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Thomas Arthur Kraska Obituary

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Thomas Arthur Kraska

Calumet, Michigan

November 28, 1943 - June 1, 2024

Thomas Arthur Kraska Obituary

Thomas A. Kraska


CHAPEL HILL – Thomas Arthur Kraska, a resident of Chapel Hill and Lake Linden, Michigan, died on June 1, 2024 at the DuBose Health Center, surrounded by family. He fought a courageous battle that was not so much against cancer as it was for time with his loving family and friends. Tom’s determination won for them another two unforgettable years with this remarkable husband, father, grandfather, musician, believer, sailor, thinker, and friend.


Tom was born on November 28, 1943 in Detroit, MI, the son of Milton A. and Louise M. Kraska. He graduated from Detroit Lutheran High School West in 1961. He then attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1965 and a Master of Business Administration degree in quantitative methods in 1966. He married Judith A. Kraska (nee Sutinen) on August 21, 1965. Tom was a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Durham, where he served as an organist for many years.


Tom began his business career at Dow Chemical in 1966 in Midland, MI, working in information systems. He moved to Sydney, Australia in 1974 to serve as IT Project Manager leading the deployment of new systems in Dow’s Pacific Area. Shortly after returning to Dow’s headquarters in Midland, the Company moved him to Miami to serve as an analyst for Dow’s growing Latin American Area. After four years in Miami, Tom returned to Midland to join Dow’s Agricultural Products group. In 1988, Tom moved to supply chain management and took on positions of increasing responsibility over the years. In 1994, Tom was promoted to Director, Supply Chain at Dow Cal/Mag, based in Ludington, MI. In 2002, thinking his career was winding down, Tom was invited to join a new joint venture based in Chapel Hill, NC, Dow Reichhold Specialty Latex LLC, as its Vice President, Supply Chain. Rather than retiring to a life of sailing and sand dunes, he and Judy packed up once again and moved on to yet another new adventure. Tom served as a key member of Dow Reichhold’s executive team until his retirement in 2008 – and he and Judy ended up living in the beautiful home they built together in Chapel Hill, among a wonderful community of friends, longer than anywhere else they lived during their long and happy marriage.


Years before he had a business career, Tom was a musician. Skilled on piano, guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards, he made himself into a truly outstanding organist. Tom started his long career as a performing musician at the age of fourteen, when he commenced a four-year stint as an organist at Guardian Lutheran Church in Dearborn, MI. He went on to inspire congregants with his soulful playing at numerous postings, starting with the University Lutheran Chapel in Ann Arbor, where he and Judy first met, and continuing over the decades at various churches in Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina. Ever devoted to his passion, the perfect vacation for Tom was probably touring ancient cathedrals in Germany in hopes of seeing, or ideally playing, one of their important historic organs. Though perhaps most happy playing Bach fugues – on which he lectured passionately after performing a sampling of them at a seminar in Calumet, MI in 2021 – Tom was equally adept at other instruments and genres. During his college years, he played electric guitar in a rock band. His children grew up in a house filled with the sounds of Tom playing all different kinds of music including classical, jazz, folk, and rock. Tom’s broad musical experience came in handy when he later supported his children and grandchildren in their own musical endeavors, which included his son Nick’s drumming in a critically acclaimed indie rock band.


Tom was a believer. He believed in the power of faith in God to achieve good in the world at the individual and societal level. In the late 1970s, Tom threw himself into Cursillos de Cristiandad, a Roman Catholic-originated ministry that emphasized living Christian virtues in one’s daily life and helping others do the same. In partnership with his wife Judy, Tom helped found the Lutheran Cursillo of Central Michigan, which brought this important spiritual renewal ministry to new communities in Michigan’s Tri-Cities area, successfully overcoming some early opposition from their home congregation’s more traditional leadership. Tom also believed in logic and the power of debate, liking nothing better than to talk politics with his opposite-leaning children and their families, but always trying not so much to convince them as to understand them. Tom believed in philanthropy and contributed mightily to those less fortunate through his personal giving. Most of all, Tom believed in his children and grandchildren, supporting them with advice, encouragement, financial assistance, love, respect, and especially his great pride in them, for which they will always be grateful.


