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.
Evans Scholars Program
Racine Downtown Rotary
4521 Taylor Avenue
Racine, WI 53405
Racine Emmaus Lutheran Church
1925 Summit Avenue
Racine, WI 53404
Life Story / Obituary
John William Knuteson was born on May 11th,1949 in Madison, WI, and died at his home in Racine, WI on April 3rd, 2020 from COVID-19.
John was a 1972 UW Madison graduate (BBA) and a 1975 graduate of Marquette University Law School (Juris Doctor). He was a private practice attorney in Racine as well as a Certified Public Accountant and a licensed real estate broker. John was currently serving as a Wind Point Municipal Judge and was a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel (JAG Corps). Mr. Knuteson was also a 37 year Rotarian. Survivors include his wife Cathy and their children Stephanie (Misty) Knuteson, Sarah (Ryan) Fox and John (Dora) Knuteson. He leaves behind 8 beloved grandchildren: Jordan, Ashley, Prince, Dayton, Rylyn, Ella, Nolen and Lily. He is further survived by his mother Helen Knuteson, and brothers Dan (Suzanne) and Chuck, and brother-in-law John (Sheila), sisters-in-law Cris and Mary, and brother-in-law and close friend Lee Valent, along with many nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind countless dear friends and colleagues.
John’s life can be summarized by his own personal motto of “Work Hard, Play Hard”.
John was born in Madison, WI, and along with his two brothers, Dan and Chuck, was raised by his hardworking single mother, Helen. He would often joke that growing up in a house with two brothers made him believe there were two types of people in this world: “the quick and the hungry”. He was proud of his life of hard work, and noted that he has been gainfully employed continuously since age 11. One of his first jobs was as a golf caddy at Maple Bluff Country Club in Madison. That job eventually led to an Evans Scholarship, which allowed him to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduate with distinction with his BBA in 1972. Aside from his education, his time at UW-Madison also led to lifelong friendships, an eternal love for the Badgers, and, most importantly, the start of his relationship with his wife of 46 years, Cathy. They famously met at The Pub on State St. in Madison, and John walked Cathy home that night. Early in their dating life, he asked her to go to the library with him- he meant the library, she thought the bar named “The Library”- in those days (as they would each admit), he was a bit of a nerd, and she was a bit of a party girl. Their opposite natures complemented each other well, and they married in 1973 and moved to Milwaukee, where they each pursued further education at Marquette University.
Their 3 children Stephanie, Sarah and John were born in Milwaukee, and he cherished being a present and loving father. In 1981, John took a job in Racine with Stassen, Kostos and Mason, with his primary client being Sam Johnson, who he considered a personal hero. The family moved to Racine, where John established strong roots and committed decades of his time to community service and leadership. He also continued his studies, becoming a CPA, licensed real estate agent, and earning an MBA in 1986. He then opened his own law practice, and continued practicing corporate and estate law until the time of his death.
Retirement from his law practice never seemed to be on the horizon, because he loved the work and his clients, and was able to balance his work with golf, sports fandom, and the many social events he enjoyed attending. He was an avid golfer, and was proud of his service to the Western Golf Association (which sponsors the Evans Scholar program), and the Wisconsin State Golf Association. He was a member of Racine Country Club for over 35 years, and spent many cherished hours golfing on the RCC course. When he won the Racine Country Club lottery to attend The Masters golf tournament, he used the opportunity to take friends who may never otherwise have the chance to attend.
He was a dedicated fan of the Badgers, Packers, Brewers, along with the Bucks, and the Horlick Rebels. He joked that he was a Badger Football fan way back in the days when the team was so terrible that they went to the games to see the band play. He loved telling stories about serving as manager for the Badger basketball team as a senior at UW including the open tab that the team had at Mickey’s Dairy Bar. He was proud to be a founding donor to the Kohl Center- he was at the last UW Basketball game at the Field House, and was at the first game at the Kohl Center. He drove over for basketball, hockey and football games for many years- sometimes making the drive several times in a week to go to various games. If you have been lucky enough to go to a Badger game with him, you likely heard his strong tenor voice singing the harmony on “Varsity”. He was able to celebrate his Badgers at many bowl games and March Madness games over the years.
