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In Memoriam: Ralph Willard Renk

Ralph Willard Renk was born in Milwaukee, Wis. on April 22, 1924, and peacefully passed away on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at Agrace Hospice in Fitchburg, Wis. with family by his side.

He was preceded in death by his loving parents, Willard and Nell Renk.

He was the eldest of four children with sisters Nancy and Patricia, and brother William, all deceased. He grew up on Milwaukee’s Eastside and attended St. Peter and Paul Catholic Grade School, where he was an altar boy. He attended Riverside High School and then Marquette University. A member of the Navy ROTC, he earned his 1st Lieutenant rank while still in school and was commissioned to fight in the Pacific theatre of war during World War II, seeing action in the South Pacific aboard numerous ships. After the War, he returned to school where he met his soon-to-be wife Margaret (Peggy) L. Riedel. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business and married Peggy in 1948. He was again called up to U.S. Navy duty for the Korean War, serving as a Shipboard Safety Officer throughout the war effort.

Peggy (1924 – 2012) was the light of his life for 64 years, celebrating a wonderful union throughout. The first of their five children was born in 1949, Thomas (Karen), then James (Becky), Susan (Anthony) Young, John (Brenda), and Jeffrey (Paula) over an eleven-year span. They made a wonderful team raising five successful kids and inspired another generation of 10 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren, now spread out across the U.S. and Canada. Their large and growing family has been the motivating inspiration for their long and loving life.

After the War, Ralph’s business career took him into general sales and management positions. He eventually became a spokesperson for the Milwaukee Better Business Bureau monitoring and guiding people’s business interactions with the local and state business community. This took him into management for various trade and professional associations including the Hotel, Motel Trade Association, and the Milwaukee Convention Bureau representing government and political liaison issues with the city and state. This position eventually led him to a career as a respected registered lobbyist for the First Wisconsin National Bank, U.S. Bank, and its various successors. One of his major accomplishments was the creation of the government approvals and policies for the first national credit card ‘Mastercard’ in the 1960s. Much of his time was spent in Milwaukee, Madison, and Washington, D.C. representing banking interests in local, state, and national government.

After a career working with mayors, legislators, governors, and Congress on banking interests, he and Peggy retired in 1990 and moved to Fort Myers, Florida to enjoy an active, relaxing lifestyle. They loved golfing, playing cards (mainly gin rummy), dominoes, hosting fun parties and family visits. Ralph and Peggy were encouraged by their loving family to move back north to Naperville, Ill. when their health issues required a higher level of care, and to be closer to family. After Peggy’s passing in 2012, Ralph eventually moved to Madison, Wis., where he spent his final years.

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By, Alex Paniagua