Tom was a sailor. His lifelong passion for sailing started on Biscayne Bay, in Miami, where the family lived in the 1970s. On weekends, he often dragged his young family onto a tiny rented sailboat and willed them to thrill in the experience as much as he did. He crewed on a long-distance sail from Miami to the Bahamas, which sealed his desire to make sailing a permanent part of his life. Later, back in Michigan, Tom bought the boat the family still owns today: a 6.5 meter-long craft he named the Spirit in a nod to his Christian faith. Over the years, the Spirit sailed all up and down Lake Huron, almost capsized in a near-hurricane on the Saginaw River crewed only by Tom and his terrified son David, was temporarily run aground by Tom’s son Rob at the end of an unauthorized teenager-only cruise while Tom and Judy were away in Europe, and eventually settled at Judy’s childhood home on Lake Superior, where Tom and his grandchildren have enjoyed it for many years. To be sure, Tom’s explorations were not limited to sailing, as he bravely moved his young family from small-town Michigan to big-city Sydney, Australia in 1974, and then to Miami. In doing so he exposed his children to different cultures and awakened them to possibilities they might otherwise never have imagined.


But Tom’s motivation for sailing – or taking on new work challenges, learning yet another musical instrument, or moving his family across the globe – wasn’t necessarily to explore. As he recently explained, he wanted to “outthink the wind.” It was the mathematics of it all that excited him: how can I adjust these sails to eke out every bit of speed from this craft given the shifting wind, the waves, the limitations of the boat? For Tom, life, like sailing, was a series of puzzles to be sought out and solved. There was always a right answer, if only he could ascertain the relevant facts and understand and correctly apply the applicable rules . . . or maybe sometimes bend them? Either way, solving the puzzle always put a smile on his face.


One of Tom’s favorite phrases was “it’s like paradise.” He used it to the point of cliché. His take on the Galapagos Islands or New Zealand’s Fiordland, which he and Judy visited in retirement? “You have to go there, it’s like paradise!” And who wouldn’t agree? But also, summer in Chapel Hill’s Meadowmont (an undeniably nice neighborhood, but not exactly Kaua’i)? “You have to come visit, it’s like paradise!” It seemed funny that Tom was so quick to label as “paradise” any number of commonplace or even mundane locales, and he was sometimes teased for it. But he understood better than most that almost every place, every experience, holds incredible beauty if only one is open to seeing and feeling it. Like the patio at Brixx on a rainy afternoon . . . with a beer in his hand, and his beloved dog Missy at his feet.


In his career, music, faith, relationships, and explorations, Tom was curious, thought-provoking, and bold, always ready to jump in where others might be cautious. His is truly the soul of a sailor: a bit restless, rarely afraid – and always imagining, searching for, and then sailing headlong towards what’s next. So we know that, whatever comes next on Tom’s latest voyage, he’s ready for it. He was born for it. And this extraordinary, big-brained but even bigger-hearted optimist, who saw paradise everywhere he looked, has surely found it now.


* * *


Tom was preceded in death by his parents and his parents-in-law Rudolph F. and June M. Sutinen. He is survived by his beloved wife, Judy, of Chapel Hill, NC; his brother, Donald H. Kraska (Pamela Kraska) of Ormond Beach, FL; his sons and daughters-in-law David T. Kraska and Laura C. Bremer of San Francisco, CA, Robert D. Kraska and Christa Bock of Vienna, Austria, and Nicholas A. and Rachel G. Kraska of Chicago, IL; his nephews Kendon A. Kraska (Claire) of Louisville, KY and Kevin A. Kraska (Elizabeth Ann) of Columbus, OH; and his loving grandchildren Arja June, Zoe Louise, Benjamin Thomas, and Ethan Aidan Kraska.


Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 8 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Durham with the Rev. Scott Anderson officiating. Arrangements are with Hall-Wynne Funeral Service. Burial will take place later this summer at Lakeview Cemetery in northern Michigan’s Copper Country, where Tom, Judy, their children, and their grandchildren spent their summers. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; please go to: www.givenow.lls.org.


The family expresses its heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the devoted caregivers at the DuBose Health Center and the hospice team at AuthoraCare Collective, and to the communities of faith, musicians, and fellow residents at the Cedars of Chapel Hill for their loving presence in Tom’s life.


To leave online memorials, which the family would greatly appreciate, please visit www.hall-wynne.com and select “Obituaries.” A selection of Tom’s music can be found on his youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@takraska1.

To share a memory or send a condolence gift, please visit the Official Obituary of Thomas Arthur Kraska hosted by Erickson-Crowley-Peterson Funeral Home.

