpful wherever he could be.
Rich was a bustle of activity right from the start. He attended school in Pennsylvania and graduated from Cardinal Brennen High School in Ashland. Rich loved being involved in Boy Scouts and liked anything to do with the military. A lifelong sports lover, he played basketball and was an avid Green Bay Packers fan. Always had a gentle heart. Every year Rich looked forward to spending the holidays at his grandma’s in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. After graduating from Lincoln Tech in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with an associate degree in drafting, Rich moved back to Milwaukee. There, he attended Milwaukee School of Engineering, working on a mechanical engineering degree.
With his education behind him, Rich was poised for a rewarding career. He accepted a position as a plant engineer at Schlitz Brewing, working there until they closed. Rich then began working for an alarm company, Central Watch, for many years. Next, Rich’s career took him to Cooper Power in South Milwaukee, where he worked in the facility management department from 1981 until October of 1988 when he and Jeff Steier went into business on their own, creating Innovative Systems. Together they owned and operated Innovative Systems until the sale of the company in 2015.
New and exciting changes were in store for Rich when he met the love of his life, Diane Brunn, in 1981, at Red Carpet Celebrity Disco. They shared a dance, and he asked her for a date, however a snowstorm left them unable to go out. Diane later found out that Rich didn’t give her his correct name, which was a major turnoff for her. Rich was persistent so Diane finally agreed to go out with him in hopes of finally getting rid of him after that date. After developing pneumonia, he called to cancel. Although he really was sick, Diane didn’t believe him. Eventually, they did go out on a date, and were together ever since. Rich and Diane were married on October 23, 1982, at Walther Memorial Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. The newlyweds initially lived in the basement of Diane’s grandmother, but in 1983 they built a home in Franklin, Wisconsin.
Together, Rich and Diane welcomed their son, Richard D. “Richie” into their hearts and home in August of 1988. Rich was always there for his son, involved in his activities, and offered a listening ear at any time of the day or night. Rich instilled integrity, a strong work ethic, a love for Jesus, and a willingness to serve within his son through the example he set every day. He was always kidding around and was famous for always asking the waitress at the restaurant, “Are you single?” Upon a yes response Rich would ask if she would like to see a picture of his single son, and immediately present Richie’s baby picture. On one occasion, while visiting family in Pennsylvania by himself, they went to a restaurant. Because it was raining Rich dropped his mother and others off at the door. When Rich entered the hostess directed him to his wife and family, and from their seats his family could all hear his booming voice say, “That’s not my wife, that’s my mother!” They all laughed so hard and couldn’t stop laughing for weeks! Richie loved wresting around with his dad when Rich would say, “You will never beat the tower of power.”
Also of great significance in Rich’s life was his introduction to the faith he held dear. Rich and Diane accepted an invitation to a Bible Study from Maurice and Esther Miller, who were building a home near theirs. The study was about God’s plan for their life. Rich was baptized in the name of Jesus and filled with His life changing Spirit on September 27, 1986. He was never the same. His love for family and others was magnified as he was willing to help others whether physically, financially, or spiritually. Rich served in church ministry in a variety of ways including as a small group facilitator, church trustee, in the video department, benevolence committee, in dramas, and often as “the voice of Parkway” with his great announcer voice. Over the years there were many who gleaned from his wisdom, received a touch and prayer from him, or were given a financial blessing.
As someone who enjoyed being active, Rich was always busy. His travels took him vacationing with family and friends and visiting family in Pennsylvania. Rich and Richie enjoyed going to games in Green Bay, and they went to an away game each year as well. In 2016, he visited Israel with church friends. He also enjoyed just going for drives, sometimes all the way to Stevens Point just for ice cream. Rich frequently called family members just to keep up on how everyone was doing. He loved keeping up with his various family members including his mother, siblings, nieces, and nephews. Rich was so proud of their various accomplishments whether it was sports, graduation from boot camp, or something else.
In everything he did, Richard Jankowski was about loving and serving others. Guided by his unwavering faith, he lived a life of purpose and was content in all things. Rich’s love for others was easy to see, and there was nothing he treasured more than being with the ones he cherished. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Richard M. Jankowski died on July 24, 2017. Beloved husband of Diane L. Jankowski (nee Brunn). Cherished father of Richard D. Jankowski. Loving son of Jeanette (nee Krpan) and the late Richard J. Jankowski. Dear brother of Deborah (Gregg) Gaylard, Robert (Sue) Jankowski, Francis (Honey) Jankowski, Christopher (Connie) Jankowski, and Jackie (Bob) Ronemus. Further survived by other relatives and friends. Family and friends will gather Thursday, August 3, 2017, at Parkway Apostolic Church 10940 S. Nicholson Road, Oak Creek, WI 52154 from 4:00 – 6:45 p.m. Memorial Service to follow at 7:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers memorials in Richard’s name to Faith Initiatives or Team Kenya 2017 in care of Parkway Church. Suminski Weiss. LifeStory Funeral Homes. (414) 276-5122. SuminskiFuneralHome.com