It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Ruekert & Mielke, Inc.’s co-founder, John H. Mielke. John passed away peacefully on Monday, January 1, 2018, at the age of 99. John’s life of service and devotion to his family, communities, company, and the engineering world will be greatly missed.
Early Life & Education
John was born in Waukesha in 1918 and was the only child of Harry Mielke and Lillian (Harris). Lillian passed away and Harry then married Evelyn (Cardin). They had a son, Myles Mielke.
John attended Blair and Barstow schools in Waukesha, WI and graduated from Waukesha High School in 1936. It was a “career course”, along with encouragement from his teacher, that lead to John’s decision to become an engineer.
John began attending the University of Wisconsin to pursue his engineering degree in 1936. To help pay his way through college, he waited tables at his fraternity house and worked a National Youth Administration (NYA) job for 40 cents an hour. He graduated in 1940 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
Engineering & Serving Our Country
Upon graduation from the University of Wisconsin, John worked as a junior engineer for the City of Waukesha. His projects included the mid-city interceptor sewer and South St. and Clinton St. road paving.
Shortly thereafter, John joined the U.S. Army Engineer’s office in Cincinnati, OH where he worked on a drainage project for Wright Field (Dayton, OH) and a flood control project in Portsmouth, OH.
John enlisted as a private in the Army in 1942 and attended Yale University where he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. In 1943 John was sent to the China Burma India Theater during World War II where he laid out airfields for the air transport command.
“We literally cut airstrips out of the jungle. It was 24 hours a day. That was a good thing, perhaps, because there was no entertainment for us of any kind,” recalled Mielke.
John retuned to the states in 1944 after falling ill with malaria. Once recovered, he worked as a staff engineer in Indianapolis, IN where he helped construct and design 43 airfields.
Co-Founding Ruekert & Mielke, Inc.
Discharged from the army as a captain, John returned to his home town to work for the City of Waukesha as a senior engineer. It was there that John met a fellow engineer named Frank Ruekert. John and Frank started moonlighting by designing subdivisions for the housing market that was booming due to returning Word War II veterans. In 1946 the two decided to officially form their own consulting engineering company, Ruekert & Mielke, Inc. (R/M).
“I always had in mind to get into a small consulting firm that would serve the towns and villages that don’t have the facilities or the means to employee full-time engineers. I was fresh out of the service when Frank (Ruekert) persuaded me to join him,” recalled Mielke.
The company got its first big break when the City of Pewaukee enlisted R/M to design a sewage treatment plant. Soon after, R/M grew rapidly along with the growth of Waukesha County. John was involved in designing many of the developing communities’ water systems and wastewater treatment facilities, as well as many of the subdivisions and industrial parks. R/M also designed some for the first municipal swimming pools for the communities of Waukesha, Hartford, and Sun Prairie, WI.
John was active in his engineering profession including the Wisconsin Society of Professional Engineers, where he was recognized as the first “Engineer of the Year”. He served as the chairman of the board that developed the City of Waukesha building code. John was also active in the American Waterworks Association and proud to be an active member of the Waukesha Elks Club for over 50 years.
In 1971 John’s son, Bill, joined the firm and became CEO in 1980. R/M’s business continued to grow as they began working on large municipal projects, such as the Brookfield Industrial Park, Lilly Creek Sewer Interceptor, and the reconstruction of downtown Elm Grove, WI. In 1989, John retired from R/M with the satisfaction of knowing that much of the infrastructure supporting the growth of Southeastern Wisconsin was designed by R/M.
True Love and Family
At his side throughout his journey was the love of his life, Lois (Trakel). They started dating in high school and married in 1941. John and Lois were happily married for 75 years until Lois passed away in 2016.
John’s pride and joy shone through the four children they raised: Linda Melham (John) now of Mechanicsburg, PA.: William (Barbara) of Oconomowoc, WI.; Cherry Finck (Doug) of Brewer, ME; and Jill May (Ron) of Waukesha, WI. John and Lois were further blessed with 8 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
John and Lois enjoyed entertaining many of their friends and families at their summer cottage on Pewaukee Lake. There was always room at the dinner table for any additional friends the children brought home. John and Lois spent winters at their condominium in Cocoa Beach, Florida. And they also traveled with friends to many interesting locations including: Europe, Asia, Africa, Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada.
The family suggests memorial gifts may be made to:
Waukesha Engineering Scholarship Fund
W233 N2080 Ridgeview Parkway, Waukesha, WI 53188
University of Wisconsin Foundation,
UW College of Civil Engineering Annual Fund
1415 Engineering Drive, Madison, WI, 53706.