“The good Lord doesn’t give a heavy load to a person unless He believes he’s strong enough to bear it.” Gregory Devine, age 85, of Eau Claire put his heavy load to rest as he died peacefully surrounded by his family on January 5, 2019. Greg was born on November 17, 1933 during the heart of the Great Depression – delivered by his next-door neighbor. He grew up in a deserted, one-room school house on the north side of Chippewa Falls with no electricity, heat, or plumbing. But he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and went on to live a highly successful life thanks in part to the Sisters of Notre Dame Grade School who took care of his educational, spiritual, and personal needs.
He married Joanne Hinger on October 15, 1955. Together they raised four children. Greg sacrificed his dream of attending college to enter the work force to help support his mother and to provide for his own family. He began working at the Eau Claire Rubber Plant that would eventually become the Uniroyal tire plant – one of Eau Claire’s largest employers. His strong work ethic enabled him to proudly climb the corporate ladder from sweeping floors to becoming one of four Building Superintendents – and the only one without a college degree. After a heart attack forced an early retirement in 1984, Greg was hired for a part-time job that fit his skill set perfectly – tour guide for the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp in scenic Carson Park. For decades, Greg taught area students about Eau Claire’s rich history in logging. Soon, he became the camp’s most requested guide as he reveled in his new role as a local historian.
Outside of work, Greg’s interests were many, yet simple: Faith, Family, the Flag, and SPORTS. He had a decorated high school career playing football and basketball and playing baseball in the summer. Legend has it that a home run he hit in the 1950s at the old ballparks on Water Street is still in orbit. His favorite teams to cheer for were any team or athlete from Boston (Celtics, Red Sox, Rocky Marciano), any team coached by his Hall-of-Fame brother Dan (Arizona State, Missouri, Notre Dame, and the Green Bay Packers), and any high school where his two sons coached or served as athletic director (Baraboo T-Birds, SPASH Panthers, and the Colfax Vikings). But his greatest passion was supporting and encouraging his amazing twelve grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. From baptisms, t-ball, high school graduations and EVERYTHING in between, Grandpa Greg was always present, beaming proudly from church pews, lawn chairs, and wooden-bleachers. Like with his own children, he taught them to value education, sportsmanship (“no funny-farming”), and how to treat people with respect – even when bartering at thrift sales! He also believed in hydration as he provided his grandkids with an endless supply of PowerAde. He also enjoyed taking them to the “Blue Roof” to dine on Culver’s butter-burgers, concrete mixers, and lemonade.
When he wasn’t sending mass emails to his entire address book about his grandkids latest accomplishments, Greg was also an avid reader. He preferred non-fiction books (“Why waste time reading about make-believe people, when there are real people to read about?”) about his favorite war and sports heroes, presidents, and philanthropists. He also preferred finding these books at the public library because they were free. Always a patriot and proud citizen, Greg adorned every lapel and hat he wore with a grand ol’ flag pin. His own flag proudly waved outside his home 365 days a year, and for the past 67 years of his life, Greg never missed a single election. He didn’t care who you voted for, just as long as you exercised your civil duty to vote.
Greg believed strongly in serving others; thus, he was an active member in many local organizations including the National Guard, Little League and Babe Ruth baseball, Toastmasters, Kiwanis Club, the Census Bureau, School Crossing Guard, Salvation Army (Bell-Ringer), and the McDonell High School Hall of Fame.
Greg is survived and will be sorely missed by his loving companion, Sandy Jasper; children, Mike (Marilyn) Devine, Patty (Shane) Devine, Tim (Sue) Devine, and Jackie (Fred) Lutz; grandchildren, Greg (Fiona) Devine, Nathan Devine, Carley (Ryan) Rodenkirch, Taylor (Joel) Helminiak, Courtney Devine, Nick Farmer, Mitch (Jeanne) Devine, Mallory (fiancé Alex) Devine, McKenzie (fiancé Chris) Devine, Max Devine, Willie (Autum) Lutz, and Andy (fiancé Eve) Lutz; great-grandchildren, Sierra Devine, Xavier Devine, Tom Devine, and Brayden Farmer; and siblings, Deacon Jerry (Mary Kay) Devine and Deanna O’Melia. Greg is also survived by his early-morning coffee group of friends affectionately known as “The Hardee’s Gang.”
Greg was preceded in death by his parents, Jerome and Erma (Anderl) Devine; his brothers, Jim, Father Pat, Dan, and Chuck Devine; his sisters, Beatrice Wykel and Mary Kurtz; other family and friends, and his faithful dog Gus – a participant in many Doll and Pet parades.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp c/o EC Parks & Rec Dept. 915 Menomonie St, Eau Claire, WI 54703. The family wishes to thank Father James Kurzynski and Father Tom Krieg, and the many doctors, nurses, and technicians at Sacred Heart Hospital – especially the compassionate CCU nurses who took care of Dad.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, January 11, 2019 at St. Olaf’s Catholic Church, 3220 Monroe St. in Eau Claire, with Father James Kurzynski and Deacon Jerry Devine officiating. Visitation will be from 4:00-7:00 followed by a prayer service on Thursday, January 10, 2019 at Lenmark-Gomsrud-Linn Funeral Home, 814 First Ave. in Eau Claire and one hour prior to the Mass on Friday at the church. Burial will be in the Sacred Heart Cemetery on Omaha Street with a luncheon to follow in the church’s gathering space.
To express online condolences, please visit www.lenmarkfh.com