Joseph R. DeBaker

Joseph Roy DeBaker, 71, of Leopolis, passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. He was born Oct. 16, 1946, in Shawano to the late Albert and Cora (nee Brunner) DeBaker. Joe grew up on a rocky farm on the edge of Leopolis overlooking the North Branch of the Embarrass River. Anyone who ever met Joe didn’t forget him, he was a special person. Joe attended the Leopolis Grade School, Marion Grade School and graduated from Marion High School in 1964. He attended Oshkosh State College for two years and graduated with honors in January 1969 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. He was elected to Tau Beta Pi Mechanical Engineering honor society, Pi Tau Sigma engineering honor society and the Phi Kappa Phi science honor society. Growing up, his great love was squirrel, rabbit and deer hunting with his dad and trout and northern pike fishing on the Embarrass River with his uncle, Joe Brunner.

On Jan. 21, 1967, he married Diane Neuman, the love of his life and forever sweetheart. Together, they raised three children, Marsha, Brian and Laura. Immediately after graduating college, Joe went to work for Eastman Kodak in their chemical division in Kingsport, Tennessee. He spent 30 years in research and development in Eastman’s Fibers businesses of polyethylene and cellulose acetate. When he retired, he and Diane moved back to the sleepy village of Leopolis, living again on the river he so loved growing up.

Joe was a big supporter of the Leopolis Bulldogs and was crowned the first Leopolis Bulldogs Drag Queen for their fundraiser. He also served 17 years as their secretary/treasurer. Shortly before his death, Joe was proud to receive the Don Martzke Memorial Award for his dedication and contribution to the BABA. He was a member of the Leopolis Booster Club, Leopolis School Reunion Committee and served as the Town of Herman board chairman. Joe joined the Knights of Columbus as a charter member of Council 6992 in Kingsport, Tennessee. He served as grand knight, district deputy and faithful navigator of the fourth degree. He held several position with the state council and eventually was elected state deputy for the state of Tennessee. Through the Knights, he and Diane made countless friends and a lifetime of memories.

While in Tennessee, he was an active member of St. Dominic Catholic Church, and he was a faithful member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Leopolis. He was an avid bowler and golfer, enjoyed playing cribbage and sitting around the fire pit talking about current events and politics. More than anything, Joe loved watching his grandchildren grow and succeed.

Joe is survived by his son, Brian (Melissa) DeBaker, of Wittenberg; his daughter, Laura (Robert) Geske, of Shawano; a son-in-law, Rick Milhorn, of Bristol, Tennessee; grandchildren, Rebecca and Bonnie Milhorn, Roxanne Barber and Hunter, Alana and Mariah Krolow; one great-granddaughter, Miya Pawlowski; and his sisters, Pat Hoffman and Karen Knitt. He is further survived by numerous nieces, nephews, other relatives and many friends.

He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Diane, in 2016; his daughter, Marsha Milhorn, in 2016; his parents; and one brother, Eugene DeBaker, in 2018.

A funeral Mass for Joe will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Leopolis with the Rev. Joel Jores officiating. Burial will be in the church cemetery. Visitation will be held on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, at Swedberg Funeral Home in Gresham from 4-7 p.m. and again on Saturday at the church from 9 a.m. until the time of the service.