Longtime Portland resident John Stanley Wuitschick, Sr. passed away peacefully on August 10th, 2023, surrounded by the love of his family. He was 94 years of age.
John was the first child of Carl and Frances Wuitschick, and was born on April 8th, 1929 in McIntosh, South Dakota. He spent his early years in Selfridge, North Dakota as part of a large German community. The Great Depression caused the work migration of his parents, and after saying goodbye to their many relatives, John’s family drove off to Yakima, Washington. Here John mastered the English language, and attended both St. Paul Catholic School and Marquette High School, where he graduated in 1948.
During John’s high school years, he met “the girl across the street,” Marilyn Smith. Along with courting Marilyn, while staying on the good side of her brothers, John began his affiliation with the F.W. Woolworth Company as a stock boy. Although not an overly harrowing first job, one responsibility was opening the doors when a shipment of rationed nylon hosiery was advertised during World War II. He quickly learned the best way of opening doors for scores of determined women without getting trampled in the process. At his high school graduation, John was given the keys to the store and the title of assistant manager.
John and Marilyn married on February 26th, 1949. He continued his career with Woolworth, and was transferred to numerous stores in Washington, Idaho, and California, taking time to welcome children Linda, John Jr., and Debra along the journey.
In 1960, John was promoted to the new million dollar Woolworth store in Portland, Oregon. It would be located in a new concept of shopping known as Lloyd Center, which was touted at the time as “The Largest Shopping Center in the World.” It was here in Portland that John and his wife found their forever home and were blessed with their last child, Alisa.
The onset of Multiple Sclerosis took its toll on John’s health and brought about an early retirement at the age of 43. Yet John stoically refused to let his disability weigh him down, and along with volunteering, he helped to manage Menlo Park Pharmacy until its closure in 2000. He received great comfort and companionship in activities at St. Therese Catholic Church, especially after Marilyn’s unexpected passing in 1996. Much of John’s life became enriched by the many clergymen and friends at the church. He was involved in the WYZ Club, the Knights of Columbus, and was unofficial manager of the Social Center until a stroke in 2009 found him in need of greater physical care. He was a resident of Russellville Park Retirement Community before moving to Hawthorne Gardens Assisted Living Community.
Beside his love of fishing, laughing at jokes and promptly forgetting the punchlines, pouring over his coin collections while listening to Johnny Cash, and whistling a tune yet to be identified, John always said that the happiest day of his life was the day he married Marilyn, followed by the births of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
John was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Marilyn, his parents, Carl and Frances Wuitschick, and brother Richard Wuitschick. He is survived by daughter Linda (James) Colantino of Troutdale, son John (Virginia) Wuitschick, Jr. of Newberg, daughter Debra (William) Cestnik of Vancouver, daughter Alisa (Marcos) Wuitschick-Aguirre of Portland, brother Raymond Wuitschick, sister Delores (Braxton) Cleman, brother Steven Wuitschick, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Interment will be held on Tuesday, September 12th at 12:30 at Gethsemani Catholic Cemetery 11666 SE Stevens Road, Happy Valley, OR. A Memorial Mass of Remembrance will be celebrated on Saturday, October 28th at 1100 at St. Therese Catholic Church 1260 NE132nd Avenue in Portland. It will follow a Rosary at the church at 1030. The Mass will be followed by a reception, where all are invited to swap stories and laughs.
The family will be forever grateful to the wonderful residents and staff at Russellville Park and Hawthorne Gardens who lovingly cared for John for many years, along with Providence Home Health and Hospice teams, who helped them along through his final days and hours. They all helped make John’s final journey one filled with respect, love, and peace.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Association.