Richard Walter Zawatzke passed to the arms of his Lord on October 17, 2021 at Riverview Hospital, Wisconsin Rapids. Richard was born April 9, 1947 in Janesville, Wisconsin to Walter George Zawatzke and Helen Therese Zawatzke (Yasaitis). Later, the Zawatzke family moved to Racine, Wisconsin. Richard attended Holy Trinity grade school and Horlick High School.
After high school in 1966, Richard married Horlick High School classmate, Beverly Elayne Smith (nka Heintz) and they had a daughter, Stephanie Elayne Zawatzke (nka Severson O’Toole). Richard proudly enlisted in the Marines, following in the footsteps of his beloved father-in-law, Jerd L. Smith.
Richard distinguished himself during his five years of service in the U.S. Marines, where he served in Viet Nam as a helicopter mechanic. Richard was in the air wing of the USMC. He received Avionics training at the US Naval Air Station in Millington, Tennessee, graduating near the top of his class. Prior to serving in Viet Nam, Richard was stationed at the New River Marine Corps helicopter base in Jacksonville, North Carolina. While in Viet Nam, he served in Phu Bai, Da Nang and was aboard the helicopter carrier USS Iwo Jima. He also received additional training in Okinawa. After Viet Nam, he was stationed at the USMC air base at El Toro, California. While at El Toro, he received a Meritorious Mast award for designing a part that reduced military aircraft accidents and that was installed on military aircraft. He was privileged to have worked as a technician on Air Force One while President Nixon was visiting El Toro. Richard also completed coursework with the Cleveland Institute of Technology and qualified for his 2nd Class FCC license.
After his honorable discharge from the Marines in 1970, Richard moved back to Racine, Wisconsin, passed tests to qualify for a 1st Class FCC license, and was hired by AT&T as a telephone technician specialist. He worked at AT&T for 35 years and retired in 2007. In 1972, Richard married Linda Haas and they had a son, Richard Stephen Zawatzke.
In his retirement years, Richard moved to Wisconsin Rapids to be closer to his mother and sister, Susanne Zawatzke (nka Stuckey), and her children, Carrisa Stuckey and Colton Stuckey. Richard enjoyed the fellowship of the parishioners at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wisconsin Rapids where he found a welcoming church home. Richard had a very active, curious mind and often ordered online college level courses to learn new things, though he was always particularly interested in computers and related technology, frequently taking computers apart and putting them together.
In his later years, Richard was troubled by a host of physical ailments, which prevented him from getting out of the house as often as he would have liked. One of his greatest joys were his pets, most recently Joey (a Chow/Samoyed mix featured in the obituary picture), a rescue dog, Leelah, and a rescue cat, Smokey. He loved to feed the birds and to garden, much like his mother did. He adored his mother and communicated with her regularly throughout her life. Richard was also an avid cook who enjoyed exploring different cuisines, though fried porkchops were a favorite of his. His cooking talent was acquired from his father, who was known to be an excellent cook, having served as a cook in the U.S. Army.
Richard is preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Helen (Yasaitis), and his dear younger brother, Stephen, who died in a drowning accident at age 11, when Richard was just 13. It was an impactful event in Richard’s young life.
Richard is survived by his children, Stephanie and Richard, and sisters, Therese (“Terri”) Gregory, Marcella (“Marcie”) Orton, and Susanne (“Sue”) Stuckey, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Herman-Taylor Funeral Home is honored to be assisting the family.
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