John F. Check passed away at the Sanford Medical Center on June 5, 2013 in Vermillion, at the age of 91. He was the youngest son of Joseph and Valeria (Kiezewski) Check; the husband of Teckla (Kurzinski) Check; and the father of Gregory, Deborah, Patricia and John David.
John was born on the family farm outside Rosholt, WI, Aug. 22, 1921. Eschewing the agricultural life, he started his teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse while still in his teens. Because he so enjoyed the field of education, he sought to advance himself by teaching at different schools, going on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1959.
John taught at the University of Michigan Flint for seven years before coming in 1966 to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he taught for over 20 years. In 1969, he received the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Distinguished Teaching Award, and was named to the Outstanding Educators of America in 1970. He was sought after for speeches and seminars and wrote a number of articles published in scholarly educational journals.
For nearly 60 years John led his own dance band, producing numerous recordings on 78s, LP albums and CDs. He wrote over 200 compositions in the polka/waltz idiom, with his first, the “Two Eddies Polka,” being recorded by numerous bands. Works of his have been placed in the Mills Music Library of the Wisconsin State Archives and in archives of the National Music Museum in South Dakota. One of his CDs received honorable mention in the folk music category and was acquired by the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
John received many accolades for his musical avocation including the Concertina Hall of Fame in 1981, the International Polka Hall of Fame in 1991, and the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. First with the Michigan Dutchmen, then later with the Wisconsin Dutchmen, he appeared on a weekly TV show for more than a decade. He also hosted a radio show at various stations featuring “the best in recorded polka music”.
Knowing he would miss his dear friends in Wisconsin, he chose to move to Vermillion in 2009 to be closer to his daughter, Debbie. While in Vermillion, he continued to entertain people with his music and would often serve as a reader at St. Agnes Church.
John was preceded in death by his wife Teckla in 1988. He is survived by his son, Gregory of Cambridge, MA; his daughter, Deborah Reeves of Vermillion; his daughter, Patricia of Oshkosh, WI; his son, John David of Warrensburg, MO; and grandchildren, Adam of Charlestown, MA and Brendan of Los Angeles, CA.
A funeral mass was celebrated at St. Agnes Church in Vermillion, Monday 7 p.m., preceded by visitation at the church at 6 p.m. In Oshkosh, WI, a funeral mass was at St. Raphael’s church Thursday June 13, 11 a.m. with visitation starting at 9 a.m. and burial in Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Funeral arrangements in Vermillion are by Hansen Funeral Home, and in Oshkosh by Fiss and Bills Poklasny Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation be made to St. Agnes or St. Raphael’s Church.