Let the memory of Chet Mirocha be with us forever.
  • 89 years old
  • Born on February 7, 1930 in Cudahy, Wisconsin, United States.
  • Passed away on November 14, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States.
Our Dad, age 89, died peacefully at home in St. Paul, Minnesota, on November 14, 2019, surrounded by family and friends. He is survived by Donna Mirocha, his wife of 67 years, and his six children: Mary Wright (Layne Wright), Paul Mirocha (Christina Robinson), Anne Weirich (Luke Seibert), Andrew Mirocha, Stephanie Mirocha Ellison (Erling Ellison), and Julie Mirocha (Clayton Kunz). Chet will also be lovingly remembered by his ten grandchildren: Anna, Sonia, Claire, John, Nate, Lizzy, Peter, Jasper, Clio, and Leo. Chet was predeceased by his parents Paul and Nora (Stopa) Mirocha, and his five siblings, Casimir, Stanley, Helen, Walter and Frank .

Chet Mirocha was born in 1930 in Cudahy, Wisconsin, to Polish immigrants Paul and Nora Mirocha. He joined the Marine Corps at 17 after his father died. While on leave in Milwaukee, Chet called his grade school classmate, Donna Kulczycki, for a date. Her crush on him had begun in second grade. They married in 1952. With three small children, Chet attended Marquette University on the G.I. bill, while working full time at the Ladish Drop Forge Co. in Cudahy.

After graduation, the family made an epic drive from Milwaukee to the University of California in Davis, where Chet completed a PhD in plant pathology. In 1963, Chet accepted a position at the University of Minnesota, and retired as a full professor in 1997. Dr. Mirocha was known worldwide for his research on fungi, the mycotoxins they produce, and their effects on plants, animals and people. Throughout his career, he remained loyal to the integrity of scientific truth as well as humanitarian values.

Dad gave us an appreciation of nature. From him we learned to camp, identify trees, light a one-match fire, and handle a canoe. He was an enthusiastic cross country skier and bicyclist. Although he was a quiet man who made every word count, Chet was always the most visible person in a crowd, dressed in his signature day-glow bicycling outfit. A lifelong fitness advocate, he led by example. At 81, Chet rode his bike 300 miles to his daughter’s home in Wisconsin.

A life-long learner, Chet’s experience as a visiting professor in Mexico in the 1970s started him on an enduring study of Spanish. In retirement, Chet continued to inspire and care for others through his volunteer work in hospice, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters, serving the vulnerable and those in need. Breadwinner, bread baker, mentor, and friend, he will be profoundly missed.


The Spirit of St. Stephen's Catholic Community will host a celebration of Chet’s life at 11am on Saturday, February 22, 2020. Address: 2201 1st Ave. S, Minneapolis MN. Refreshments afterwards. Please post a note on Chet’s online guestbook at https://www.forevermissed.com/chester-joseph-mirocha.

Donations in Chet Mirocha’s memory may be made to the Saint Stephen’s Homeless Shelter, https://ststephensmpls.org/donate.

Memorial Tree Fund:  We plan to purchase a memorial tree in Chet's name to be planted in Como Park next Spring.  If you would like to contribute to Chet's Tree fund, click here:  https://paypal.me/ChetTree?locale.x=en_US 

Posted by Satoko Suzuki on December 8, 2019
I always thought of Chet as my role model as he was a kind person and a loving spouse. He spoke calmly, showed curiosity about different cultures, demonstrated compassion for the underprivileged, traveled the world, and stayed physically active. My very best wishes for the family, Satoko Suzuki (Julie’s friend)
Posted by Gloria Kulczycki on December 7, 2019
Chet was my brother-in-law, he married Donna, sister of my late husband, Al. Our families were always close, especially when we were all first married and when we had young children. There was a time where we even lived close to each other in California: Mirochas in Sacramento and Kulczyckis in San Jose. I remember many happy times and holidays together.

