Hundreds pay respects at Ald. Joe Dudzik's funeral

As the St. Matthias church bell rang somberly, Matt Gardner chose to think of happy memories before going inside.

\"It was hard not to laugh and smile around Joe Dudzik,\" Gardner said.

Gardner was one of hundreds who showed up Wednesday morning for Milwaukee Alderman Joe Dudzik's funeral.  Dudzik, 56, died in a motorcycle crash Thursday night.

\"He just found a way to be a face in the community and that's exactly what you need to do as an alderman,\" Gardner said. \"He really served his district well.\"

So Wednesday, the faces of that district and well beyond showed up by the hundreds to pay their respects.

The sheer numbers didn't surprise the people who knew Dudzik as more than a lawmaker, noting his service as a soccer and softball coach, Special Olympics volunteer (one of Dudzik's sons has some intellectual disabilities) and Boys and Girls Club worker.

\"If you needed him, he was there,\" long-time church friend Charlie Ruzick said. \"You call him up, 'Hey, Joe, I need you.'\"

\"His motto was, 'What can I do to help,'\" St. Matthias' Father David Cooper said.

But, in a way, family and friends have felt helpless themselves since Dudzik's death. The 11th-District alderman crashed his motorcycle into construction barriers near 74th and Morgan late Thursday night. He wasn't wearing a helmet and had a blood-alcohol content of .137.

\"Look at Joe's total life of service rather than any one, individual circumstance,\" Cooper said.

Instead, the reverend asked church-goers to honor Dudzik by living how he lived.

\"Joe would want us to go on helping one another, taking care of one another,\" Cooper said.

That's a mindset Milwaukee County Board supervisor Deanna Alexander will carry into her job.

\"[Joe's] certainly someone I look up to and will remember fondly as just a man who is meek and humble,\" Alexander said.

Dudzik's family asked for privacy before, during and after the service. But, you can help out the family through the Jeffrey Dudzik trust fund (visit the church's website here for contact info).

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