/ Obituaries / John Robert Birkholz

John Robert Birkholz

John Robert Birkholz of Cedarburg died on July 9, 2020 at the age of 87 from natural causes. At John’s request no services will be held.

John was born on April 11, 1933 in Antigo, the son of the late Frank “Grumpy” and Elinore (Hanson) Birkholz. He grew up on the island in Minocqua, where he and his family built a log cabin. In his later years, John and his wife Maryann settled in Cedarburg, where he was an active member of the community, serving on numerous boards and volunteering with a number of organizations.

He had a passion for reading, culture, history and politics, vintage cars and antique train sets.

He was a visionary leader and educator. His first degree was a bachelor’s degree from Whitewater State University, where he met Maryann. Later, while working full time and attending night school, he earned a master’s degree and finally a PhD in economics from Northwestern University in Dekalb, Ill. His first job out of school was as a teacher of stenography and baseball coach at the Wisconsin Industrial School for Girls.

His career next brought him to the then newly founded Joliet Junior College, and through this into the growth of the nascent Junior Colleges system where he rose from Dean to president. He served as president for Harper College, Erie Community College, Gateway Technical College, and finally Milwaukee Area Technical College where he retired in 2001.

During this almost 50-year career, he advanced the lives of thousands of students. Among his many career achievements was the tireless work he undertook with policymakers to allow technical college courses to be recognized at accredited universities, aiding many students to successfully transition from vocational to university institutions.

John was loyal to all, and a champion for the underdogs. He was unwavering in his values and always put what was right first. He taught us all to be better people, treating everyone with respect and dignity. John was deeply invested in hearing about the lives of others; he spent many hours walking the main street in Cedarburg, visiting with people along the way.

John was a devoted husband to Maryann, caring for her until her death in 2018. He was a proud father of four children and wise grandfather to nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is survived by his sister Elinore Jane Jacobsen; children: Barry (JoAnn) Birkholz, Wayzata, Minn.; Peter (Soo Zee Park) Birkholz, Oakland, Calif.; Suzy (Peter) Maniak, Saint Paul; and John (Jennifer Barr) Birkholz, Carrboro, N.C.; grandchildren: Julie (Radboud Reijn) Birkholz, BJ Birkholz, Sarah Birkholz, Eric Birkholz; Emme Birkholz, Lily Birkholz; Robert (Gina) Maniak, Anna Maniak; and Lucius Birkholz; and great-grandchildren; Caius and Alba Reijn. John is preceded in death by his parents, wife Maryann Grace Birkholz and sisters Rosemary Shaney and Barbara Patrick.

Memorials in his name can be directed to the Cedarburg Public Library, W63 N589 Hanover Ave, Cedarburg, WI 53012.


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