By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — As a Knight of Columbus, Joe Janeczko was one of the most dedicated members of Loras Council 532. He was also one of the most beloved.
“One of his trademarks, whenever we had a KofC meeting and there was a motion on the floor to approve something, was to immediately and very loudly second the motion,” said Grand Knight Joe Ripslinger.
Janeczko died last year of a heart attack at the age of 51, but his tradition lives on. “Now that he’s gone… someone will quickly and loudly second a motion in honor of Joe. We know what it means, and we remember him,” Ripslinger said.
The love and respect was mutual, said Janeczko’s parents, Bob and Charlotte. They moved from the area about 23 years ago while their son, who had poor eyesight because of childhood brain tumors, chose to continue living and working in Davenport. His fellow KofCs and parish family at Our Lady of Victory helped make it possible for Janeczko to go to Mass and participate in a plethora of activities and ministries by offering him rides to and from church. “We wanted him to be independent and he enjoyed his independence,” his mother said. “His church family helped him to be independent and involved.”
Joe Janeczko persevered through a variety of health challenges, including colon cancer in 2019. Prior to his death, he expressed a desire to donate a portion of his assets to his Knights of Columbus council. His parents fulfilled that request by giving half of the proceeds from his Davenport home — $25,000 — to the Loras council.
Ripslinger and his fellow KofCs chose to split the funds among four local nonprofit organizations. The Knights allocated $7,500 to Humility Homes and Services, Inc. (HHSI) in Davenport. The donation made it possible for HHSI to clear the basement of its building on West 5th Street and make room for housing the homeless. “They needed a place to store the items in the basement, so we provided a storage shed on the grounds on Oct. 30,” Ripslinger said. The shed came in under budget at $4,000. “We gave them the remaining money to use as they need.”
The KofCs gave $7,500 to Handicapped Development Center in Davenport, an annual benefactor of the council’s “Tootsie Roll Drive,” one of Janeczko’s favorite initiatives. “Joe used some of their services when he was younger … he learned skills to become more independent,” Ripslinger said. The funds will go toward renovating the social room for clients and visitors. “They have a project to make this a more comfortable room with more comfortable furniture and a projector for movie nights.”
The KofCs used $7,500 to purchase 324 new waterproof, insulated hooded coats for the “Coats for Kids” program, which provides warm winter wear to children and adults. The council gave the coats to St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, HHSI and Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf.
The council donated the remaining $2,500 to Women’s Choice Center for diapers, wipes and diaper bags. “This is another organization we work with frequently,” Ripslinger said.
Though Joe Janeczko never thought of himself as different or special, he remains an inspiration to his Our Lady of Victory family, Ripslinger said. Despite his health challenges, he was determined to participate and be involved, even in death. “His faith was strong.”