- About Us
Oliver Emil "Orv" Ruhnke, Jr.September 19, 1926 ~ June 23, 2017 (age 90)
Oliver Ruhnke entered this world on September 19, 1926, in Kodan, Wisconsin, located just outside of Algoma. His parents were Oliver Ruhnke, Sr., and Anna Ruhnke.
He passed away on June 23, 2017, as he approached his 91st birthday. He was preceded in death by his parents and by Ramona Ruhnke, his wife of 65 years. He is survived by his sisters, Claire Massart (Sheboygan, WI), Bonnie Kuehn (Fredericksburg, TX) and Annette Holtz (Kiel, WI). He is further survived by his children Kay, Kirk, Kraig & Kerry, Kay’s husband Scott Turner, Kirk’s wife Pam Hansen, Kraig’s wife Mary, eight grandchildren: Cass Toeppler (Appleton), Josh Ruhnke (Minneapolis, MN), Raegan Ruhnke (Menasha), Nik Turner (Lafayette, CO), Lauren Ruhnke (Mesa, AZ), Alex Ruhnke (West Jordan, UT), Jake Ruhnke (Phoenix, AZ) and Marcus Morrow (Milwaukee), plus six great-grandchildren (Kraig, Jet, Ben & Jenna Toeppler, Owen Turner and Ozzy Ruhnke).
Oliver grew up on a farm, with all the down-to-earth practicality that comes with growing up on a farm. He attended Algoma High School, graduating at the age of 16. Two years later, while World War II was still in progress, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and trained to be a paratrooper. In 1945, he was on a troop transport ship steaming toward Asia, prepared to do his duty in the front lines of what was seen as the inevitable invasion of Japan. While he was en route, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war, and in all likelihood, saved his life. He spent the rest of his military service as part of the Army of Occupation in post-war Japan.
Following his discharge from the Army, he attended the University of Wisconsin on the G.I. Bill, and graduated with a degree in Agriculture. While he didn’t follow his parents in becoming a farmer, he didn’t fall far from that particular tree, and spent about 35 years working for a business that sold feed, seed, and chemicals to farmers.
Most of the people who worked with him over the years would probably recall Oliver Ruhnke, a businessman with a good head on his shoulders. The rest of us remember Orv, who was quite a bit more than that.
Oliver became Orv because he would sometimes receive letters erroneously addressed to Orville Ruhnke. At some point, his children decided that those letters had actually been correct, and took to calling him Orv.
Orv made things. All kinds of things. He made a garage. Actually, he made a few garages. He made the driveways that led into the garages. He made things out of metal, because he knew how to weld. He made things out of wood, because he knew how to cut, glue, carve and turn wood on a lathe. He made maple syrup because he knew how. He made artful canes and walking sticks. He made his lawn look three shades of green better than anyone else’s lawn. He made things that had stopped working work again. The man could fix anything—snow blowers, washing machines, automobiles, buildings—no job was too big to tackle.
He made us laugh, by uttering some of the most ridiculously funny things any of us will ever hear. He made memorable and inventive analogies. He made his stories come to life. He made commitments, and kept them. He made friends, and kept those, too. He made it fun to play cards, even if you were constantly losing to him. And while he spent the last few years of his life dealing with health issues, he made it a point to keep moving forward, with a positive attitude and a sense of humor.
Orv made things, and he made things interesting, and he made things better. He made us glad to know him. And now he’s made us sorry that he’s gone.
We’ll miss him.
Memorial services will be held at 11:00 AM, on Friday, June 30, 2017, at the Kessler Funeral Home, 304 S. Commercial St., Neenah, with Rev. Sandra Crase officiating. Interment will be in Evergreen Cemetery, Algoma. Visitation will be held on Friday at the funeral home from 10:00 AM until the time of the service.