RACINE—Walter Stenavich loved a lot things about life, but if you forced him to pick the three things he was most passionate about you might be given the answer: veterans, submarines and public schools.
A World War II veteran and longtime teacher and administrator for the Racine Unified School District, Stenavich died Thursday. He was 90.
Born in Kenosha on Feb. 28, 1926, Walter Stenavich moved to Racine as a child, eventually attending Park High School. After studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, he returned to Racine, where he became teacher, and later at a principal, at Mitchell Middle School and Horlick High School. He retired in 1986.
Stenavich also was an advocate for his fellow veterans, He served on the state Board of Veterans Affairs, and was instrumental in developing the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery near Dover as well as the adjacent Wisconsin Veterans Home. He was also a longtime member of the U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II, and regularly gave talks on the history of submarines, such as those he served on during the war.
Speaking about his father, Wally Stenavich of Janesville said his dad lived life to the fullest, meeting every challenge he faced with grace. That included the obstacles he faced when moving from his home of 60 years to Janesville two years ago.
“You think piloting a ship from Panama to Perth, Australia, would (be a challenge) but he came over here as an 88-year-old and managed Janesville like a piece of cake,” Wally said. “The last day that he lived he discovered some more roads, and he said ‘Ah, we have to do this more often.’ He was just the same old explorer.”
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Sitting with her son at his home in Janesville on Saturday, Anna Stenavich described her husband of nearly 69 years as a man who loved children, who loved everybody. The pair got to know each other when Walter’s mother asked Anna’s mother if Anna could go with Walter to the commissioning of the submarine USS Loggerhead at Manitowoc in 1944. Walter, who had joined the Navy two years before, was 18 at the time, Anna was not quite 17.
The couple’s relationship blossomed through the letters they wrote back and forth to each other during the war, Anna said. They married in 1947.
“We were married 68 years, and they were very, very happy years,” she said.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Walter Stenavich at St. Richard Catholic Church, 1503 Grand Ave., Racine, at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Relatives and friends may meet with the family at the church on Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. until Mass time at 11:00 a.m.
Interment with full military honors will be held at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery at 11 a.m. Thursday. Memorials to St. Richard Catholic Church, Three Harbors Boy Scout Council or Racine Area Retired Educators Association Scholarship Fund have been suggested.