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Obituary for John Paul Pelej

August 9, 1948 – August 9, 2023

At home with his loving wife by his side, John Paul Pelej passed away on his 75th birthday on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. He was born in Chicago on Aug. 9, 1948, the son of the late Joseph and Libbie (née Krakora) Pelej.

John Paul Pelej

John graduated from Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, Ill., “Class of 1966.” It was at high school that he met Pamela R. Gaetz and they were wed July 11, 1970, the same year John graduated from Carthage College. John continued his studies, earned his master’s degree from Cardinal Stritch University and received the Sister Camille Kliebhan Award, a Superintendency Certificate from UW-Milwaukee, where he also worked toward his doctoral degree. John had a brilliant mind, and throughout his life he enjoyed reading and historical research.

John was an educator employed by Racine Unified School District for 35 years as a special education teacher, principal, director of staff development and instructional services and deputy superintendent, from which he retired in 2004. His strong commitment to education earned him several awards, including “Educator of the Year.”

Some of his numerous passions included spending time in Door County, competitive sailboat racing, cooking, and fishing. He was a member of the Racine Yacht Club and served as Vice Commodore. Above all, he treasured time spent with his family, which of course included his dogs. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather who will be dearly missed.

Surviving are his loving wife of 53 years, Pamela; son, Justin (Paula Kosower) Pelej of Evanston, Ill.; daughter, Jennifer Pelej (Jake Chaffin) of Belgrade, Mont.; grandson, Jones Pelej Jacoby; brother, James (Chris) Pelej; sister-in-law, Linda Pelej; aunts, nieces, nephews, other relatives and dear friends.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brother, Joseph Pelej; father-in-law and mother-in-law, Howard and LaVertia Gaetz.


Relatives and friends may meet for a visitation from 4 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 18 at Maresh-Meredith & Acklam Funeral Home. A funeral service will follow at 6 p.m. with Rev. Donald Burton officiating.

The family wishes to extend a special thank you to Dr. Robert Gullberg, Dr. Michael Mullane, Dr. Desiree Dizadjy and Dr. Ryan Engel for their loving and compassionate care given to John.

Obituary and photo of John Paul Pelej courtesy of Maresh-Meredith & Acklam Funeral Home.

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