LeTendre, Walter George (Joe)
Proud father. Proud Marine. Devoted husband. Eternal optimist. Adventurer. Author. Enthusiastic photographer. Lover of Mexican food and family gatherings.
Left this world surrounded by his much loved wife Ginny and his children at his Muskego home on Feb. 27, 2016. He was 92 years and 7 months old.
Joe was born on Aug. 2, 1923, to Ethel and Walter J. LeTendre in Tomahawk, the oldest of four children. The family moved to the South Side of Milwaukee when he was a boy.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Joe joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He was working for the local A&P Grocery store and enlisted on his day off. He took the streetcar to the recruiting office in downtown Milwaukee. He served with the Scout Bombing Squadron VMSB-343 on Midway Island and helped compile a book on the unit, “Friends Made, Moments Shared, Memories for Life.” He helped organize reunions of the VMSB association.
He once was asked how he felt when the war ended. He said, “I couldn’t believe I was alive.”
He never did forget that. Walter George “Joe” LeTendre was the “livingest” guy you could ever meet.
After the war he met the girl he’d marry, Shirley (Kitty) Kittleson. His parents had moved into the flat upstairs from her parents. She wrote in the Marine memories book, “When he came home from overseas, I was standing on the front porch and noticed this handsome, sun-tanned Marine with shiny shoes.”
Joe and Shirley married on July 5, 1947.
Together they raised eight children. Joe went to night school at Marquette University. He worked for Miller Brewing Company, rising to a management position he created: corporate sanitation quality control. He traveled across America and Latin America, inspecting suppliers to ensure quality for Miller. Over the years, he also took odd jobs to support his growing family – painting, working at J.C. Penney, and starting a popcorn and caramel apple concession stand at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1950. The family-run stand operated for more than 60 years.
Joe and his late wife Shirley loved to travel and embarked on many road trips in the family VW Minivan – from Canada to Mexico and all through the United States.
Joe lost his wife Shirley in 2002. His son Tom died in the Falk explosion in 2006. His grandson Michael died in 2013.
In 2003, Joe found love again with Virginia (Ginny) Rinka. They married on Sept. 25, 2004. They traveled, took a cruise to Alaska and spent winters in Florida, where Ginny helped him discover a new passion: golf.
Joe’s idea of heaven was his family. He never tired of gathering with them. He had a deep love of God and church.
He is survived by his loving wife, Ginny; daughters Allyson (Donn) Vitek and Maura (Frank) Gundersen; daughter-in-law Darlene (Steve) Bundy; sons Doug (Jan); David (Denise); Walter Jr.; John (Eileen); and Daniel (Mary Jo); step-daughter Debbie (Lee) Barforth and stepson Tim (Kim) Rinka; 25 grandchildren and 17great-grandchildren. Also survived by many relatives and friends.
Honor Joe by showing your family that you love them. Make time for each other, write a letter, call. Just love one another. Believe the words he liked to say: “The best is yet to be.”
Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, at the Heritage Funeral Home, 4800 S. 84th St., Greenfield. Services will be held Thursday, March 10, at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 3722 S. 58th St., with visitation from 10 a.m. until time of Mass at 11 a.m. Burial with military honors at Highland Memorial Park.
Memorials to the VA, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, or other charities are appreciated.
HERITAGE FUNERAL HOMES