Obert Joel Vattendahl of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was born to eternal life at the age of 88, on May 16, 2021. Joel was the beloved husband of Jenny, a loving father to Craig, Bryan, and Cynthia; a cherished father-in-law to Tom and Jennifer; a doting grandfather to Duane, John, Sarahjo, Nathan, Stacey, Cassidy, and Ryan; and an adored great-grandfather.
Joel was born on August 23, 1932, in Holt, Minnesota, the son of Obert and Ethel. He grew up in Yakima, WA, and Minnesota, graduating from Newfolden High School in 1950. After serving four years in the United States Navy as a parachutist during the Korean War, he moved to South Milwaukee and began working as a machine operator at the Bucyrus Erie Company in 1956.
On October 14, 1961, Joel was united in marriage to Jenny Davis in Thief River Falls, MN. The couple settled in South Milwaukee, where they raised their three children.
During his years at Bucyrus Erie, he became active in Local 1343 and was elected local union president in 1962. In 1965, Joel was appointed as a staff representative for the United Steelworkers of America. He served as a Staff Representative until 1981 when he was elected Director of District 32. In 1995, Joel was appointed to a committee to reorganize the Union’s structure. He was then appointed Special Assistant to the International President and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1996. As a member of the USWA Executive Board, Joel was appointed Chairman of many committees and represented the Union at meetings of world trade organizations throughout Europe and Asia. For over 30 years, Joel represented working men & women at the local, state, national, and international levels. He received numerous awards & accolades, and dedicated his life to those who could not represent themselves. Joel served on the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents from 1985 through 1992. He also served on numerous corporate and organizational boards. In addition to his Union and corporate activities, Joel was a member of the Divine Mercy Parish, skydiving clubs, and the Knights of Columbus. He enjoyed golfing, reading, playing cribbage & solitaire, skydiving, traveling, singing, storytelling, cooking, and socializing with family & friends. Joel was an avid Brewers & Packers fan and enjoyed watching the games. Friends & family describe Joel as an intelligent, patient, kind, courageous, strong, generous man, with a great sense of humor. Joel is survived by his wife, Jenny of nearly 60 years; his children, Bryan (Jennifer), and Cynthia (Tom Kieck); grandchildren, Sarahjo (special friend Jesse), Nathan, Stacey (special friend Ethan), Cassidy (special friend Briggs), and Ryan; 6 great-grandchildren; sisters-in-law, Ella Peterson, Mary Lou Mersenski; and brother-in-law, Charles Davis (Janette); along with many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents Ethel & Obert; his son, Craig; his grandsons John and Duane; his sister-in-law, Carol; and his brothers-in-law, Warren, Sonny, Jerry, and Mark.
. A private burial will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to Stars & Stripes Honor Flight will be
appreciated, to honor veterans, like Joel, for their service to our country.
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