Cover photo for Charles Edward Susmilch's Obituary
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Charles Edward Susmilch

July 21, 1947 — March 2, 2024


Charles Edward Susmilch

Chuck Susmilch was one of kind, whose sense of humor will be fondly remembered by those he knew and loved.  Even in his last days, Chuck was still making us smile and laugh with his smirk, sarcasm and spot on delivery.  Chuck Susmilch (76) passed away peacefully on Saturday March 2nd, 2024 in the presence of his daughter, Jenny Goodlund, and partner, Diana Hanson.


He is survived by his daughter, Jenny Goodlund (Travis) of McFarland, step daughter Anne Chism (Greg) of Middleton, step son Tim Fellenz of Atlanta; his companion Diana Hanson of Fitchburg; grandchildren, Carly Goodlund, Aaron Hilgers (Callie) and Hailey Stuhr (Nathan); his siblings, Pat Radtke (Gary) of Tallahassee, Mary Monroe of West Palm Beach and Earl Susmilch (Linda) of Berwyn; many nieces and nephews in Florida and Illinois; and many adopted Kasten and Severson/Hanson family members.  He is preceded in death by his parents, Earl and Henrietta Susmilch; and his wife Barbara Kasten.


Chuck grew up in Berwyn, Illinois where he worked at the family feed store and had his first experience with entrepreneurship.  He was a self-proclaimed smart ass and opted for mediocrity in his early education.  At Illinois State University his attitude towards education shifted and he went on to graduate at the top of his class and received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and entered graduate school at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1969.  Graduate school was interrupted by serving in the Army for 18 months at Fort Polk, Louisiana as a social work/psychology specialist.  He resumed graduate school at UW Madison, where soon, he and his wife, Judy Susmilch would welcome their daughter, Jenny, into the world in October 1973.  After working in many research roles at the WI Council of Criminal Justice and the Police Foundation, Chuck earned his PhD in sociology in May of 1981.


In August of 1982, he left the world of academics to return to his entrepreneurial roots. He opened J.T.Puffin’s, a gift and toy store on Madison’s west side.  He was inspired to open J.T.Puffin’s by Jenny and her collections of stickers and stuffed animals.  J.T.Puffin’s was the first job for many of his employees.  With and an easy going boss and a fun environment, many of his employees stayed to work part time for years after graduating high school and college.  He became affectionately known as “The Big Puffin” and offered fatherly advice to many  young “puffettes” and even helped set mouse traps for them.  The Beanie Baby craze led Chuck to figure out how to sell on the internet in its early days, and expand to offering most of his inventory online too.  Over the 28 years the store  was open, he made countless lasting relationships with dedicated employees and numerous sales reps.  While Jenny had worked at Puffin’s during her childhood, he was happy to have her join him full time after she graduated college.  For over 15 years, they ate lunch together most days of the week.


Along the way, Chuck met Barb Kasten, owner of another small business on Odana Road.  Chuck welcomed Barb’s family as his own, including, daughter Anne and son Tim and a whole host of West Bend Kastens.  In 1997, Chuck and Barb shared in the joy of becoming grandparents together when Anne’s son, Aaron was born.  They loved Aaron very much and shared many milestones with him.  In 2007, they welcomed another grandchild, Carly, Jenny’s daughter.  Carly stole their hearts, just as Aaron had 10 years earlier. In 2008, Chuck and Anne became loyal and dedicated care givers to Barb after her cancer diagnosis. 


In late 2010, Chuck retired after closing J.T.Puffin’s.  He had plenty of time for the loves in his life; Diana, Carly and his Halloween obsession.  Chuck and Diana shared a love of gardening. He handling the fruit and vegetable garden and enormous sunflowers, while she tended to a bountiful flower garden.  Their house was often the hub of neighborhood parties and Severson/Hanson family gatherings. Chuck also hosted regular sheepshead games with the guys, and with his love of statistics kept a spreadsheet log of their games.


Papa Chuck, as Carly called him when she was young, and Carly were partners in crime.  He introduced her to all of his favorite Little Debbie snacks and they watched all the cartoons that Jenny didn’t let her watch at home.  They worked in the garden together and often got messy enough to require more changes of clothes be kept at his house.  Papa Chuck and Carly also shared a love of Halloween. She opted to dress up with him and scare people at his house instead of trick-or-treating.  They would spend summers creating ugly creatures to display in his yard and expanding her art skills to scar making and elaborate face painting.  As Carly got older, Papa Chuck  insisted that she have a phone, so he could call her and chat. 


"A Celebration of Life will be held for Chuck Susmilch on Sunday May 5th from 1:30-4 pm at Great Dane Fitchburg (2980 Cahill Main, Fitchburg, WI 53711)

The celebration will be drop in without a formal service.  Light appetizers and beverages will be served.


And because Chuck would love it, costumes/accessories are encouraged and appreciated."


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:

To order memorial trees in memory of Charles Edward Susmilch, please visit our tree store.


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