Posts Tagged ‘In Memoriam’

Leonard J. Nowak (’70)

Leonard J. Nowak, 75, died November 10, 2023, at home in Houston, Texas surrounded by family and friends.
Leonard was born on October 2, 1948, in Houston, Texas. He is preceded in death by his parents Stephen and Edna Nowak and brother Michael Nowak. He is survived by his wife Sandra Nowak, brother Theodore Nowak (Cora) and sister-in-law Marjorie Nowak and many nieces and nephews.

Leonard graduated from St. Thomas High School and the University of Houston and worked as a Geophysicist in oil and gas exploration. Leonard served in Vietnam as a soldier of the United States Army. Leonard loved playing golf, listening to music, traveling, going to UH football, basketball, and baseball games. He was an active and faithful member of St. Theresa Catholic Church.

Leonard will be fondly remembered by many nieces, nephews, family, and many friends. The family would like to extend their gratitude to all of his relatives, friends and caretakers for their love and support.

Visitation with the family will be from 12:00 – 12:30 PM at St. Theresa Catholic Church, 6622 Haskell St. Houston, Texas 77007 on Tuesday, November 21, 2023. The Rosary and Funeral Mass will follow beginning at 12:30 PM. Graveside to follow at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery, 6900 Lawndale St. Houston, Texas 77023 beginning at 3:00 PM.

Remembrances may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, in memory of Leonard J. Nowak.

Kelly Anne Berretta (M.S.W. ’98)

Kelly Anne Berretta, 51, born on September 28, 1971 in Houston, Texas, recently passed away on October 28, 2023.

Funeral service will be held on October 30, 2023 at 2:30 PM in Kagan-Rudy Chapel at Emanu El Memorial Park, located at 8341 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77074.

Kelly Anne Berretta attended Trinity University and the University of Houston.

Lance Funston (’67)

Lance Funston, entrepreneur and philanthropist passes at 80. On July 5th, 2023. Lance Thomas Funston of Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, and Villefranche-sur-Mer, France passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his loving wife, Christina and his six children. A successful entrepreneur, media mogul, avid golfer, Olympian, poker enthusiast and artist. Lance was a true renaissance man–his plethora of diverse interests, achievements and zest for life often granting him the title, “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” Lance was born in 1942 in Kansas City, Missouri. He was raised by his devoted parents Ida Paschall Hill and Harold Mitchell Funston. Lance graduated in 1961 from Milby High School in Houston, Texas. Lance received his Bachelor of Science from the University of Houston in 1967, where he would later sit on the Board of Visitors. In 2009, Lance made a gift to his alma mater that allowed for the construction of the Lance T. Funston Communication Center, a state-of-the-art production studio within the Valenti School of Communication. In 1967, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson appointed Lance assistant to the director of the FDIC and subsequently as special assistant to a governor of the Federal Reserve Board. In 1968, Lance moved to Boston to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School which he received in 1970. It soon became clear that Lance possessed an untamable entrepreneurial spirit. In the midst of confronting the rigors of Harvard academics, he formed Portfolio Management Systems, which developed management systems for major financial institutions such as Fidelity Mutual and Bank of America. The company later created a private equity real-estate fund, which proved to be the start of a successful real-estate development career, marked by creativity and a unique vision. In 1986 Lance moved to Philadelphia and founded a merchant banking firm which specialized in leveraged buyouts. Of his most notable acquisitions was Larami Toys, where Lance was the marketing genius behind the remarkable Super Soaker. The 1990’s saw the addition of media to Lance’s already diverse repertoire. In 1993 he founded TelAmerica Media, a media aggregate representing over 90% of the cable television industry. Pursuing his dream of competing in sport at an elite level, Lance joined the American Samoan Bobsled team. He proudly served as a driver throughout the World Cup circuit and as first alternate at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. He also served on the board of the United States Bobsled Federation from 1992 to 1996. In 2000, Lance married Christina Husianycia of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and relocated to the suburbs to raise their two daughters. In 2007, the couple founded the Save A Mind Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers financial aid to youth in Philadelphia’s charter school system. Lance was dedicated to his passions–Bible study, golfing, car remodeling, acting, abstract painting, and professional poker, to name a few. In 2005 Lance, a complete rookie at the time, played in the World Series of Poker Main Event–nearly winning a major tournament live on ESPN. His love-affair with the game, combined with his passion for philanthropy, led him to establish Poker Players with a Heart, a foundation organizing tournaments in which all proceeds were donated. A true visionary, a problem solver, a “larger than life” individual who emanated charisma, wit, and compassion. Lance was an adventurer, a lover of nature and travel, and an adoring father and beloved grandfather. He wholeheartedly believed in others and instilled a sense of self-worth in every soul he touched. His unconditional love, affection, philanthropic spirit and by living life always to the fullest, he will be remembered by all for generations. Lance and Christina spent summers in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France where he experienced the utmost happiness and peace. Lance is survived by his wife, Christina and their daughters Zale and Quinn, his children, Lance “Will” (Kitty), Heather, Brent (Melissa), Blake (Rufus), five grandchildren, two brothers, nieces and nephews. Lance is preceded in death by his parents Ida and Harold, brother Christopher, aunt and uncle Evelyn and Jerry Jackson, and granddaughter, Luciana. A Memorial Service will take place in Narberth, PA in the Fall of 2023. Details to follow. In remembrance of Lance’s life, the family asks that any charitable donations be made to the following organizations: Narberth Presbyterian Church, 205 Grayling Avenue, Narberth, PA 19072 or Philadelphia Museum of Art, Attn.: Gift Processor, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646 (Click Donate, choose Tribute and Memorial gifts in memory of Lance Funston).
Published by The Philadelphia Inquirer on Aug. 2, 2023.

