At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Don's name may be made to the Racine Community Foundation-Lockwood Park Fund.
Life Story / Obituary
The life story of Donald Carl Groetzinger is one of fun and adventure. Don was born in Chicago, Illinois June 18, 1931 to Carl and Isabelle Groetzinger. Moving to Racine at a young age, Don embraced Racine as his own when at 10 years old he received a shiny new blue Schwinn bicycle. He and his good friend Benny Bendtsen would ride their bikes all over town, including to the Danish Health Club where they swam and played tennis. Benny’s family owned Bendtsen’s Bakery and Benny and Don would work on occasion, scraping the kringle pans and engaging in kringle dough fights in the back of the bakery.
Don developed a love of travel at a young age when he and his uncle, Ralph Schroeder, started taking road trips out west. They visited Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, including Yellowstone National Park, all the while camping in the back of Uncle Ralph’s car. One of Don’s recollections of Yellowstone was of camping next to the river along some rapids. He went upstream and Uncle Ralph went downstream. Don jumped into the river and had to swim like crazy to get through the rapids. Luckily Uncle Ralph was able to pull him out of the river as he almost swept past.
In 1947 Don was just back from one of these trips with Uncle Ralph when his life changed. Don went to get a haircut and the fellow cutting his hair asked him if he’d seen the cute little blonde working in the jewelry store next to the barbershop. Of course, Don had to check her out, so he went into the jewelry store and stammered about seeing some um, um, cigarette lighters. The next day Don and his chums, Don Duncan and Bill Fancher went to Eagles Lake for the day and Don came home with a major sunburn. That night Don and Don Duncan went to the Friday night dance at Memorial Hall, Don decked out stylishly in a white tee shirt, all he could stand against his sunburned skin. They walked into Memorial Hall and, lo and behold, that cute little blonde from the jewelry store was there. They danced and danced all night. Going out onto the balcony to cool off, Don turned to the cute little blonde and she turned to him. They kissed. The rest of the story is history…
Don and Helen Kathleen Peterson were inseparable after that kiss. Don was, at that time, a self-professed hoodlum, complete with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his white tee shirt. He had been thinking of dropping out of school so he could work and buy a car, but after meeting Helen, he thought better of it. Don was not a very good student, so they would sit for hours in the library at Park High School with Helen making him study. Don graduated from Park High School with flying colors. He went on to graduate from the Walton School of Commerce with a BS in Accounting.
Don and Helen were married on December 23, 1950 at the parsonage of Bethany Methodist Church. Counting the years they were dating, Don and Helen had a wonderful 66 years together. Over the course of nine years, Don and Helen’s family grew to number six children, Randi, Chuck, Katie, Sarah, Amy and Eric.
Don had a fierce determination to provide for his family. He worked his way up the ladder from a job in auditing at Price Waterhouse to corporate management at Western Publishing over the course of thirty years. His time with the Univac Division of Sperry Rand instilled in him a love of computers at a time when one computer filled an entire room. His last corporate job was at Western Publishing where he held the title of Corporate Manager of Information System. Don managed several departments including Systems/Programing, Computer Operations, Operations Research and was functionally responsible for Information Systems operations in Michigan, Ontario Canada, New York, Maryland and North Carolina. Don was with Western Publishing for 12 years, during which time his office was in the Data Center. He would often go into the office on Saturday mornings, usually taking one of his children along so they could see what daddy did at work. It was always a treat to go to what the children dubbed “the Tin Can” (the building is clad in steel siding), as Don always had an apothecary jar full of BEN HUR candies (or GRAY candy to the kids) on his desk and it was the only time the children got this treat.
In 1970, while on a vacation on Grand Cayman Island, Don and Helen were introduced to a new product from Germany, called the PERMA Automatic Lubricator. The product would be mounted on an industrial bearing and would feed lubricant into the bearing automatically over a specified period, making lubricating with a hand held grease gun unnecessary. They were intrigued. Helen said she could sell it, so in 1971 Don and Helen formed (on the dining room table) what would turn out to be a very successful family business. Helen did the sales and Don (while still working at Western Publishing) did the book work. In 1980 Don left Western Publishing to work the business full time. The company, now Power Lube Industrial, has at one time or another, employed all of Don’s children and almost every one of Don’s 13 grandchildren. While the automatic lubricator being sold is no longer the PERMA, the company continues to thrive today, 48 years later, with the third generation waiting in the wings.