Thomas A. Kraska


CHAPEL HILL – Thomas Arthur Kraska, a resident of Chapel Hill and Lake Linden, Michigan, died on June 1, 2024 at the DuBose Health Center, surrounded by family. He fought a courageous battle that was not so much against cancer as it was for time with his loving family and friends. Tom’s determination won for them another two unforgettable years with this remarkable husband, father, grandfather, musician, believer, sailor, thinker, and friend.


Tom was born on November 28, 1943 in Detroit, MI, the son of Milton A. and Louise M. Kraska. He graduated from Detroit Lutheran High School West in 1961. He then attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1965 and a Master of Business Administration degree in quantitative methods in 1966. He married Judith A. Kraska (nee Sutinen) on August 21, 1965. Tom was a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Durham, where he served as an organist for many years.


Tom began his business career at Dow Chemical in 1966 in Midland, MI, working in information systems. He moved to Sydney, Australia in 1974 to serve as IT Project Manager leading the deployment of new systems in Dow’s Pacific Area. Shortly after returning to Dow’s headquarters in Midland, the Company moved him to Miami to serve as an analyst for Dow’s growing Latin American Area. After four years in Miami, Tom returned to Midland to join Dow’s Agricultural Products group. In 1988, Tom moved to supply chain management and took on positions of increasing responsibility over the years. In 1994, Tom was promoted to Director, Supply Chain at Dow Cal/Mag, based in Ludington, MI. In 2002, thinking his career was winding down, Tom was invited to join a new joint venture based in Chapel Hill, NC, Dow Reichhold Specialty Latex LLC, as its Vice President, Supply Chain. Rather than retiring to a life of sailing and sand dunes, he and Judy packed up once again and moved on to yet another new adventure. Tom served as a key member of Dow Reichhold’s executive team until his retirement in 2008 – and he and Judy ended up living in the beautiful home they built together in Chapel Hill, among a wonderful community of friends, longer than anywhere else they lived during their long and happy marriage.


Years before he had a business career, Tom was a musician. Skilled on piano, guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards, he made himself into a truly outstanding organist. Tom started his long career as a performing musician at the age of fourteen, when he commenced a four-year stint as an organist at Guardian Lutheran Church in Dearborn, MI. He went on to inspire congregants with his soulful playing at numerous postings, starting with the University Lutheran Chapel in Ann Arbor, where he and Judy first met, and continuing over the decades at various churches in Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina. Ever devoted to his passion, the perfect vacation for Tom was probably touring ancient cathedrals in Germany in hopes of seeing, or ideally playing, one of their important historic organs. Though perhaps most happy playing Bach fugues – on which he lectured passionately after performing a sampling of them at a seminar in Calumet, MI in 2021 – Tom was equally adept at other instruments and genres. During his college years, he played electric guitar in a rock band. His children grew up in a house filled with the sounds of Tom playing all different kinds of music including classical, jazz, folk, and rock. Tom’s broad musical experience came in handy when he later supported his children and grandchildren in their own musical endeavors, which included his son Nick’s drumming in a critically acclaimed indie rock band.


Tom was a believer. He believed in the power of faith in God to achieve good in the world at the individual and societal level. In the late 1970s, Tom threw himself into Cursillos de Cristiandad, a Roman Catholic-originated ministry that emphasized living Christian virtues in one’s daily life and helping others do the same. In partnership with his wife Judy, Tom helped found the Lutheran Cursillo of Central Michigan, which brought this important spiritual renewal ministry to new communities in Michigan’s Tri-Cities area, successfully overcoming some early opposition from their home congregation’s more traditional leadership. Tom also believed in logic and the power of debate, liking nothing better than to talk politics with his opposite-leaning children and their families, but always trying not so much to convince them as to understand them. Tom believed in philanthropy and contributed mightily to those less fortunate through his personal giving. Most of all, Tom believed in his children and grandchildren, supporting them with advice, encouragement, financial assistance, love, respect, and especially his great pride in them, for which they will always be grateful.


