Patricia Tushaus lived for others. The 78-year-old mother, grandmother and interior designer will be remembered by loved ones for a tireless life of service to her family and to the disadvantaged strangers of the world. Ken and Pat Tushaus, members of St. Isidore Parish, Mount Calvary, and volunteers for Catholic Financial Life, share the spirit of Christmas at a celebration at St. Rose and St. Leo School in Milwaukee on Dec. 9, 2011. (Catholic Herald file photo by Ernie Mastroianni)

“She was constantly giving and teaching,” said Capuchin Br. Bob Smith, former president of Messmer Catholic Schools and a longtime friend of Tushaus. “This was the death of an angel.”

Tushaus died on Jan. 16 in Greenbush, located in Sheboygan County, with her family at her side. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six days earlier.

Tushaus was born Patricia Kowalczyk on March 15, 1936, in Milwaukee and attended St. Matthias Grade School, Milwaukee and West Milwaukee High School, graduating in 1954. Two years later she married Ken Tushaus, and the couple went on to raise their four children (Daniel, Jeffrey, Mark and Tony) while maintaining involvement with Messmer Catholic Schools, House of Peace, Catholic Knights and St. Ben’s Meal Program. 

In the 1970s the Tushauses became foster parents, eventually welcoming eight more children into their home. 

“We thought it would be good for our other children to see other people who needed help,” said Ken.

The family lived in Thiensville where she began her own business as an interior designer and taught at MATC. Ken was the Thiensville Chief of Police from 1967 until his retirement in 1989, at which point the couple moved to Greenbush.

Ken says he will remember his wife as a “classy lady” who was always well-dressed but adored camping, fishing and spending time outdoors, and who was devoted to her children and grandchildren. 

“She was such a kind person, always,” he said. 

Patricia was heavily involved with Messmer Preparatory School and St. Rose and St. Leo Catholic schools, and since the founding of Messmer Prep, would make it a point to pay twice-a-month visits to the K4 through third grade classes to share her love of reading. She even spearheaded a program to provide students with their own books after realizing that many did not keep books at home. 

Beginning in 2004, the Tushauses also organized a Christmas program for students of Messmer Prep, St. Rose and St. Leo. Every year in early December, the Tushauses – along with members of their Catholic Financial Life Branch 318, of which they were members for more than four decades – would visit the schools and present a carefully themed spiritual reflection, while handing out rosaries, prayer cards, ornaments and cookies.

Patricia’s devotion to the children of Messmer was reciprocated, said Br. Bob. 

“When she would read, these kids would jostle to get close to her,” recalled Br. Bob. “They were literally transfigured because of this lady, who they called ‘Mrs. Pat’ – some called her ‘Mom.’”

“Mom” was also what Br. Bob himself called Patricia Tushaus, ever since meeting her when he was a teenage student at St. Lawrence Seminary. A classmate and friend of her son Daniel, Br. Bob was 14 years old and living almost 900 miles away from his own parents. When he suffered a severe football injury his freshman year, Patricia immediately took him under her wing, he said, bringing him food and books, hosting him at the family home on weekends and even offering spiritual counsel and guidance to the young man who felt he had a vocation to the religious life.

Br. Bob also recalled how the Tushauses, then members of St. James Parish (now Lumen Christi) in Mequon, would embark on service trips across the country with their children. 

“She and Ken would take their kids in the summer to places like the Dakotas as well as Appalachia, the inner city of Milwaukee and Chicago – and they didn’t just take them to visit; they took them there to serve,” he said. “They wanted their children to experience giving.”

He attributed her deeply ingrained vocation for service to her Catholic upbringing. 

“There was never a time when I met them over the years where you had a meal without prayer, and if anybody was ever sick she had a prayer list, and every organization they were involved in had something to do with the church.”

The message took hold as the Tushauses’ children are involved in some form of service today, either as members of law enforcement or in the medical community. 

Patricia’s funeral Mass was celebrated Thursday, Jan. 26 at St. Isidore Parish in St. Cloud. Br. Bob delivered the eulogy, and recalled a poignant scene from the day before that he felt perfectly encapsulated Patricia’s enduring legacy.

“As (Patricia and Ken’s son) Mark was walking through the service with the family the night before the funeral, he explained that the Gospel would be from Matthew and contain the Beatitudes. And Patricia’s young grandson Christian yells out, ‘I LOVE the Beatitudes!’” he recalled with a laugh. “And I said to myself, ‘That’s what Pat taught.’ You get it, and then your kids get it, and then your kids’ kids get it.”