Waunakee - Jim Gruentzel, having lived a long full life, passed away on Sunday, July 12, 2020, three weeks shy of his 91st birthday. He was born in Milwaukee on August 2, 1929 and adopted six weeks later by loving parents, Reuben and Ruth (Goerlinger) Gruentzel of New London, WI.
He graduated from New London High School and attended UW-Oshkosh, Northwestern and Nova Universities. He proudly served during the Korean War in the 174th Military Police Battalion and was grateful to have flown with many other Korean War Vets on the Badger Honor Flight to Washington, DC.
Jim married the love of his life, Elizabeth (Betty) Bricco on July 17, 1954 and joined the Wisconsin State Patrol’s 2nd recruit class that same year. He rose to the rank of Captain, commanding District One in Madison. In 1969, Jim was appointed Director of the State of Wisconsin Emergency Management Services by Governor Warren Knowles and was proud to have served both Republican and Democratic Governors (Patrick Lucey). He was elected President of the National Organization of State Directors of Emergency Services and was instrumental in developing the first national disaster legislation.
After transferring to the Wisconsin Dept of Local Affairs and Development, Jim was involved with local governments throughout Wisconsin in planning, management, and economic development. He drafted and shepherded the Business Improvement District legislation into becoming law. As a founding member of the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council, Jim actively supported the preservation of downtowns. As Director of Business Development and Financing in the Dept of Development (the precursor to the current Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation), Jim supervised field consultants coordinating all types of industrial and economic development projects and administered the Department’s business financing and commercial development programs across Wisconsin.
Retiring in 1990, Jim continued his advocacy of economic and business development as a member of the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Business Development Finance Corporation for over 25 years and was a founding member of the Community Development Society of Wisconsin. He served a four-year term on the Wisconsin Employee Trust Fund Board representing over 100,000 retirees in the Wisconsin Retirement System. He is a past president of the Westshire Village Association and served on the advisory committee that brought the Assisted Living Facility to Westshire Village.
Jim was an avid Packer fan, loved to play golf, and was a longtime member of the Chippewa Flowage Dead Fish Society. He thoroughly enjoyed his Badger/Packer weekends with his son, Dick, and his world travels with his daughter, Kathy, visiting six of the seven continents (missing only Australia).
Jim is survived by his loving wife of 66 years, Betty, his daughter, Kathy of Dodgeville, his son Dick (Holly) of Tucson, Arizona and daughter-in-law Mary, of New Berlin. He is further survived by grandchildren Chris, Lisa, Alexandra, and David, and great-grandchildren, Abby and Nick. He was preceded in death by his parents, and his son, Michael.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St Mary of the Lake Church, 5460 Mary Lake Road, Westport, WI at 1pm on Saturday, July 25, 2020. Visitation will be held at the church from 12noon until the time of the Mass. Due to COVID-19 requirements, face masks are required in the church and social distancing is encouraged. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Heart Association; American Legion Post 360, P O Box 185, Waunakee, WI 53597; or St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. To view and sign this guestbook, please visit: www.ryanfuneralservice.com.
Ryan Funeral Home & Cremation Services
2418 N Sherman Ave
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