Fred Hrubecky, 85, passed away peacefully on March 11, 2023, surrounded by his family at home in Neenah.
Fred was born at Theda Clark Hospital in Neenah to George and Magdalene Hrubecky, and was curious from the start. As a young child his first words came from his mother making sure he knew his address, since he was constantly wandering off after some new and enticing object. He attended Neenah public schools, starting with Roosevelt Elementary and graduating from Neenah High School in 1955. He played varsity basketball and football and was class president in his senior year. He then attended University of Wisconsin in Madison, as did his father, grandfather, and all four of his siblings. While still at Madison he married his wife of 64 years, Madeline (Zettel). After earning his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1960 he began a career with Kimberly Clark in Neenah (New Products & Operational Creativity) lasting into the 1980’s. During that time he developed “Kimbies,” KC’s first disposable diaper, and feminine care products, bucking the defined KC processes all the way, in favor of questioning everything. Questioning everything was the story of his life. He was very passionate about Starfire charcoal, a product his small KC team developed, and pursued it outside of KC when they decided it didn’t fit the KC portfolio.
After retirement, Fred pursued a wide variety of interests including learning, creating, and teaching. He was a voracious reader, gardener, woodworker, artist (carving, painting, clay, watercolor, paper mache, etc.), musician, thespian, welder, biker, walker, and active citizen. He will live on in his kids’, grandkids’, and relative’s homes through his beautiful crafts, including dozens of carved and painted santa sculptures. Fred and Madeline always loved Door County and their time-share near Baileys Harbor with their sons and their families. He was not a religious man, but has always said that the Grand Canyon raft trip he and Madeline went on was a “religious experience” from the beauty and adventure of the trip.
Fred was a Scoutmaster for Troop 45 (St. Margaret Mary’s, Neenah) for 10 years and held other leadership positions in BSA. He received multiple awards of merit including the Silver Beaver award in 1984 for his volunteer efforts. Gardner Dam Camp near White Lake has a “Hrubecky” camp site in memory of his father.
Family was always Fred’s highest priority. Perhaps the role that gave him the most joy in life was as Grampa. His four grandsons will always cherish “Thursdays with Grampa.” The four young boys spent the day with Grampa (and Grandma at lunchtime) to carve, recite poetry, launch stomp rockets, look for frogs, make pottery, and much more. Fred and his four siblings started the annual Hrubecky family reunions over 30 years ago and they are still well attended and going strong. Fred also took great pleasure in frequent family game nights, often being the last one ready to quit playing late at night, despite his declining health during his last few years.
In 2020 Fred was selected as one of two Heroes of Neenah by students in the Fusion Academy at Neenah High School for his contributions of selflessness, innovation, and positive change. Due to Covid the award ceremony was delayed until next month (April, 2023). He frequently gave praise to the heroes in his life, including ancestors, mentors, parents, soldiers, and in-laws.
Fred was proud of his hard-working ancestors on his father’s and mother’s sides, including local merchants, brewers, farmers, coopers, carpenters, and engineers. He talked about remembering the WW2 era and the related food rationing, farming chickens in the backyard, and local manufacturing converted to war efforts. He was also proud of his parents who were always selfless, even in those hard times.
Fred is survived by his wife, Madeline, a son, Steve (Kathy) of Neenah, a daughter-in-law, Kim of Omro, and four grandsons (Sam, Pedro, Jacob, Kyle) and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, his four siblings (Jim, Katherine, George, Tom), and his first son, Paul.
There will be a celebration of Fred’s life at 4:00 to 7:00pm on March 24 at the Washington Park pavilion in Neenah.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are appreciated and will be used to plant a tree in a Neenah park and towards a favorite charity of Fred's.