‘A regular funeral would not have been his type’
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News April 29, 2012 7:44PM
Updated: June 1, 2012 8:03AM
On the day Nick Rouskey’s family spread his ashes, the weather was cold and overcast, so his wife Kathy Rouskey of Florida prayed for two hours of good weather and, miraculously, she received it.
In those two hours, Kathy, her son Nicky, daughter-in-law Amy and a flight instructor, jumped out of an airplane, to honor Nick, an accomplished skydiver, who had completed more than 1,500 jumps.
A second plane carried additional jumpers complete with skydiving smoke. An American flag was attached to them. A local VFW had a 21-gun salute. Taps played in the background.
“Having been married to Nick for 41 years, I knew a regular funeral would not have been his type,” Kathy said. “He wouldn’t have wanted anyone ‘boo-hooing’ over him.”
The attraction between the couple when they met in 1970 at a wedding was instantaneous and mutual. Both appreciated each other’s frank honesty, friendliness and caring nature.
“Because he had been so hurt by his parents’ divorce, Nick had this shell around him. He didn’t open up to just anyone,” Kathy said. “But once you got to know him, you saw an amazing person.”
Soon after Nick’s father left his family and they had moved from Joliet to Northern Wisconsin, Nick, just 10 at the time, decided he would be the man of his house to his mother, Patricia, and younger brothers, Chris Rouskey of Shorewood and Greg Rouskey (deceased).
The family had no car, television or phone and often received government food assistance. By age 12, Nick was working odd jobs to help buy bread or cereal. At age 16, Nick was working at the local high school as a janitor’s assistance.
“He was my hero,” Chris said. “The kid was a rock. Everyone relied on him.”
Nick was 18 when he served in Vietnam. Later, Nick worked as a self-taught electrician. He owned, with Kathy, a skydiving center in Michigan. Since 1987, he and Kathy had owned and operated Broadcast Services Tower and Antenna in Florida.
Still, Nick remained the family backbone. When his father developed cancer, Nick cared for him. When Chris had a heart attack, Nick was there for him. When Greg developed brain cancer, Nick drove up from Florida, picked up Greg in Joliet and drove him to the cancer treatments.
On Dec. 26, when Nick, 61, was working his final job on a communications tower, and he was full of retirement plans, Nick had a fatal accident; the details are unclear, Chris said. Ironically, years ago, Nick had saved the life of an electrocuted employee by performing CPR on him.
“What happened to him was really tragic,” Chris said, “but he squeezed more into his life than a lot of people who might live to be 150.”
Contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-467-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.