Jonathan Dale Lathrop (’20)

Jonathan Dale Lathrop, a compassionate, intelligent, loving, handsome and beloved son, brother, boyfriend, and friend, passed away on May 19, 2023.

Born on May 8, 1995, Jonathan was a kind and gentle soul whose presence brought joy and love to everyone who knew him.

Jonathan is survived by his parents, Larry and Guia Lathrop, who nurtured and supported him throughout his life’s journey. He leaves behind his siblings, Alexander, Christopher (Lana) and Lauren (Sam) who shared countless cherished moments with him. Jonathan’s girlfriend, Zahraa, their love brought immeasurable happiness to both of their lives, they were planning a beautiful future together. The loss of Jonathan will be deeply felt by his nieces and nephews, Carter, Scarlett, Aiden, and Archer, who will forever miss their beloved uncle’s playful spirit and affectionate nature. He held a special place in their hearts, and his memory will continue to live on forever.

Jonathan’s extended family mourns his passing including his grandmother Betty, his aunts and uncles, Dale (Nancy) Sandy ( Craig), Grathena, Corine (Jose), and Rocio (Gerardo) who cherished their time with him and will forever remember his warmth and kindness. His cousins, Alec, Gigi, Nick, Caro, Kitiny, Mikey, Altai, and Duna, shared countless adventures and laughter with Jonathan, his memories will be cherished and never forgotten. Jonathan’s great aunt, Quiquines, held a special place in his heart, her wisdom and love influenced him greatly. His godmother, Aunt Michelle, played a significant role in his life and provided love, guidance and support throughout the years. Aunt Carol, an extended family member and all of the friends who have touched Jonathan and the family’s life, mourn his loss alongside with the rest of the family. He is preceded in death by his grandparents Rosemarie, John, Harry, aunt Christina, and sister Victoria.

Jonathan’s passion for computers and programming was evident from a young age. He pursued his dreams and graduated from the University of Houston with a BS in computer information systems and was working on his master’s degree in computer science, a testament to his dedication and hard work. Jonathan’s knowledge and talent in the field were unmatched, and his innovative mind continues to inspire us all.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Jonathan’s gentle and compassionate nature shone through in all aspects of his life. He adored spending time with his family, and summers with his cousins in Llanes, Asturias, Spain where he enjoyed some of his most cherished memories. He loved hiking and exploring the beautiful outdoors, as well as soaking up the sun on the beaches in Spain brought him immense joy. Jonathan had an adventurous spirit and loved skydiving, having over 90 jumps and always looking forward to the next. Jonathan also loved the beach house and was incredible on the jet ski. One of Jonathan’s greatest joys was his dog Kit, with whom he shared laughter and unconditional love.

