Joseph James Kleefisch passed away on January 30th after a ‘life of no regrets.' He lived in Sheboygan County for all of it, having been born in Sheboygan on May 25, 1923, to Louise (Fuerlinger) and Carl J. Kleefisch. He was a member of the Sheboygan Turners and was quite an all-around gymnast. His claim to fame was being able to perform the iron cross on the still rings. He graduated from North High School in 1941.
He joined the Army in 1942 and served as a T-4 Sergeant in Europe during the war, landing in Normandy 6 days after D-Day. Because of his ability to fix things, and his knowledge of the German language, he became supervisor of the truck and other vehicle maintenance shop.
He returned to Wisconsin after the war and was recruited to the gymnastics team at UW Madison. He attended UW-Madison for a year, but left to marry the love of his life, Joyce Ann Schweingruber, also of Sheboygan, at St. Peter Claver Church on November 5, 1949. She preceded him in death on August 10, 2015.
Joe and Joyce had six children. Twin sons, who were born and died on September 10, 1952, preceded Joe in death; as did his son, Commander Joseph G. Kleefisch, who died on May 17, 1995. He is survived by 3 of his children, 10 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. The children are: Mary (Charles) Klasen of Appleton, James G. (Alicia) Kleefisch of New Berlin, and Thomas G. (Julie) Kleefisch of Sheboygan. Nancy (Joe) Kleefisch, daughter-in-law, lives in Escondido, California. The grandchildren and great grandchildren are: Thomas J. (Nathalie) Klasen of Den Haag, The Netherlands, with children Amalia and Joseph; Anne M. (Daniel IV) Trezevant of Omro, with children Daniel V and Olivia; Martha E. Klasen (Justin) Ranek of Eau Claire with Michael; Joseph C. (Erin) Kleefisch, currently serving in the Navy and living in San Diego with Riley and Evelyn; Matthew S. Kleefisch of Denver; Christopher J. (Alissa) Kleefisch of Wauwatosa; Ryan J. Kleefisch of Milwaukee, Allison M. Kleefisch of Minneapolis; Melissa A. Kleefisch of Sheboygan; and Kayla M. Kleefisch of Sheboygan.
His sisters, Magdalene Kleefisch (Anton) Meyer and Sister Carol Ann Kleefisch (SSND), and his brothers, Rev. Charles Kleefisch, Arthur (Loretta) Kleefisch, and Leo (Regina) Kleefisch preceded him in death. He is survived by his brother Raymond (Dolores) Kleefisch of Louisiana.
He worked at the Kohler Pottery for 47 years, most recently as a foreman. He retired in May of 1988, and then went on to become an enthusiastic tour guide for the Kohler Design Center for 20 years, through 2011.
Joe was a family man. He adored his wife and his kids, and spent time with them whenever possible. He took his kids skiing (at Greenbush's Kettle Moraine), took them hiking, and always liked explaining how things worked. He loved Lake Michigan and never missed an opportunity to drive past it just to see the big pond! He was our family's ‘Mr. Fix-It.' If it could be fixed, Joe could do it. Even granddaughters' dollies went to grandpas for fixing! He loved photography, and developed and printed his own pictures in his darkroom. Woodworking was also one of his hobbies and we all have many things he made for us. Sundays were for church and family time. He was a Boy Scout Leader for 5 years and he and Joyce established and ran the PTA at Immaculate Conception School. He helped coach his sons when they were in high school and spent many hours photographing all the sports teams at Kohler High - even after his children had graduated.
He was a member of the Kohler Volunteer Fire Department for 50 years and a member of the Kohler Quarter Century Club. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus and in 1950 served as Faithful Navigator for the 4th degree.
A Mass in Celebration of Joe's life will be held at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church (807 Superior Ave, Sheboygan) at 10 AM on Monday, March 12. Visitation will begin in the church narthex at 9:00.
Zimmer-Westview Funeral and Cremation Care Center is assisting with arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of these worthy organizations: Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Terrace Place Senior Living Center, St. Nicholas Hospice.
That man is a success -
who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;
who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who leaves the world better than he found it;
who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it;
who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.
818 Huron Avenue
Sheboygan, WI 53081
818 Huron Avenue
Sheboygan, WI 53081