Ralph Duane Guckenberger, age 74, went to his heavenly home on May 8, 2023. Ralph was born to Vince and Loraine Guckenberger in Milwaukee on November 6, 1948 and grew up in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. He attended St. James Elementary in Franklin. After three years at St. Francis de Sales Minor Seminary in Milwaukee, he returned to graduate from Oak Creek High School in 1966. He enrolled at UW-Whitewater and later at UW-Stevens Point for a total of three years. It was at UW-Stevens Point that he met his future wife, Joan Petruske. On December 26, 1970, they were married at St. James Catholic Church in Franklin, Wisconsin.
Ralph and Joan’s marriage was blessed with two wonderful children, Steve and Gina. Ralph enjoyed spending time with them and later the grandchildren also. Through the years, both Ralph and Joan attended the sports and activities that the children were involved in. As they became adults, Ralph helped them out with house and yard projects. He enjoyed vegetable gardening and was quick to show off the produce grown. Other hobbies were deer hunting in his younger days, fishing on the lakes during vacations, playing the slot machines at area casinos, and reading both fiction and nonfiction, but especially mysteries. He also delighted in watching the variety of birds feasting at the feeders which he kept filled.
In the early years, they went north on regular camping trips with Ralph’s family. Later, Ralph and Joan enjoyed vacationing at northern Wisconsin resorts with their children at popular locations near Balsam Lake, Hayward and other areas. His mom Loraine often accompanied them. These summer trips have become a family tradition, carried on to the current day. Until recently, Ralph always pulled his boat up for some fishing. His mom Loraine liked to join him even into her 90s.
When Ralph’s mom was unable to live independently, she spent several months each year at the home of Ralph and Joan. He gently cared for her needs and drove her to numerous doctor appointments. He changed her dressings after foot surgery and prepared her breakfasts and lunches. She passed away on January 12, 2015.
Ralph had enlisted with the U. S. Naval Reserve on May 11, 1970 in Stevens Point, WI. He proudly served on active duty with the Naval Reserve for twenty-two years; (December 29, 1971 to May 31, 1992) as a Yeoman, Navy Reserve Recruiter, and Supervisor of Navy Reserve Recruiters. His final years were in Personnel. His duty stations were Omaha, Nebraska (Headquarters of the Navy Reserve); Dubuque, Iowa; Sheboygan, WI; La Crosse, WI; St. Paul, MN; and Great Lakes, IL. Ralph retired as an E8 Senior Chief.
After his years in the military, Ralph worked for Laser Magic in Hudson, WI from 1992 to 2010. He began by running the laser machines and later joined the sales department. He retired after eighteen years. There he gained a reputation as a jokester and a prankster.
Ralph and Joan set a goal of visiting every state in the U. S., often accompanied by family or friends, especially Gary and Nancy Olds or Jim and Becky Guckenberger. They finally achieved the 50th state with an Alaskan cruise. Their desire to travel also lead them to many countries in Europe, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean.
After Ralph and Joan had both retired, they spent two months each year as ‘snow birds’ in Florida enjoying the benefits of military accommodations offered to retirees. During their travels, they visited all the local tourist attractions as well as many history and science museums. They climbed the steps of numerous lighthouses along the coasts. Ralph enjoyed driving around the country and became the main driver on many of the trips.
Ralph was a ‘people person’ and made many friends throughout his education, jobs and travel. Even with the frequent moves, he was always in close touch with family and friends, including a very large group of college buddies who stuck together even into their seventies. Joan called him a ‘phonaholic’.
Ralph is survived by his wife Joan of 52 years, son Steven (Jill Jorde) of Somerset, daughter Gina (Marc Thompson) of Hudson; five grandchildren, Devin (Molly) Jorde; Coen and Addison Thompson; Autumn and Elliana Guckenberger, one great granddaughter Lizzy; brothers Jim (Becky), Glen (Barb), and sister Ann (Dean) Meyer all of Oak Creek; brother-in-law and sister-in-law Donna and Phil Wianecki of Princeton, WI; and nieces and nephews.
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