Tom was a sailor. His lifelong passion for sailing started on Biscayne Bay, in Miami, where the family lived in the 1970s. On weekends, he often dragged his young family onto a tiny rented sailboat and willed them to thrill in the experience as much as he did. He crewed on a long-distance sail from Miami to the Bahamas, which sealed his desire to make sailing a permanent part of his life. Later, back in Michigan, Tom bought the boat the family still owns today: a 6.5 meter-long craft he named the Spirit in a nod to his Christian faith. Over the years, the Spirit sailed all up and down Lake Huron, almost capsized in a near-hurricane on the Saginaw River crewed only by Tom and his terrified son David, was temporarily run aground by Tom’s son Rob at the end of an unauthorized teenager-only cruise while Tom and Judy were away in Europe, and eventually settled at Judy’s childhood home on Lake Superior, where Tom and his grandchildren have enjoyed it for many years. To be sure, Tom’s explorations were not limited to sailing, as he bravely moved his young family from small-town Michigan to big-city Sydney, Australia in 1974, and then to Miami. In doing so he exposed his children to different cultures and awakened them to possibilities they might otherwise never have imagined.


But Tom’s motivation for sailing – or taking on new work challenges, learning yet another musical instrument, or moving his family across the globe – wasn’t necessarily to explore. As he recently explained, he wanted to “outthink the wind.” It was the mathematics of it all that excited him: how can I adjust these sails to eke out every bit of speed from this craft given the shifting wind, the waves, the limitations of the boat? For Tom, life, like sailing, was a series of puzzles to be sought out and solved. There was always a right answer, if only he could ascertain the relevant facts and understand and correctly apply the applicable rules . . . or maybe sometimes bend them? Either way, solving the puzzle always put a smile on his face.


One of Tom’s favorite phrases was “it’s like paradise.” He used it to the point of cliché. His take on the Galapagos Islands or New Zealand’s Fiordland, which he and Judy visited in retirement? “You have to go there, it’s like paradise!” And who wouldn’t agree? But also, summer in Chapel Hill’s Meadowmont (an undeniably nice neighborhood, but not exactly Kaua’i)? “You have to come visit, it’s like paradise!” It seemed funny that Tom was so quick to label as “paradise” any number of commonplace or even mundane locales, and he was sometimes teased for it. But he understood better than most that almost every place, every experience, holds incredible beauty if only one is open to seeing and feeling it. Like the patio at Brixx on a rainy afternoon . . . with a beer in his hand, and his beloved dog Missy at his feet.


In his career, music, faith, relationships, and explorations, Tom was curious, thought-provoking, and bold, always ready to jump in where others might be cautious. His is truly the soul of a sailor: a bit restless, rarely afraid – and always imagining, searching for, and then sailing headlong towards what’s next. So we know that, whatever comes next on Tom’s latest voyage, he’s ready for it. He was born for it. And this extraordinary, big-brained but even bigger-hearted optimist, who saw paradise everywhere he looked, has surely found it now.


* * *


Tom was preceded in death by his parents and his parents-in-law Rudolph F. and June M. Sutinen. He is survived by his beloved wife, Judy, of Chapel Hill, NC; his brother, Donald H. Kraska (Pamela Kraska) of Ormond Beach, FL; his sons and daughters-in-law David T. Kraska and Laura C. Bremer of San Francisco, CA, Robert D. Kraska and Christa Bock of Vienna, Austria, and Nicholas A. and Rachel G. Kraska of Chicago, IL; his nephews Kendon A. Kraska (Claire) of Louisville, KY and Kevin A. Kraska (Elizabeth Ann) of Columbus, OH; and his loving grandchildren Arja June, Zoe Louise, Benjamin Thomas, and Ethan Aidan Kraska.


Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 8 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Durham with the Rev. Scott Anderson officiating. Arrangements are with Hall-Wynne Funeral Service. Burial will take place later this summer at Lakeview Cemetery in northern Michigan’s Copper Country, where Tom, Judy, their children, and their grandchildren spent their summers. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; please go to: www.givenow.lls.org.


The family expresses its heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the devoted caregivers at the DuBose Health Center and the hospice team at AuthoraCare Collective, and to the communities of faith, musicians, and fellow residents at the Cedars of Chapel Hill for their loving presence in Tom’s life.


To leave online memorials, which the family would greatly appreciate, please visit www.hall-wynne.com and select “Obituaries.” A selection of Tom’s music can be found on his youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@takraska1.

To share a memory or send a condolence gift, please visit the Official Obituary of Thomas Arthur Kraska hosted by Erickson-Crowley-Peterson Funeral Home.

Events

Event information can be found on the Official Obituary of Thomas Arthur Kraska.