Nov. 30, 2016 – West Bend, WI – Friends, family, neighbors and lawmakers gathered at St. Frances Cabrini Parish on Monday afternoon to pay their respects and offer condolences to the Strachota family.
Tom Strachota died unexpectedly a week ago; he was 63. There were many tributes to Tom during the service.
A nod to Notre Dame, his alma mater. The song Notre Dame our Mother opened the memorial service.
Recognition also to Dairyland Seed as the Gospel proclaimed “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
Tom and Patty’s four children gathered at the altar for the eulogy – posted below.
Welcome everyone, and thank you all for coming. For those that don’t know me, I’m TJ Strachota. And these are my sisters Elizabeth, Maggie, and Kathleen. We want to quickly thank everyone for all the loving messages, stories, and hugs over the last week. My dad would be proud of the support we’ve received from so many people.
My dad, Tom Strachota, was a great man. He was many things to many people, but most importantly he was a loving husband to my mom, a great father to myself and my sisters, and a perfect Papa Tom to his 9 grandchildren, with one on the way.
He was born in St. Killian, WI to Marie and Orville Strachota, and was the fifth of 6 children. He attended St. Mary Springs High School, graduated from Notre Dame, and received an MBA from Ohio State. He married my mother shortly thereafter, and went to work for the family business at Dairyland Seed.
Family was the thing that meant the most to my dad. And the many customs and traditions that go with it. Thanksgiving was always the holiday that my parent’s hosted at their house, ever since we were little. And if you’ve ever joined us for that dinner, you know that my dad would always make us go around the table and everyone had to say one thing they were thankful for. My sisters and I now want to share a few of the things about my dad that we will be forever grateful for…
There are so many blessings that my dad and mom have bestowed upon my siblings and me and we have so much to be thankful for. One of the things I am most thankful for is the faith in God and the church that dad instilled in us. My dad made sure that all four of us attended church every Sunday growing up, and kneeled and prayed with us every night before bed. He continued those traditions on with all of his grandchildren. It is symbolic to me that on his last day with us, we were able to share in a prayer service together where his eldest grandchild, my daughter Sophia was able to open the service and lead the church in the sign of the cross. I will be forever grateful that the last memory she will have of Papa Tom is him telling her how proud he was of her for what a great job she did at church.
My father also taught us to be humble and well rounded. Dad always treated all of us equally, and I often joke that dad thought he had two sons, TJ and me. Some of my best memories growing up are when my dad coached us in soccer, signed us up for little league, and as soon as we were old enough enrolled us in hunters safety and started waking us up at 4am to go goose hunting with Mr. Moran and Dr. Froehlich. Dad instilled in us all a love and respect for nature and he would spend at least a week each fall in South Dakota with his best buddies hunting and organize a day after Thanksgiving pheasant hunt every year.
Dad taught us to laugh and have fun. He would sing to us and dance with us around the living room as kids, and at every wedding or party he still made sure to dance with all of his daughters individually and sing to us again. He introduced us to the Beatles, Bruce Hornsby, Jefferson Starship, and the Doobie Brothers. Dad loved music and loved to sing.
Dad always put family first and it was not uncommon for him to “drop in” and trim our trees, mow our lawn, or just bring a pie from Apple Holler at bedtime so that he could help put the grandkids to bed. The last conversation I had with my dad was on Sunday this past week. Mom and dad had taken the kids so that Pete and I could get some holiday organizing done. Pete wanted to take me to brunch, but we had a laundry shoot fiasco and I was worried we had too much to do. Dad called and insisted that he would keep the grandkids until late afternoon so that I would be able to enjoy a brunch with my husband. He was my mentor and my hero and I only hope that I can be as good of an example for my children as he was for me. I love you dad.
I am thankful for the wonderful teacher that my dad was to us kids and to so many others. Many of you know him as a businessman, but he was an amazing teacher and mentor as well. He taught us the value of education and always encouraged me and supported me to fulfill my vocation. He taught us how to be kind to others. He taught us how to be patient and understanding. He taught us how to be optimistic and to always look for the good in any situation. He taught us how to be supportive and encouraging to our family and friends. He taught us what loyalty is and how important it is to stay true to yourself and true to your word. He taught us what it means to be disciplined and to make sacrifices. He taught us how to be silly and the importance of a good sense of humor. He taught us how to be appreciative of the many blessings we have in our lives.
I am thankful that my father instilled in me a love for traveling. When we were little, we got to go on so many family trips and road trips with him. When we would fly somewhere, he would give us our tickets and tell us that we had to lead him through the airport to find our gate. Even if we were walking in the wrong direction, he wouldn’t say a word. He would let us work through it and figure it out on our own, or as a team, how to arrive to our final destination. With all the trips that we went on as a family, I am grateful that my parents were able to experience one last beautiful, magical trip as a couple to Italy this past September. They look like honeymooners in all the pictures, so happy and so in love. The trip and the photos are a true testament of their love for adventure and their love for one another. My father taught us how to enjoy every moment and to live life to the fullest. He taught us how to enjoy all of life’s experiences. For that I will be forever grateful. My heart is broken, but I find peace in remembering all the beautiful and wonderful life lessons that my father has taught us. I love you dad.
