Stephen Edward Vojtko, 61, of New Carlisle, Indiana, beloved general manager of the Eau Claire Fruit Exchange in downtown Eau Claire and well-known, dedicated member of the New Carlisle Town Council, passed away Sunday, July 1, 2018.
Stephen was born March 6, 1957, in South Haven, Michigan, to Edward and Alice (Nennich) Vojtko. He married Marie Plotner on September 23, 1978, and she survives.
He was employed as the general manager of the Eau Claire Fruit Exchange. He was a member of the Berrien Springs-Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce, and very active in the New Carlisle community, including being vice president of the New Carlisle Town Council, serving on the Area Planning Commission, was president of the Southwest District Board, and served on the New Carlisle Library Board. He enjoyed gardening and relaxing with his family on the weekends.
Steve used his position at the Eau Claire Fruit Exchange to promote the town and community involvement in festivals and veteran programs.
“He did everything he could to help his customers, big and small, the town, and our veterans,” said Jo Herman, chairman of Southwest Michigan Veterans Support Group. “When we were working on the Veteran’s Park, he sent some of his people down to help us. He would loan us tools for projects involving the veterans. He made sure that the Fruit Exchange not only did monetary donations to benefit the vets, but he was also a big supporter of any fundraisers with helping hands and purchasing dinners. His passing is a terrible loss for our community.”
The town won’t be the same without him, agreed Village of Eau Claire Clerk Shawn Foster.
“He was a part of the community here for many years and helped everyone,” she said. “He knew exactly what you needed and where it was and everything about it. He always had the Christmas assistance program for families in Eau Claire that were in need. He hosted a Fall Harvest with a chili cook-off. We absolutely loved the Christmas decorations he put up every year and the outdoor speakers that played Christmas music. He always donated items to the Village Scarecrow building that we do every fall. The place won’t be the same without him.”
Steve was the manager of the Eau Claire Fruit Exchange for 16 years, as he began his job on June 10, 2002.
“He was a big asset to the community and will be sadly missed,” said Greg Prillwitz, President of the Eau Claire Fruit Exchange Board. “Steve had knowledge of chemicals, fertilizers, and equipment --he was very good at assisting wherever he could to help at the fruit exchange. He was a kind and giving man which was reflected in all of his community endeavors.”
Steve was elected to the New Carlisle Town Council for four terms: Jan. 1, 2000 through Dec. 31, 2003; Jan. 1, 2004 to Dec. 31, 2007; Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2014; and Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2018.
During his four terms in office he had served as vice president of the council, had been the liaison to police, fire and EMS services plus utilities, and also served as the liaison for streets and sidewalks.
He served on both the park and cemetery boards, was appointed to serve as the town representative on the library board where he served as board president; was appointed to several terms on the Solid Waste Board and was board president; served as the town representative on the Area Planning Commission for several years; and during one of his appointments to the New Carlisle Park Board, Steve was instrumental in developing a children’s Summer Parks Program in 2001 that continues every year, and also the Summer Concerts in the Park that he had scheduled and organized every year since the program’s implementation.
“His dedication to making our little town a better place for everyone was unlimited,” said Sue Moffitt, clerk-treasurer for the town of New Carlisle. “He was a hard worker, honest, determined, and a man of integrity. He was tough when it was needed, but always fair.”
“Steve was the epitome of the perfect `politician,’” she emphasized. “He was a public servant with no personal agenda. A strong leader, but also a true representative of the people he was elected to serve. He was both a gentleman and a gentle man, and I am so thankful for having known him.”
In addition to his wife, Marie, Stephen leaves behind two daughters, Jennifer (Ezra) Vojtko-Rubi of Wyoming, Ohio, and Katherine (Stephen Bogh) Vojtko of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; a son, Vincent Vojtko of New Carlisle, Indiana; four grandchildren: Lola, Rafa, Max, and Jack; and four siblings: Julia (Ron) Quinn of South Haven, Michigan; John (Becky) Vojtko of Benton Harbor, Michigan; Susan (Sheldon) Bennett of St. Ignace, Michigan; and Linda (Jeff) Hoffman of Rockford, Illinois.
Visitation was held Friday, July 6, from 4 to 7 p.m. (central time) at the Frank L. Keszei Funeral Home, Essling Chapel, 1117 Indiana Avenue, La Porte, Indiana.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held at St. John Kanty Catholic Church, 7012 N. 600 E. Rolling Prairie, Indiana, on Saturday, July 7, at 10 a.m. (central time) with Rev. Fr. Michael G. Heimer officiating. Burial followed in Oak Grove Cemetery.
Please share prayers, condolences, and memories with the family at the Esslingfuneralhome.com. A Celebration of Life was also held on Sunday, July 9 from 1 to 3 pm (eastern time) at the Eau Claire Fruit Exchange.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the George Wuszke Memorial Agricultural Scholarship Fund. Checks should be made payable to SMC Foundation and it should be noted that it is for the Wuszke Memorial.
Contributions can be mailed to the SMC Foundation, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI, 49047 or dropped off at the foundation office. Envelopes will also be provided at the services.