Adventures were had when the children were young. On a trip to Colorado, in a very small trailer with four young children, Don encountered a cougar face to face. Obviously, he lived to tell the tale. Trips to Fish Creek Wisconsin included taking the ferry to Washington Island, skipping stones at Pebble Beach and surviving the Haunted House at Thumb Fun. Breakfast picnics at Petrified Springs Park and North Beach are still talked about. Don loved to fish and would take Chuck and Eric on fishing trips. One of Don’s favorite activities was making breakfast on weekend mornings. His leather pancakes were famous, as well as his “eggs any style”.
Don’s sense of adventure increased when the children were grown and out of the nest. In 1975, Don and Helen bought their first sailboat, a 22 foot Catalina which they called “Nirvana”. They had no idea how to sail. Talk about an adventure! After a few missteps and with the help of new friends in FLEET 21, they managed to learn and eventually progressed to owning a 36 foot Catalina called “Loverly”. Loverly provided many years of enjoyment for not only Don and Helen, but all the members of the family. Don and Helen spent 30 happy years sailing on Lake Michigan. Don and Helen also had a condo in Sister Bay, Door County. A visit with Don and Helen in Door County always involved drives through Peninsula State Park, North Port, and to Sand Bay. If the waves weren’t too bad, a trip to Washington Island was a treat. In the fall, after the trees turned, a “valk in da voods”, with a picnic midway, was always in the plan.
Don learned to ski at the age of 52 when Helen returned from a trip to Colorado after visiting Randi. Randi had taught Helen to ski and after he heard how much fun she had, he had to learn to ski too. Don and Helen spent many a winter vacation in Aspen.
Don and Helen became avid travelers after their first business trip to Germany in 1975. Germany was usually their destination, but they hit pretty much every country in Europe. They would “wing it” as they said, booking a hotel for the first and last nights of their 6 week trip, with no real plan in between. In 2003 there was a business meeting scheduled in Brussels, Belgium, which Don, Helen and Sarah were to attend. Sarah had not been to Europe and Don and Helen were very excited to share their favorite places – Brugge, Belgium; Rothenburg, Germany; Lenggries, Germany; Salzburg, Austria and ending with a HUGE beer at the Hof Brau Haus in Munich, Germany. Don and Helen met their very special friends, Oskar and Elisabeth Buchbinder on their first trip to Germany and always stopped to visit them (and eventually their son, Norbert, his wife, Uta and their children) whenever they were in Germany.
Husband, father, sailor, traveler. Don was all of these and more... Don was also a visionary. His final project was something he had thought about for years. He always thought the Racine lakefront and the Racine quarry could be transformed into places of beauty. He envisioned the quarry as a botanical garden and the lakefront as a beautiful promenade, both becoming peaceful destinations for all to enjoy. This vision was for Racine to grow and thrive as a tourist destination benefiting the whole Racine economy. His final project, which he called “RACINE RIVIERA”, is still a work in progress, to be carried on by good friends and partners Pippin Michelli, CEO/Chief of Staff, Ed Lazzeroni, Managing Director, and Rita Tomkiewicz.
Don passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at his home, surrounded by his loving family. He is survived by his children: Randi (Terry) Young of South Fork, CO; Katie (Keith) Kramer of Le Claire, IA; Sarah (Mark) Herr of Brookfield, WI; Amy (Don) Dienberg of Racine; Eric (Shannon Wells) Groetzinger of Ashland, OR; the “7th Child” of the family, Barb (John) Mizer of Racine. He is also survived and will be greatly missed by 13 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, along with nieces and nephews. Don was preceded in death by his parents, wife Helen, eldest son Charles, father-in-law Burger Peterson, mother-in-law Ruby Peterson, sisters Marjorie Caplin and Susan Lambert, brothers-in-law Jac Caplin and Lee Peterson, and sister-in-law Bernice Peterson.
A memorial celebration of Don’s life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 18th at Maresh-Meredith and Acklam Funeral Home at 803 Main Street, Racine. Relatives and friends may meet with the family on Wednesday, July 18th from 9:30 a.m. until the time of the service at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations in Don’s name may be made to the Racine Community Foundation-Lockwood Park Fund.