Wotipka, Lee Adolph was born on July 24, 1938 in Valpraiso, Nebraska, to Adolph and Lucille Kratochvil Wotipka. At eighty-two years of age, he joined his father, mother, brother David Wotipka, step-mother Antonia, step-brothers Donald and Dennis Dolezal, and brother-in-law Fred Ehrlich, in eternal rest on November 11, 2020 in Orono, Minnesota.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Linda, his mother-in-law, Melva Gregory, his sister, Laverne Ehrlich, his stepsister Shirley Dolezal, his brother Adolph (Diane) Wotipka, his brothers-in-law, Dana (Marie) Gregory, and Clinton Gregory, his three children, Lucy Miller, Jennette (Mitch) Bodiford, and Robin Wotipka, his step-daughter, Janell Strube, the nephews he raised as his sons, Scott Gregory, Matthew Gregory, and Jeremy Loyer, fourteen grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and many other nieces and nephews and loving friends.
He spent his life living in Nebraska, California, Idaho, Colorado, Florida, and finally settled in Orono, Minnesota. He had many professions over the course of a long life starting with the railroad, owning an insurance agency, running a painting and drywall company, being a professional job recruiter, and retiring at the age of eighty with twenty years as a public health and safety inspector with HUD REAC, where he worked throughout the United States and the U.S. territories. Lee spent three years at the University of Nebraska where he left after a tragic fire in which he saved his mother but was unable to save his grandfather. There was nothing Lee could not build with his hands. He was a master-craftsman who could fix damaged walls, create artistry in ceiling plaster, hang wallpaper and tile the most intricate designs into walls, floors, and stair risers. He taught a whole generation of sons and daughters, and another generation of grandchildren, how to wallpaper, paint, plaster, do electrical and plumbing work.
Lee’s life was dedicated to God. As a youth, he served as an altar boy. His being was infused with music. He sang tenor, often as a soloist, and sometimes in a choir. He also played the trumpet, piano, guitar, and harmonica. Lee played taps at military funerals and on television and was awarded a World War I bugle as a result. He took his harmonica everywhere.
He played with street performers in Italy and California, entertained the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, soothed fractious children, charmed animals, and loved to play for Parables at Wayzata Community Church. He talked to animals, and they seemed to understand what he said, whether it was a dog, a bird, a big cat in the zoo, or an Arabian stallion. You would often find him shopping at Costco, the man with the beret and a cane, talking to shoppers and clerks alike. He did not know a stranger, was interested in everyone, and a fierce defender of anyone whose cause he took up. Lee knew his way around the kitchen and the grill. His bacon wrapped barbecued jalapeno peppers were snatched up and his giant pearl tapioca dessert was something to fight over. He was an avid reader and photographer, and there was not a subject or a person who did not interest him. Lee was never without a dog.
He loved his wife (“Wiffle”), he loved his children, and he found great joy in his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Often, he chose a hymn, “I’ve a Friend Who Meets My Every Need”, and he loved the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
The last few months were hard for Lee as he battled many illnesses, including COVID. Even then, he kept abreast of his children and grandchildren’s lives, dispensed construction advice and his last acts were the kind and loving actions of a husband and one who loved nature, making lunch for his wife, clearing a path through the snow for his dog and a path to the birdfeeder. As the song says, “though your dreams be tossed and blown, walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone,” and we are assured that he is walking on today with the friend who meets his every need.