When he was a Boy Scout, Travis M. Wichlacz was nearly unbeatable at one test of strength and guile: the greased watermelon contest, which he won four years in a row. “They would throw the greased watermelon out into the water and the boys were supposed to bring it back in,” said his stepmother, Virginia Wichlacz. “When they were all tired of swimming and wrestling with it, when it was almost back to shore, Travis would just grab it out of their arms and bring it up to the shore.” Wichlacz, 22, of West Bend, Wis., was killed Feb. 5 by a roadside bomb in Babil province. He was stationed at Milwaukee. A high school track, wrestling and football star who graduated in 2002, Wichlacz impressed teachers with his leadership skills and his ability to cooperate with teammates and other students. “He was a committed, loyal and hardworking man,” said high school Principal Pat Gardon. “He always had this radiant smile and this twinkle in his eye that would light up any room he walked into.” His death comes barely nine months after he was married to Angela Coakley, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Travis M. Wichlacz, Lance Cpl., of West Bend, Wisconsin, entered eternal peace while fighting for his country, on Saturday, February 5, 2005, at age 22.
Travis was born December 15, 1982, to Dennis Wichlacz and Laura Garcia in West Bend, where he was also raised. He attended West Bend West High School, where he was a member of their football, wrestling, and track teams, and dedicated his time to the Pride Program, graduating with the class of 2002. Travis was a member of Boy Scouts Troop 721 of the Knights of Columbus of West Bend, as an Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow member. He entered the U.S. Marine Reserves in April 2002.
Travis is survived by his parents, Dennis (Virginia) Wichlacz, of West Bend, and Laura (David) Garcia, of Davenport, Iowa; his sisters, Sheena Wichlacz, Neva C. Hurt, Rachel and Adrianna Wellman, and Amanda Grant; his brothers, Bran C. and Harlan A. Hurt; his great-grandmother, Angeline Jagla; and his grandparents, Art (Grace) Davies, of Arizona, Roger (Joan) Wichlacz, of West Bend, and Lester (Shirley) Smith, of Florida. He is further survived by aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, other relatives, and many friends. Travis is preceded in death by his grandmother, Marie Wichlacz.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be 11 a.m. Saturday, February 12, 2005, at St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Church (Barton), with Father Jeffrey Haines officiating. Cremation will take place at Paradise Cremation Services of West Bend, followed by interment on Monday, February 14, 2005, at 11 a.m. at St. Adalbert’s Cemetery. The hours of visitation will be 4 until 8 p.m. Friday, February 11, 2005, at Phillip Funeral Home Chapel, 1420 W. Paradise Drive, West Bend, WI 53095. The Phillip Funeral Home of West Bend is assisting the family.
Published in the Quad-City Times on 2/9/2005.
Associated Press WEST BEND, Wis. — A 22-year-old Marine from West Bend who was killed in Iraq during the weekend had been excited about going there, his high school wrestling coach said.“He was pretty proud of it. He took his job pretty seriously over there,” Bob Kopecky said of Lance Cpl. Travis M. Wichlacz, a 2002 graduate of West Bend West High School.“He was a pretty tough person. He was competitive. He wasn’t afraid of anyone.”The rifleman died Saturday in a bomb explosion in Babil province, the U.S. Defense Department said.He was assigned to the Milwaukee-based Fox Company of the Marine Reserves’ 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, of Chicago, and he had been serving in Iraq since June 2004, the agency said.Several other Marines were injured in the attack, said Sgt. Cecil Goodloe, a spokesman for Wichlacz’s unit.Goodloe said Wichlacz had “helped support getting the region stabilized for elections.”The 33rd death of a Wisconsin soldier in Iraq came barely nine months after Wichlacz was married to Angela Coakley, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.Coakley, a former West Bend resident, left Wisconsin for active duty with the Army in Norfolk, Va., four days after their wedding in May, said Wichlacz’s stepmother, Virginia Wichlacz.Travis Wichlacz, a Marine reservist, reported for Marine Corps infantry training in San Diego two weeks later.“They hardly had any time together,” Virginia Wichlacz said Monday.Travis’ father, Dennis Wichlacz, said his son loved being a Marine and had considered a military career“He always tried so hard to make everyone proud of him,” Dennis Wichlacz. “He was nothing but good. He just tried so hard to follow the rules.”Virginia Wichlacz remembered her stepson as being extraordinarily brave.“He was kicking down doors. They were going into the houses and finding weapons caches and dismantling the bombs,” she said.West principal Pat Gardon said Wichlacz, who had participated in football and track as well as wrestling at the school, returned several times after joining the Marines to visit with teachers and other staff members.“He was very, very proud of the uniform that he wore,” the principal said.“He was a committed, loyal and hardworking man. He always had this radiant smile and this twinkle in his eye that would light up any room he walked into.”