Longtime Walworth County Fair Board member Ed Sokolowski dies from heart attack
ELKHORN--Ed Sokolowski, a longtime Walworth County Fair contributor and supporter who helped lead the fair for nearly 30 years, died Sunday at age 72.
“He was one of the truly good guys,” said Bob Handel, fair board vice president. “He was one of those people you couldn't help but like.”
Sokolowski died at St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee after a sudden heart attack. He had been active and in apparent good health, said Susan Pruessing, county fair manager.
Sokolowski's name goes hand-in-hand with the Walworth County Fair.
In 1957, he began a lifelong commitment to the county fair. That year, he became involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of American and started showing beef, dairy cows and hogs at the fair. In 1959, he won the Grand Champion Landrace Gilt.
In 1983, he was elected treasurer of the fair board and held the position until he was elected president in 2004.
He never missed a day of the fair over the past 30 years, Pruessing said.
“His heart was so dedicated to the fair, and he wanted to see it succeed, and everything he did was directed toward that,” Handel said.
Sokolowski and his family moved to a dairy farm near East Troy shortly after his birth in 1941 in Chicago.
Sokolowski graduated with a business agriculture degree from UW-Platteville in 1969. He joined the Navy and completed a tour in Vietnam before he moved to Elkhorn with his wife, Judy, and started his finance career as a loan officer for Production Credit Association.
Those who knew Sokolowski described him as a kind, passionate man who never sat still.
He worked as a bailiff at the Walworth County Judicial Center and was a charter member of the Elkhorn Rotary Club and a 10-year member of the Wisconsin State Association of Fairs.
In 1994, Sokolowski received the Outstanding Fair Person Award from the Wisconsin Association of Fairs, and in 2006, he was inducted into the Wisconsin Association of Fairs Hall of Fame.
“He was always a very civic-minded person,” Pruessing said. “He loved the fair. He loved having the people come and enjoy the fair, and he loved little kids, which was very evident with his interaction with his grandchildren”
The county fair wasn't Sokolowski's only passion.
He enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren, and he loved to sock hop and tell jokes.
The funniest part of Sokolowski's jokes weren't always the jokes themselves. Instead, he was known for goofing up the punch lines.
“It was always a humorous trade,” Handel said with a chuckle.
Handel remembers a joke that he and some friends played on Sokolowski at a Wisconsin Association of Fairs meeting years ago.
“He would start meetings and say, 'OK, turn your cell phone off,' and somebody from the group, me, called his cell phone right as he was saying this, and he said, 'Yeah, I'll turn it off. Thanks for the call,'” Handel remembered.
Jan. 1 was going to be Sokolowski's final day on the fair board. He planned to spend more time with his family, Handel said.
Sokolowski is survived by his wife, Judy; two daughters, Stacey Malvitz and Amy Mullikin; and five grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, 107 W. Walworth St., Elkhorn. Visitation will be from 3 until 8 p.m. Friday at Haase-Lockwood and Associates Funeral Home, 730 N. Wisconsin St., Elkhorn.