John had season tickets for the Brewers starting in the glory days of Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. He had many pre-game meals and drinks at Saz’s and caught several foul balls over the years including one where Cathy cowered and shut her eyes and looked up to see him smiling and holding the ball. He was asked to serve on the stadium board when Miller Park was being constructed- you can see his name on a plaque commemorating that service outside the stadium. His work on that board was primarily focused on keeping the Racine county tax as low as possible while helping to usher in a new era of Brewers baseball. He had a brief moment of fame when the Wall Street Journal picked up a story about the stadium board decision to not install air conditioning in Bernie Brewer’s chalet. John was quoted as saying, “Bernie can turn on a fan.” He was at the last game at County Stadium and the first game at Miller Park. He was expecting this year to go to Brewers’ opening day with family, and he estimated that he’s only missed one opening day in the last 40 years.
He was a Packers season ticket holder starting in the days when there was a Milwaukee series- half the games were played at County Stadium. Only slightly less strong than his love for the Packers was his loathing for the Bears. He delighted in telling Bears jokes. How do you keep Bears out of your backyard? Put up goalposts. How do little Bears learn to count? 0-1, 0-2, 0-3. He loved picking on the opposing teams’ fans no matter what the team- and he would adapt his jokes to fit the team they were playing. He relished the Packers’ wins and brushed off the losses- and was delighted to be present for the Packers Superbowl victory in 1997.
His work and play were also balanced by a life of service. He was a Rotarian for 37 years, and is a past president of his Rotary club. He loved planning and serving at the annual Rotary Post prom- and took special joy in seeing his children and their friends pull up to the red carpet for their post-prom celebrations. He enrolled in the Army Reserves in the early 70s, and was proud of his military service for the JAG corps. He retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He loved teaching his kids and grandkids how to properly salute, and enjoyed Veteran’s and Memorial Day celebrations with his kids and grandkids in recent years. He was a longtime member of Emmaus Lutheran Church, where he served as an usher and enjoyed singing with the choir. He has served as the Wind Point municipal Judge since 2007 and prior to that served on the village board and as village president. He liked to tell people that in his courtroom for speeding tickets, “8- you’re fine, 9- you’re mine.”
He found great joy in connecting with people. He was a loyal friend to an incredible number of people. He relished meeting new people and making them feel at ease with a warm smile and a joke. To Cathy’s chagrin, his joke library was legendary- and he took great pleasure in telling a joke that perfectly fit the situation. A common phrase for him was, “that reminds me of the guy who…” He believed in “equal opportunity humor”, and had a strong litany of self-deprecating jokes about lawyers and Republicans. His teasing and jokes were always good natured- and he would (sometimes) make an effort to censor himself a bit depending on the audience.
John loved seeing his children in their various activities over the years. He coached them in t-ball, baseball, soccer and basketball when they were young. He took them to countless Badger, Brewer and Packer games, and built them each into great fans of those teams. He attended countless childhood concerts, plays, soccer games, golf matches, baseball, softball and football games. He and Cathy made an effort to take many family vacations when the children were young, building in each of them a love of travel and adventure. He was happy to see each of them find their own path in life, and find their perfect spouse. He was a loving father-in-law to Misty (Stephanie), Ryan (Sarah), and Dora (John). They each loved him like a father, and he loved them like his own children. In recent years, he has also taken great joy and pride in being a grandpa. He will be dearly missed by his grandchildren Ella, Nolen, Lily, Jordan, Ashley, Prince, Dayton, and Rylyn.
Those who were lucky enough to have their path cross with John’s found a man dedicated to his work, his family and his community. He will miss teeing up with his friends at Racine Country Club, delivering punchlines at Rotary meetings, cheering on his favorite sports teams, giving back to a plethora of organizations, and most of all spending time with his beloved family.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials in his honor be directed to the Evans Scholars program, Racine Downtown Rotary, or Racine Emmaus Lutheran Church. In addition, the family is working to establish a scholarship in his name. A future celebration of his life will be planned.