Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Walter P. Rynkiewicz, 1930-2011


Walter P. Rynkiewicz, of Elm Grove, Wis., a respected corporate lawyer in Milwaukee for more than four decades, died peacefully June 7 at Aurora VNA Zilber Family Hospice, Wauwatosa. He was 80.

"He was an attorney and a man of the highest integrity," said James W. Mohr of Hartford, Wis, at one time a fellow lawyer with Mr. Rynkiewicz at Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek. Mr. Rynkiewicz worked at the Milwaukee law firm from 1957 to 2005. "In a profession where integrity was not a long suit for a lot of people, everything he did he did honestly and forthrightly," Mr. Mohr said. "He was one of those people you could trust with anything.

"He was also very compassionate," Mr. Mohr said. "He took people's legal problems and handled them as is they were those of his closest friend or family member. He was always very empathetic about every problem. And of course he was very skillful. He knew estate planning, he knew business law and had enormous respect among people who worked with him. I referred friends to him, I sent clients to him, and knew they would be represented fairly, well, compassionately and honestly."

Mr. Rynkiewicz specialized in mergers and acquisitions during a time that greatly expanded options for small business owners. He was involved in many of the acquisitions of Universal Foods (now Sensient Technologies Corp.), whose chairman John L. Murray died April 18. Mergers included the sale of Thorp Finance Corp. to ITT Financial in 1965 and Pfister & Vogel Tanning Co. to Beatrice Foods in 1971.

"Walter and I were very close friends for nearly 60 years," said Robert Gorske, retired Vice president, General Counsel, and Board Member of Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WeEnergies). "We were law School classmates, associates with the same law firm, and near neighbors in Elm Grove and in Arizona. I was always in awe of Walter's ability to take very complex legal problems and to make them look easy. He will be missed by many."

Mr. Rynkiewicz chaired the State Bar of Wisconsin business law section from 1985 to 1987, and from 1986 through 1990 a state bar subcommittee to revise merger laws.

"Walter was a terrific lawyer and cut across many fields," said Robert LeMense, another Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek colleague. "He wasn't a tax specialist but sure knew a lot of tax stuff. He knew a lot about business, not only the law but a lot of the internal operations. If you said, 'Can you help me with this?' he would, and he would think of things you wouldn't think of. It just came across that he was one smart guy."

Mr. Rynkiewicz also was a director of several local companies he represented, including Price Erecting Co. in Wauwatosa, and Merit Gear Corp. in Antigo. Other clients he served were Cleaver-Brooks in Milwaukee, Heritage Mutual Insurance in Sheboygan, Stoelting in Kiel and Applied Power Inc. in Butler.

"Walter served on the board of directors of companies a lot more important than our little company," said James Ziperski, an attorney for Schwerman Trucking Co. in Milwaukee and a client of Mr. Rynkiewicz. "He was 200 percent in representing us all the time. He was everything we could ask for. When I had a question on corporate law I would turn to Walter and he always came up with the answer. If he didn't have the answer he got the answer, and it was always right. He was as good as they come."

For almost two decades Mr. Rynkiewicz was a director and officer of the Layton Art Collection and Layton School of Art trusts, which fund scholarships and lectures at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), Milwaukee Art Museum, Marquette University, Lawrence University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Mount Mary College, Cardinal Stritch University and Alverno College. MIAD awarded him an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 1987.

Since 1965 Mr. Rynkiewicz has lived in Elm Grove, where he served on the Police and Fire Commission and the Building Board. At St. Mary's Visitation Parish he was a lector and cantor active in the Holy Name Society and Potawatomi Area Troop 32 of the Boy Scouts of America. He also was a director of the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Sullivan Chamber Ensemble and Marquette University Alumni Association.

Mr. Rynkiewicz was born in Milwaukee July 4, 1930, and graduated from West Allis Central High School in 1948. The debate team sparked his interest in the law and music teacher Damon H. Shook cultivated an interest in the arts. A member of American Federation of Musicians Local 8, Mr. Rynkiewicz played trombone and was the longtime announcer at West Allis Concert Band summer performances.

"He won a major science award in high school and I would not have been surprised if he went in a science and mathematics direction," said classmate Claude Kordus, a business consultant in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. "He's very precise and meticulous," Mr. Kordus said. "When he talks he's very measured, and that has value in the law too."

Mr. Rynkiewicz passed up scholarships at the University of Wisconsin and Carroll College to enter Marquette University, studying English and mathematics. There he met Catherine Van Hercke in an American Literature class in 1951. It was love at first sight: He said he immediately moved two rows closer. The two were married in 1954, with Mr. Kordus as best man and Prof. Joseph Schwartz, the American Lit instructor, in the wedding party.

At Marquette Mr. Rynkiewicz earned a Bachelor of Science degree cum laude in 1952 and a law degree in 1955. He was admitted to the Alpha Sigma Nu national Jesuit honor society, as well as Delta Sigma Rho, Sigma Tau Delta and Pi Mu Epsilon. The late Kenosha County Circuit Judge William Zievers was a fellow debate partner.

"Walter worked harder than I did and had a knack for mathematics," Mr. Kordus said. "At one point the question was, was he going to law school or was he going to be an actuary."

Before joining Whyte Hirschboeck & Dudek, Mr. Rynkiewicz was a litigator at Quarles, Spence & Quarles in Milwaukee and Puhr, Peters, Holden & Schlosser in Sheboygan, Wis. "Whenever I heard him speak, he was extremely good," said Alfred A. Heon of Fredonia, a fellow Marquette undergrad who joined him at Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek.

In retirement he and Catherine spent winters in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Other survivors include sons Stephen (Brenda Russell) of Chicago, Robert (Heidi Boehlke) of Minneapolis and Paul (Karen Lindholm-Rynkiewicz) of Wauwatosa, daughter Lynn (Mark) Rakestraw of Rochester, N.Y., and grandchildren Evelyn (Brian Page), Jacob, Emma and Matthew.

The family appreciates the conscientious care of Dr. Paul Ritch and the Hematology/Oncology Clinic staff at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin.

Visitation is Wednesday, June 15 at St. Mary’s Visitation Church, 1260 Church St. Elm Grove, from 9:30 a.m. until the Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. The family requests memorials to Marquette University Law School, Friends of the Elm Grove Library or St. Mary Visitation Parish.

Rynkiewicz, Walter P.

Of Elm Grove, WI and Scottsdale, AZ, died peacefully June 7 at age 80. Beloved husband of Catherine (nee Van Hercke). Loving father of Stephen (Brenda Russell), Robert (Heidi Boehlke), Paul (Karen Lindholm-Rynkiewicz) and Lynn (Mark) Rakestraw. Proud grandfather of Evelyn (Brian Page), Jacob, Emma and Matthew. Walter was an attorney for 44 years at Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek in Milwaukee, long active in church and civic activities. Visitation Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at St. Mary’s Visitation Church (1260 Church St. Elm Grove) from 9:30AM until the Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00AM. Memorials to Marquette University Law School, Friends of the Elm Grove Library, St. Mary’s Visitation Parish. The family appreciates the conscientious care of Dr. Paul Ritch and the Hematology/Oncology Clinic staff at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin.

Becker Ritter Funeral Home
14075 West North Ave.
Brookfield, WI 53005
(262) 782- 5330
www.BeckerRitter.com