Jonathan will be remembered as a remarkable individual who touched the lives of those around him with his kindness, generosity, and unwavering love. His memory will forever remain etched in our hearts, and we find solace in the thought that he is at peace. Though our loss is immeasurable, Jonathan’s spirit will continue to guide and inspire us as we carry his legacy forward.

A memorial service will be held to celebrate Jonathan’s life on May 23, 2023 at Klein Funeral Home in 9719 Wortham Blvd., Houston, TX. Family and friends are invited to join us in honoring his memory. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations be made to a charity of your choice in Jonathan’s name, as he was passionate about making a positive impact in the world.

May Jonathan’s soul find eternal peace, and may his memory be a source of comfort and strength for all who loved him.

Gerald Messick (FS ’60)

Gerald (Jerry) Messick, 82, passed away in Burlington Wisconsin on May 7 2013. Jerry was born in Wood River, Illinois to Anna (nee Gudac) and John Messick.
At 6’8″ he was a basketball star at the East Alton-Wood River High School, accepting a scholarship with the University of Houston for two years before transferring to the University of Iowa to play with the Iowa Hawkeyes. He was named MVP by the NCAA in a 1964 tournament at Northwestern University. Jerry was a journeyman glass maker at Foster Forbes, now Ardaugh Group, where he was known as ‘Stretch’ by his coworkers. He enjoyed using his hands to build or create and volunteered with several others every Saturday morning for over a year to rebuild the Pioneer Cabin in Wehmhoff Square. He had many wonderful friends and was loved by all. He was well-known for his wit and fun-loving nature. Jerry loved singing, making up nonsense songs on the spot to the delight of his four granddaughters. He took joy in life even through his long, fierce battle with cancer. He died at his home with all his girls around him to give him comfort. He is preceded in death by his parents, John and Anna (nee Gudac) and brother John Messick. He is survived by his loving wife, Barbara, beloved daughters Erica Messick and Lindsay Webster, son-in-law, Ryan Webster, granddaughters Natalie, Eleanor, and Rhiannon Webster and Kami Koch, all of Burlington Wisconsin, and his beloved brother, Robert Messick of Wood River, Illinois.
In lieu of a funeral a celebration of life will be held at Low Daily Brewery and Taproom, 700 N Pine St., Burlington Wi June 7. Condolences to the Messick Family may be sent to 7741 Big Pine Lane, Burlington WI 53105

Evelyn Phyllis Berkowitz (’54)

Published•Thu, Jul 06, 2023
“Life is beautiful. I view every day and every year as a new challenge.” These were Evelyn Berkowitz’s own words and abiding philosophy about how she approached each day of her almost 91 years of life.

Evelyn Phyllis Berkowitz was born in 1932 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the only daughter of Celia and Julius Berkowitz. When her parents and extended family moved to Houston, Texas, in 1950 to start Shapiro Brothers Wheeler Pharmacy, Evelyn, being very close to her family, chose to study pharmacy to work with her father and uncles and help build the business.

She graduated from the University of Houston School of Pharmacy in 1954, which was remarkable for a woman at that time to hold such a degree. Evelyn brought her warm, kind spirit and bright beautiful smile, along with her pharmacy skill and keen business sense, to Wheeler Pharmacy which remained well-respected and successful until its close in 2001. Thereafter, Evelyn used her keen business acumen and passion for the stock market to actively trade.

She enjoyed sharing her knowledge and expertise with family and friends. Her diverse philanthropic interests brought her great joy. For the 100th Anniversary Convention of Hadassah in Israel, Evelyn dedicated an elevator in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, in memory of her Uncle Herman.

When Evelyn learned that the pharmacy in the hospital’s operating room was being built, Evelyn was thrilled to create a named donation for this pharmacy in honor of her parents, Celia and Julius Berkowitz. Her family’s history as pharmacists and her love of Israel made the pharmacy naming a perfect choice for her.

