James E. Duerkop, loving husband, father and grandfather, died peacefully, surrounded by his family, on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
Jim was born May 18, 1945, in Eau Claire, Wis., to Elmer and Ramona Duerkop. He grew up on a dairy farm in Humbird, Wis. He graduated in 1963 from Lincoln High School in Alma Center and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 1972 with a degree in social work. In 1966, Jim decided to pursue his passion for helping others and enlisted in the Peace Corps, where he trained in Hawaii and was assigned to Orissa, India, for two years. They dug wells and taught the local people how to care for and maintain their new, safe water supply. He spoke fondly of his time and carried with him a love of Indian culture and people, including special friend Gunsagar Mahar. He traveled the world, from Asia and Africa to Europe and Hawaii. He had a love for learning about other cultures and encouraged others to open their hearts by embracing people of diverse backgrounds.
While in India, his high school sweetheart was never far from his mind. He and Linda were married on June 13, 1970. Alongside his wife, Jim began working as a social worker in Stevens Point, Wis., later relocating to Wausau, Wis., where he began a 36-year career with the Social Security Administration until retiring in 2008.
Jim was a kind man with a warm heart and a contagious laugh, and he was loved by many. He was an active and involved dad and grandpa, proud of the family and home he and Linda created. They welcomed their children’s friends and treated them as their own. The family enjoyed traveling together. Jim and Linda loved to entertain many collegial friends, cook with the gourmet club and travel. Their favorite place to be together was Waikiki, where they visited frequently.
He enjoyed living in Chetek, Wis., on Lake Pokegama, taking Linda and their family for rides on the pontoon, enjoying Fourth of July fireworks and teaching Matt and Lauren how to fish from Grandpa Cecil’s boat. He loved being with his grandchildren—whether fishing, boating, picking berries or flying kites—their bonds were strong.
In his youth, he played organ at church. Later, he played the saxophone as a member of the UW-La Crosse jazz and marching bands. In his adult life, he enjoyed playing piano and going to the opera with Krista. A man of deep faith, Jim enjoyed church and relished in the music, especially the pipe organ.
As the Parkinson’s progressed, Jim was able to remain in his home with the help of Linda, Becky and his family, and later, with the help of special CNAs Mabrouk, Seth, Zalfa, Lilian and Salome.
Jim is survived by his wife of 48 years, Linda (Reineck); daughters Krista (Scott) McCutcheon and Becky Duerkop; two grandchildren, Matthew and Lauren McCutcheon; granddog Myles (his special boy); brother Alton (Sue) Duerkop; sister-in-law Penny Reineck; sisters Marie Johnson and Tammy Duerkop; and nephews Chris, Peter and Gary Duerkop, and Ian Reineck; as well as many great nieces and nephews. Many people were special to Jim, including his bonus daughters, Jenny “Vera,” Stacie and Dora; his dear lifelong friend and “brother,” Dennis Huber; and his fishing buddies, Bruce, Ed and Mark.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Elmer and Ramona Duerkop; stepfather Newell Bekkelund; and parents-in-law Cecil and Muriel Reineck.
A memorial service is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 11 a.m., with a visitation one hour prior at Chetek Lutheran Church, 1419 Second St., Chetek. A luncheon will follow.
The family would like to thank the first responders, the Savage Police Department, the Fairview Southdale Emergency Department and intensive care unit personnel.