Zenon “Zeke” Smolarek, 77, died peacefully in his sleep Thursday, March 8, 2018, at Spring Valley Health and Rehab.

He was born Dec. 29, 1940, in Racine, Wis., to Agnes (Habeck) and Zenon M. Smolarek. In 1959, he graduated from Washington Park High School and headed off to college at UW-Stout in Menomonie. Through his studies and fraternity, Phi Sigma Epsilon, he made lifelong friends, enjoying music, laughs, and leadership. He graduated with his B.S. in technology management in 1964. Lifelong learning was a core value of Zeke’s; he went on to earn his M.S. from UW-Stout and PhD from University of Northern Iowa. Zeke took his love of learning and dedicated it to 34 years of teaching at UW-Stout, from 1966 to 2000.

He gave of himself freely and unselfishly for many worthy causes, including student careers, Faculty Senate, the Menomonie School District, and the Wisconsin Retired Educators Association. In these endeavors, having fun and telling jokes was how Zeke connected with people. His unique sense of humor made work and play fun.

Zeke is survived by his son, Zenon J. (Karen) and daughter, Julie (Jeff); three grandchildren, Rachel, Molly and Ryan; and many friends from UW-Stout and the Oaks.

A celebration of life will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, March 19, at Olson Funeral Home in Menomonie with a reception to follow. There will be visitation prior to the service from 3 to 5 p.m. at the funeral home.

The Smolarek family would like to extend our thanks to Dr. Thirumalai, Spring Valley Health and Rehabilitation Center, and Mayo Clinic Hospice for their patience and attentive care.

Memorials are suggested to Stepping Stones Food Pantry in Zeke’s memory.

To share a memory, please visit obituaries at www.olsonfuneral.com.


the life of: Zenon 'Zeke' Smolarek
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