Kurt Janke passed away peacefully on March 7, 2019 in Gilbert, Arizona at the age of 90. Kurt was born on May 18, 1928 in Barron, Wisconsin to Alice and Martin Janke. He graduated from Barron High School in 1946.
Kurt enrolled in the United States Army in 1946. He was transferred to Germany in 1947 as a member of the 18th Infantry. Kurt’s rank was that of Private First Class (PFC) and his job was that of a rifleman. He was awarded a World War II Victory medal and an Army of Occupation medal. When the war ended, he arrived back in the United States and was discharged from the Army in 1948 in New Jersey. We must also mention that Kurt played the trombone in the Army band!
Kurt attended Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota where he played center on the football team. During those two years, he also worked part time as a shoe salesman at a Kinney Shoe Store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Little did he know, that the shoe business was about to change his life!
Kurt met his wife, Carolyn, at his church in Barron. They were married on May 26, 1951 and they had three children, Michael, Connie Lou, and Kevin. As Kurt continued working at Kinney Shoes as a young salesman, his manager recognized Kurt’s talent in the shoe business and made him assistant manager of the Minneapolis store. In fact, he persuaded Kurt to leave college, promoting him as manager of the Kinney Shoe Store in Superior, Wisconsin.
The Janke family led a very busy life and moved many times as Kurt worked in numerous positions for the Kinney Shoe Corporation. Kurt accepted jobs in Fargo, North Dakota; once again in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; and Deerfield, Illinois. Each of these transfers offered a promotion as store manager, district manager, and regional divisional manager. In those days, the Midwest region was ranked Number 1 in production and profits due to Kurt’s outstanding leadership.
Kurt was transferred one more time, this time, to Kinney’s corporate headquarters in New York City where he was named Director of Visual Merchandising. He continued to climb the corporate ladder and in 1978, Kurt was promoted to Vice President of Kinney Shoes/Visual Merchandising. Under Kurt’s astute and innovative direction, Kinney soon launched the first Foot Locker store and Kurt became affectionately known as the “Father of Foot Locker.” He retired as Senior Vice President of Store Planning in 1990 after working 44 years with the Kinney Shoe Corporation.
Kurt was, no doubt, a sports enthusiast. He attended his children’s football, basketball, and baseball games, snapping as many pictures of them as possible. He also attended thousands of professional sporting events with family and friends. Following retirement, Kurt and Carolyn left Allendale, New Jersey and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona.
Kurt Janke was preceded in death by his parents, Alice and Martin Janke; two brothers, Otto (Inez) and Dan (June); two sisters, Lydia (Allen) Swan and Hannah (Clarence) Anderson; and his wife, Carolyn.
He is survived by his three children, Michael Janke of Elmwood Park, New Jersey; Connie Lou (Mike) Marvin of Warroad, Minnesota; and Kevin Janke of Phoenix, Arizona; two grandchildren, Gigi and Aaron (Katie) Marvin of Warroad, Minnesota; and two great-grandchildren, Ava and Cohen Marvin.
Kurt is also survived by his sisters-in-law, Charlotte McLean, Ronelva (James) McAuley, Mary (Mike) Simonson, and many nieces and nephews.
A special memorial service for Kurt will be held on April 26, 2019 at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix. Memorials may be given to the donor’s choice of charity.
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