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Even after passing, Jeskewitz continues to do good for Menomonee Falls

Donations in his name continue to flow

Jan. 20, 2014

He's been gone two months now and the late and very great Jim Jeskewitz is still giving back, scoring touchdowns among the living.

Because in the outpouring of grief for this great football coach, Menomonee Falls public citizen and family man, some good is coming. He passed away in November at age 74 after a short battle with cancer.

Mountains of heartfelt letters, cards, notes and e-mails have found their way into the hands of the Jeskewitz family, almost everyone with a pledge of support, a check or actual cash gift to go toward the innumerable charitable organizations that Jeskewitz supported.

There has been more than $16,000 for the Falls Food Pantry, more than $6,000 for the Falls Historical Society and an untold amount toward the school district's scholarship fund. Just so much money trying to stem the tide and dam up so much sorrow.

It's a wonderful thing in light of all that's happened.

Though his widow, retired state Rep. Sue Jeskewitz, can only chuckle through the tears and wonder what the dear person who pledged $15 in her husband's name for the Carmelite Nuns at Holy Hill was thinking because she didn't think Jim mentioned them too often while he was alive.

"It's just part of the fact that people gave so much money to have masses said (in his name)," she said.

And now there's another project close and dear to Jeskewitiz's heart that is just gathering steam. The school district and other organizations in the Falls are working on another phase of the district's capital fund project to upgrade the athletic facilities and that includes a hoped-for artificial turf football field.

In light of that, there is a movement toward — and money is starting to flow in for — a plan to rename the Schumann Stadium field in Jeskewitz's honor.

"They're planning on contacting his captains (he was head coach at Falls East and later Falls from 1969-96) and seeing what can be done (in terms of fundraising)," Sue said. "It's a wonderful project. It would be so good if this could be done."

Other things are happening, too, some just typical of the big heart and big spirit with which Jeskewitz imbued the area.

Sue told this story about Jeskewitz's late father and legendary village character, Oscar. Oscar was very involved in the Falls Historical Society and he used to tell this tongue-in-check story when giving tours of the historical site up on County Line Road.

"He'd show everyone this ax and he'd tell everyone that this was Abraham Lincoln's ax," Sue said, "and he'd say 'All that's been changed is the blade and the handle (laughs).' Jess (Jim) continued to tell that story (after Oscar passed) about once a month and now there are others out there talking about taking that up (and continuing the tours)."

Later this winter, a dodgeball tournament will be held in Jeskewitz's name with all proceeds going to the historical society.

There's also a movement afoot to resurrect the "I Remember...Menomonee Falls" local cable access show that Jeskewitz used to host where he would interview longtime Falls residents about the "good ol' days." Sue said she would like to get the show going again later this spring with longtime village do-gooder (and my older sister) Robyn Turtenwald.

In the interim, Sue is continuing to make adjustments to life without "Jess" with whom she was in love with for more than 50 years. She visited her daughter, Jayme, and her family in Florida over the holidays (to no one's surprise, she has a grandson by Jayme who is a heck of a football player) and continues to visit them and her son Chad's family, too.

She will continue to grieve, but in her husband's name, she will move on as best she can and be active just as he would have wanted her to be.

If she can ever get through her mountain of mail because the cards and letters keep coming. In response, Sue sends out beautifully printed thank-you notes, each with a personal message in them, to everyone who reaches out to her and the kids during this hard time.

They are something to be treasured and kept by everyone who receives them.

Everyone.

"It's unbelievable how many people wrote in," she said. "I've been writing so many thank-you notes to people I just don't know but Jess must have touched them somehow."

Because, even in death, Jim Jeskewitz is still finding the end zone, still winning the game of life.

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