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John Lapotka

Published On: Mar 28 2013 10:12:55 AM CDT

John Lapotka died peacefully on March 23, 2013 at the age of 96. He was the oldest of five children born to Russian immigrants, Taras and Xenia Lapotka.

He lived a full life that presented so many fascinating challenges and opportunities. Through it all, he lived life to the top. He always knew exactly how to make the best of everything because, as he put it, he was "born ready."

Growing up during the Depression, he had to learn to fish, well and often, so his family had something to eat.

John attended Ripon College on a basketball scholarship. He graduated ready to enter the U.S. Army. As a 2nd lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division, he participated in the Normandy invasion of 1944. A year later, he was among the first American troops to enter Berlin. Along the way, he was greeted by Winston Churchill when he arrived in England and exchanged a daily salute with Joseph Stalin in Potsdam, Germany. Best of all, he married a lovely English bride, Mary, who was his endless love and greatest joy.

He also fought in The Korean War where he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart Medals. After retiring from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1963, he moved with his family to Madison and worked as a therapist at the Mendota Mental Health Institute.

John's finest days were spent on Lynx Lake in Vilas County, WI. After retiring for the second time, he was ready to spend his best years fishing and enjoying Wisconsin's North Woods with friends and family.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Mary Lapotka; his sons David (Debbie) Lapotka, Gary (Linda) Lapotka, and Gerald Lapotka; his grandsons James (Carol Lynn) Lapotka, and Joe Lapotka; his great granddaughter Cora Mary Lapotka; sister, Helen (Jack) Matsen, and his nephew, Tom Fugette.

We will all remember John as someone who recognized the best in everyone and made the most of everything. John Lapotka was born ready.

In remembrance, John would like you to contribute to an organization that helps wounded veterans.

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