With his family by his side, John Christopher Kochanowski, age 72, passed away at home on April 15, 2019. The diagnosis on April 10th of stage IV kidney cancer and kidney failure was a complete shock to everyone as he felt in good health up until 4 days before entering the hospital. His condition was discovered during the 8-day hospital stay.
John’s parents, Boleslaw and Jadwiga (Sztapka) Kochanowski, were taken from Poland to Germany during WWII as forced laborers. After the war, his parents met and were married in a displaced persons camp in Germany where John was born in 1946. When John was 3 years old, his family immigrated to America. They lived first in Brunswick, GA, then in Chicago, IL, and finally moved to a dairy farm near Vesper, WI, where John had the wonderful opportunity to attend a one-room school house and participate in 4-H. John graduated from Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, and was known for being an outstanding wrestler. After that, he attended Wood County and Taylor County Teachers Colleges and taught for a short time before going into the Army. At Fort Bliss, Texas, he completed an intensive Vietnamese language program and was then deployed to a PSYOPS division at Bien Hoa Air Force base in Vietnam.
After returning home, John became a naturalized US citizen. In 1971, he married Margaret Pagel, whom he met at Taylor County Teacher’s College. They attended UW-Oshkosh together and earned Bachelor’s Degrees in Education. They have been married for 48 years and have 3 children–Chadwick, Katharine (Gustavo), and Alexander, and 5 grandchildren–Josiah, Vivian, Reuben, Andres, and Jude.
John spent most of his working years in WI. His jobs included: the Milwaukee Road Railroad; Christian/public school teacher; heavy-duty vehicle mechanic; welding instructor; work training specialist for adults with disabilities; the Wisconsin Rapids paper mill; and semi-truck driver. He also served his community as trustee for the Village of Junction City; volunteer fireman; officer for the Town of Hull Parks Commission; President of Runkel Cemetery; and Treasurer of Junction City Evangelical Free Church. Throughout this time, John continued his military career with the United States Army Reserve. He served for over 20 years in various capacities to include company commander for several reserve units, finally retiring as a Major.
John played the guitar and accordion, enjoyed square dancing, motorcycling, handball, flying single-engine aircraft or catching thermals with gliders (engineless aircraft), RVing, collecting replicas of old naval ships, reading history books, playing cards, and the color blue. He was a serious and disciplined person, who enjoyed challenges and variety. John was also quite a jokester.
After retiring to The Villages, John was able to pursue his passion of playing cards full-time to include: cribbage; pinochle; and the WI game of Sheepshead. He enjoyed watching tennis, old westerns, and history on TV. A new glitch appeared in 2018 with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (believed to be due to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam). John took the news in stride. He was kind and loving, and a great husband and father. He will be dearly missed.
John is also survived by his sister, Ursula; 3 brothers, Casey (Brenda), Bill (Anna), Peter (Susanna); sister-in-law Barbara (John), 7 nieces, 8 nephews, and other relatives.
A celebration of life service will be held at 3:00pm on April 29, 2019, at Live Oaks Community Church (behind Wal-Mart off Hwy 466). Burial will take place at a later date in Junction City, WI. Memorials in John’s name may be made to Live Oaks Community Church’s Living Oaks Campaign or the charity of your choice. Online condolences as well as fond memories may be left for the family by visiting www.BaldwinCremation.com.