One word that keeps coming up is family. My dad loved his family and friends, and lived each day to the fullest. There has never been a better role-model in our lives who was more genuine, humble, and hard-working. Whenever you needed a helping hand or mentor, he was the one to go to. He always provided guidance, and always went out of his way to put others first.
He made everyone feel special and had a way to make everyone feel welcome. Dad always sent flowers to us girls, his sisters, and mom for special occasions, even St. Patrick’s Day. He was self-less, and always supportive of us kids no matter the situation. I’m thankful for my siblings, and having them to lean on and share in the memories of my dad. Growing up, he always was there to cheer us on at every activity. He was so proud of TJ going to Notre Dame, and carrying on the family legacy through Dairyland.
The thing I am most grateful for about my dad is the love that he had for my mom. The two together set the best example of love and friendship in their life together. I remember talking to Maggie about a year ago. We were saying how wonderful it is that our parents have never been more in love than they were today, after 39 years of marriage. My parents were so supportive of each other in everything they did, and always had the perfect balance in their relationship. I will always cherish the wonderful example they set for Andy and I. I love you dad.
My dad loved Dairyland Seed, and all the people he met through the business. He truly cared about all the people that work there, and all the customers and friends he met along the way. He was most proud to call it the Dairyland Seed family, because it truly was a 2nd family to him. Even though our family didn’t own the business anymore, he wanted to make sure that that culture stayed with us. And he loved being part of an industry with so many family farms, and families working closely together.
One of the things I’m most thankful for, is for all the years I got to spend with my dad. I’ve learned so much from him, whether about business, family and friends, or just how to be a good person. I know myself, my mom and my sisters will be ok because of all the great memories. My biggest sadness is for all the grandchildren. My dad loved being Papa Tom, and made each one of them feel special. Most of them even ran to him first for a hug, even when the rest of us were around. It’s up to all of us here today to make sure those kids know how much he loved them.
I’m thankful for all the fishing trips, the hunting trips, the trips to ND growing up and for all the free Packer tickets. The long car rides for work, where our conversations ranged from family to business to him asking how our friend whoever was doing. And I’m thankful for the man he taught me to be.
Some of the things my dad was thankful for:
To everyone here, he was thankful for the time he got to spend with each one of you.
To all my friends and my sisters’ friends, he was thankful we’re surrounded by such good people.
To my parent’s friends, he was thankful for all the memories you got to experience together. He felt so lucky to have so many great friends.
To the Nemastil family, he was thankful for all the fun we had when getting together, even if he still blamed that side of the family much of our craziness.
To the Strachota family, he loved his brothers and sisters so much and was thankful for all the time up north and at Christmas with his niece and nephews.
To my brothers-in-law.
Pete – My dad was forever thankful that you took Elizabeth off his hands. Seriously though, he was thankful you moved back to Wisconsin so he could be close to all his kids.
Ben – He was thankful to know you’ll always be there to protect and care for Maggie, and that you can change Patty’s lightbulbs safely, without using a ladder.
Andy – He was thankful for your loving heart and enthusiasm. And how you stepped up for everyone when Johnny was born early. He was so proud.
To my wife Katie – He was thankful I met such a wonderful person, and someone who is always there for me. He’s loved you like another daughter from the moment we met back in high school almost 20 years ago.
To my sisters:
Elizabeth – He was thankful for all the excitement you bring to life. And how you always make sure we’re having a good time.
Maggie – He was thankful for how nice and sweet you are. And for how you can always pull everyone together.
Kathleen – He was thankful for all the trips he got to go on to see you when you were traveling. And since you are the youngest, he loved the opportunity to spoil you way more than the rest of us!
To myself, I know he was thankful for the time we got to spend almost every day together. And my wife wants me to mention how she thinks there is so much of him in me, which makes me happy.
To mom, Dad was thankful you decided to go out on a date with him at Notre Dame on a Sunday night, because there was a built in excuse to say no if you wanted. He loved you from that moment on, and never missed an opportunity to tell us how happy he was in his life with you.
The last tradition I’ll mention is our bedtime prayer growing up. It was the Guardian Angel prayer. He always made sure we said it before going to sleep at night, and it’s a tradition we’ve carried over to our kids.
This last week has been the toughest in our lives. But it’s comforting to know that we have a new guardian angel in heaven, watching over all of us. He’s probably best friends already with everyone up there, telling them stories of how proud he is of his family. And he’ll be waiting for each of us to run to him, like the grandkids did, for one of his special hugs.
We love you dad.