After 89 years of laughter, love, and life, Lloyd “Gilly” Croatt passed away
peacefully in his sleep on July 31, 2022.
Lloyd, the youngest of five children, was born in the front room of the family
home in Belgium, Wisconsin to Alfred Nicholas and Anna Schmit Croatt.
Although too young to play in the family band, he continued the tradition of his
musical family throughout his life by singing in musical choruses, barbershop
quartets and choruses, church choruses, and playing the stumpfiddle (made by his
father) in impromptu concerts. He could often be seen regaling an audience with
Luxembourgish songs passed down to him by his ancestors.
Growing up in a farming community during the Great Depression, Lloyd valued
hard work, honesty, frugality, and a down home sense of humor, at which he was
quite adept. After graduating from Port Washington High School, he enlisted in the
army. Once his stint in the Army was completed, he enrolled at St. Norbert’s
College, becoming the first person in his family to attend college. He transferred to
Marquette University, graduating in 1959 with a degree in Electrical Engineering.
While at MU, he met Mary Leone Smullen, his lifelong love and companion, and
they wed in 1960.
Upon graduation, Lloyd entered a two-year Bell Labs rotational training program,
before taking a three-year stint teaching engineering courses at the Operating
Engineers Training Program for Bell Systems in Naperville, Illinois. He ultimately
took a position with Wisconsin Bell supervising Outside Plant that he would have
for the balance of his 32-year career, and settled in New Berlin and ultimately
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.
During this time, he and Mary Lee raised two children: Michael (1962) and Julie
(1963) and became involved in prairie restoration. They bought a 76-acre plot in
Southwestern Wisconsin, which they converted back into native prairie. They built
a lovely cabin there and to this day the valley is a shining testament to their hard
work, blossoming yearly with an explosion of native species.
After several years splitting time between Wisconsin and New Smyrna Beach,
Florida, they decided to move full time down to the Sunshine State in 2018. There
they did what they did everywhere they lived: created a expansive group of friends
sharing laughter, love, and friendship. Lloyd never met a stranger he didn’t like
and loved entertaining with good, old-fashioned grace. He added bird watching to
his list of interests and, as the “Mayor of Magnolia Street,” he could be found
riding his adult tricycle around town looking for baked goods and someone to chat
A lover of all things Luxembourgish, Lloyd returned to his native land eleven
times, hosting tour groups there multiple times. In his later years he proudly
established Luxembourg citizenship. He was a native speaker of Luxembourgoise,
an unwritten language not changed since the 1850’s when his ancestors came to
America, and he starred in a Luxembourgish produced documentary about the lost
language of the country. He had no word for anything invented from the 1850’s
onwards: cars, computers, even the radio!
Lloyd was a founding member of the Luxembourg American Cultural Society,
becoming its first president, and ushered in the building of the Luxembourg
American Cultural Center in his hometown of Belgium, Wisconsin (confusing, we
know!). It was his most proud accomplishment. He loved nothing more than
kibitzing with Luxembourgers, and their American descendants, checking for any
familial connections, of which quite often there were.
He will be remembered by his family as someone who loved music, could fix
anything (truly whistled while he worked), saw the best in everyone, loved to
laugh, loved life, loved people. He decided to change his name to Gilly (in honor
of his ancestors) when he was in his 70’s. He was kind to all, respectful, and hated
an argument or talking badly of others. In short, a true gentleman.
Lloyd is survived by his wife, Mary Lee, his children Julie Kapler (Bill) and
Michael Croatt, his granddaughters Lauren Ryan (Dan) and Devon Leftwich
(Brian), and his great granddaughters Isabelle, Nora and Eileen Ryan.
A Celebration of Life will be held this late fall/early winter in New Smyrna Beach,
Florida at Our Lady Star of the Sea parish. A second Celebration and burial will be
held in Belgium, Wisconsin in August of next year during the weekend of
Luxembourg Fest. In lieu of flowers, memorials are appreciated to the
Luxembourg American Cultural Society Endowment Fund, P.O. Box 157,
Belgium, WI 53004.
For more information on Gilly Croatt’s illustrious life, please email Michael Croatt