Evelyn was fiercely dedicated to the local Jewish community as a member of United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, along with connections to Beth Yeshurun and the Aishel House Chabad in Houston. She was a long-standing member of Henrietta Szold Group of Hadassah, which she shared with her mother, Celia, when they moved to Texas.

Throughout her life, her immense devotion to her family, her Judaism, the arts, music and doing chesed/good for others created Evelyn’s world.

She is survived by extended family of cousins and dear friends in Houston, Boston, Philadelphia and Florida.

A graveside service was held on Sunday, July 2, 2023, at Adath Emeth Cemetery.

Charles “Chuck” Richard Kaufmann (’71)

Charles Kaufmann Obituary

Charles “Chuck” Richard Kaufmann, 81, of Galveston, sadly passed away on May 5, 2023 in Austin, Texas after a lengthy hospital stay. Charles was born to Maxwell and Ruth Kaufmann of Cincinnati, Ohio, June 4, 1941. He attended Walnut Hills High School and the University of Cincinnati where he received a degree in Economics.
Chuck joined the United States Air Force in 1963 and was stationed at Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring where he met his future wife, Cleo Kaufmann, nee Thomas on a blind date. Chuck and Cleo were married June 12, 1965. He was a decorated veteran who served on active duty in Vietnam from 1966-1967 as a loadmaster and was honorably discharged at the rank of Captain in 1968.
After leaving the military, Chuck attended the University of Houston School of Law. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1971. Chuck began his career as a lawyer in Big Spring, and practiced law in Austin and Houston. While practicing law in Houston, he also served as Municipal Court Judge for the City of Spring Valley for many years. He finished his career as a lawyer in Galveston where he retired in 2020.
Chuck is survived by his wife, Cleo Rita Kaufmann, nee Thomas of 58 years; children, Chanah (Jamie) King, Joshua (Laura Beth) Kaufmann, Marshon (Bryan) Sullivan; grandchildren, Samantha (Clayton) Whelchel, Jacob King, Alex Sullivan, Audrey Kaufmann, Adam Sullivan, and Max Kaufmann and one great-grandchild. He also leaves behind a brother Steve (Diane) Kaufmann.
There will be a Graveside Service Friday, June 2, at 2:30 p.m. at Trinity Memorial Park in Big Spring, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to your favorite charity in Chuck’s name. He would really love that.
Arrangements are under the direction of Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home and Crematory.  Online condolences can be made at

James “Jim” Whitfield Balkum (’66)

James “Jim” Whitfield Balkum, 79, of Crockett, went to be with his Lord and Savior on Monday, July 3, 2023. Jim was born on February 18, 1944, in New Gulf, to James and Pearl (Dowden) Balkum. He met and married his wife, Ginny Ann in 1971.

A graduate of the University of Houston, his career in technology and computing ranged from owning his own business to serving at Houston Baptist University. His favorite role was at NASA building the Apollo mission simulator and later in mission control on most of the Apollo missions. While his family still doesn’t know if they believe him, he attributed his ability to completely tune out a conversation to his time in mission control.

Jim was so proud of his daughters and never missed a band competition or school performance. For as proud as he was of his girls, anyone who knows Jim will tell you that nothing surpassed the joy he found in his grandchildren who referred to him as “Grandpa” and as “Ponka.”

Having accepted Jesus at the age of nine, Jim was mature in his faith and committed to regular study of his Bible. He volunteered with Bill Glass Prison Ministries for 15 years and made numerous prison visits, sharing the gospel and his personal faith in Jesus with inmates. Often referred to as a baby whisperer, Jim loved to hold and rock babies and thoroughly enjoyed serving families at church in this way.

Jim was preceded in death by his wife of 35 years, Ginny Carlisle Balkum; his parents; and sisters, Betty Saunders and Linda Williams.

He is survived by daughters, Laura Anson and husband, Neil of Carrollton, Sarah Braun and husband, Ryan of Sugar Land; and his beloved grandchildren; granddaughters, Rebekah and Rachel Anson and grandsons, Anson, Owen, and Ethan Braun, and other dear family members.

