Vernon “Rick” David Rueckert, age 96 ½, of Neenah, passed away peacefully shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2019, at ThedaCare Medical Center in Neenah. He married Loraine Gurney of Beaver Dam, on June 5, 1948, 71½ years ago. They had two children, Patricia and Larry. Vernon was born on a family farm near Zachow on June 23, 1923, to Otto and Elsie (Graf) Rueckert. His mother passed away in December of 1924, when his brother Wallin was born.
His father later married Edna Berg of Twelve Corners, moved to Appleton and then to Beaver Dam. Vernon graduated from Beaver Dam High School in 1941. He and four of his best friends were drafted into the Army and served their entire tour of duty together. It was at this time that Vernon became “Rick” to his Army buddies. He served during WWII as a company clerk in the 457th Ordnance Evacuation Company in the European Theatre. The strong friendships among members of the 457th persisted and post-war reunions were held annually in a different city every year - the first one in Milwaukee with 100 men in attendance. Rick, the youngest man in the company, was chosen to be the corresponding secretary, a job he proudly held until eight months ago when he transferred all the records to one of the army wives. He didn’t know whether he was the sole survivor because efforts to reach the few remaining original reunion attendees have been unsuccessful.
Rick received his BA from Oshkosh State Teachers College in 1949 and his MA in education at Northern Colorado University in 1954. He was a 6th grade teacher at Washington and Lakeview schools in the Neenah Joint School District for 34 years and served as President of the Neenah Teachers Association for a term. After he retired, he became an honorary member of the Wisconsin Retired Educators Association.
His volunteer activities included being an NRA Rifle Club instructor at the Boys Brigade for 25 years. He also conducted a weekly news discussion at Manor Care Nursing Home in Appleton for many years.
Rick enjoyed hunting and fishing with his father and son including trips to Colorado and Wyoming, Quebec, Arctic circle caribou hunting and finally a safari to Africa with his son where, at 79, he was the oldest hunter ever to get a hunting license in Namibia. The family spent many summers traveling with their travel trailer to all 48 contiguous states, Mexico and Canada. Rick and Loraine spent their 25th wedding anniversary in Hawaii and completed the 50th state visit on an Alaskan cruise. Rick treasured revisiting Great Britain and France, including Normandy and his landing spot on Utah Beach, during a family trip.
He will be sadly missed by his wife Loraine; daughter Patricia of Naples, FL; son Larry (Cheryl}, two grandsons Sam and Tyler of Au Train, MI; nephews, Ken and Rick Gurney of Brookfield and Arizona; cousin Marge Graf of Cecil; other relatives and friends.
Rick was preceded in death by his parents; parents in-law, Frank and Helen Gurney; brother Wallin Rueckert; an infant brother and sister; a sister Dorothy; brothers-in-law Lawrence, Myron and Clarence Gurney; other relatives and friends.
Visitation at Kessler Funeral Home, 304 S. Commercial St., Neenah, will be held on Thursday, January 9th from 4 – 6 p.m. A Prayer Service will take place at 5:45 p.m. Rick will be laid to rest with full military honors at St. Michaels Cemetery in Beaver Dam in a private ceremony.
The family extends their thanks to the staff at Peabody Manor Nursing Home and the medical staff at ThedaCare for the compassionate care they provided.
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