The family received visitors at Hurley Funeral Home in Pleasanton, on Mon., July 10, 2023, from 1 – 2 p.m. Services followed at 2 p.m. with interment following at Charlotte City Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Bill Glass Behind the Walls at

Vernon Paul Eschenfelder, Jr (M.Ed. ’61)

On May 6th, our dear sweet dad, Vernon Paul Eschenfelder Jr. went to be with our Father in heaven and the love of his life, Pauline Falsone Eschenfelder. He passed peacefully at our home, surrounded by his loving children and grandchildren. Vernon was born on November 21, 1931, in Houston, Texas to Vernon and Elizabeth Eschenfelder.
A native Houstonian, Vernon attended Jefferson Davis High School and earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Houston. He began his military career in the U.S. Army as a medic stationed in Okinawa, Japan. After active duty, he continued his military service in the Army Reserves and retired after 30 years at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In July of 1960, Vernon married his beloved, Pauline Falsone and moved to Stafford Texas. The couple were blessed with four children, Joseph, Verna, Kevin and Melissa.
Vernon started his career in the early 1960’s as the Director of Athletic Training for the Houston Independent School District. He continued as Athletic Trainer and Professor of Kinesiology at Houston Baptist University. He completed his sports medicine career at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston where he worked to establish the first sports medicine program in the Texas Medical Center. One of his proudest accomplishments was serving as the U.S.A. Olympic team trainer for the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City. He was honored with a Visiting Professorship at the University of Beijing in China for their developing sports medicine programs in the 1980s.
Upon leaving his career in sports medicine, Vernon served as the Director of Health and Safety for the city of Stafford. He loved his community in Stafford and volunteered as a Fireman for over 50 years and was named Fire Marshall for the city of Stafford. In addition, he served on the inaugural Stafford MSD school board. Whether it be his faith, family, career or community Vernon was always willing to lend a hand to help those in need.
Vernon is preceded in death by his parents, Vernon P. Eschenfelder Sr. and Elizabeth Eschenfelder, wife Pauline Eschenfelder and son Joseph Eschenfelder.
He is survived by his 3 children, Verna Eschenfelder, Kevin Eschenfelder and wife Jeanne, Melissa Salton and husband Trevor. Grandchildren, Gabby Salton, Gabby’s fiancée Richard, Nicole Eschenfelder Shepard and husband Ben, Gavin Salton, Jake Eschenfelder, and Emery Salton; Cousins, Mary and Jerry Paquette, Paul and Ann Eschenfelder, Barbara and Joe Ford, brother in-law Joe Falsone and his wife Bessie and many nieces and nephews.
A visitation will be held on Monday, May 15 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the chapel at Earthman Southwest Funeral Home, 12555 South Kirkwood Road in Stafford, with the Recitation of the Holy Rosary at 7:00 p.m.
A Funeral Mass will be held on Tuesday, May 16 at 11:00 a.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church, 1510 5th Street in Missouri City.
The interment will follow, via funeral procession, to Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery in Houston.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared with his family at

Sandra Lee Wallsmith (’68 & UHCL M.S.’95)

February 17, 2023, 11:18 am EST

Sandra Lee Wallsmith Sandra Wallsmith, 78, peacefully passed on Friday January 20th, 2023 surrounded by her loving family. Sandra was born in Athens, TX on November 7th,1944 to Arlou and James Smith. Sandra will be remember for many accomplishments. Sandra graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1963. She went on to attend College at the University of Houston were she studied and majored in Pharmacy. She graduated with a Bachelors in Pharmacy and later obtained a Masters in Physiology to become an LPC. After college she committed to a 50 year career as a Pharmacist helping thousands of people. During this time she developed an overwhelming love for children and became an advocate for an Organization know as CASA. She also worked closely with Battered women and children. Those left to cherish her memories include her sister Carol Garib, daughter Anna Saylor, son Matthew Wallsmith, grandson Aubrey Saylor, and all of the friends she acquired throughout her life.