And our families were consistently together at big events, weddings, major anniversaries and reunions.

Chet was a great brother -in -law, social and personal, devoted to his family, passionate about helping the needy and enthusiastic about his research and teaching.

In recent years, we especially enjoyed seeing Chet and Donna here in Tucson when they visited in Paul, Christina and Leo in the winter.

We will all miss Chet's special sparkle and warmth.
Posted by Robert Paulson on December 6, 2019
During the many years that I have known Chet it had become very evident how much Chet loved his Donna and the the kids. He was a loving husband and a good father, a fine example of a “good man”.
Posted by Ed Kulczycki on December 3, 2019
What an amazing life! Uncle Chet will be missed and remembered! 
Posted by Debra Andersen on December 3, 2019
Chet was a gentle man. His words where well thought through, not wasted, marked with grace. Being in a lake cabin association saw him speak for the protection of the ecosystems and betterment of land management practices. He spoke for the under recognized members of the ecosystem, a great advocate of the jack pine forest. He had a winning smile that made his eyes sparkle, and put at ease those to whom he was talking. Meeting on walks in the woods he was happy in the midst of the trees, delighted in their company.
Posted by Muree Larson on December 3, 2019
Mil gracias, Chet, for all your contributions to humanity, including your amazing family. Julie, as a person, and her "Chet" / "Donna" stories, have always inspired me, and motivated me to grow as a person. I appreciate you and your influence so much. Love and condolences to the Mirocha family. 
Posted by John Kulczycki on December 2, 2019
I have known Chet since before he married my sister! Our relationship began with my seeing him as an older brother. It ended with him being the caring caregiver for me sister. For all this I am grateful.
Posted by Dennis Coyne on December 2, 2019
What a wonderful man! Really a sage. Chet delighted and inspired us in the men's group (the Geezers) with his reporting on his travels, causes and metaphysical musings. His legacy is rich and sustaining. 

It is a fearful thing to love

It is a fearful thing to love
what death can touch.

A fearful thing to love,
hope, dream: to be --
to be, and oh! to lose.

A thing for fools this, and
a holy thing,
a holy thing to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings a painful joy.
'Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing,
to love
what death has touched

By Chaim Stern
Posted by Dennis O'Rourke on November 30, 2019
Chet lived life as his conscience informed him. Whether volunteering at the shelter or leading nature walks in Como Park Chet's life was about making things better.  Goodbye neighbor.
Posted by Stephanie Mirocha Ellison on November 27, 2019
Chet, our Dad, has always "spoken for the trees," what they give to us and teach us. To honor this legacy, we intend to "plant" a tree in Como Park preferably, or elsewhere in St. Paul, in honor of Chet's love for and dedication to trees. Next week I will post an article here (in the Stories section) about Dad's Tree Treks in Como Park, and his involvement with the City of St. Paul as a tree advocate and promoter. A tree planted in his honor will be a fitting memorial to his legacy. 

If you would like to contribute to Chet's Memorial Tree fund, please go to the STORIES section to find: Chet's Tree Fund. 
Posted by Terri Tacheny on November 27, 2019
Tim and I were lucky to have had Chet as our next door neighbor for many years. He was always ready to chat and talk about interesting things! We loved learning from him all about the trees in Como Park! We admired his dedication to biking and skiing and his love of nature! We shared many conversations about the joys of living in Como Park and keeping our park user and family friendly! He genuinely cared about the trees and taking care to preserve and protect them to keep the neighborhood beautiful. We will miss him and send loving thoughts and prayer to Donna and the whole family.
Posted by Curtis Pribula on November 27, 2019
Chet lived by the values expressed in the Gospel. He proclaimed in word and deed a preferential option for the poor and marginalized in our world. We loved his indomitable spirit which is prophetic in our times. 
  He and Donna taught my wife, Anna to play bridge. That speaks volumnes if you know the game and Anna with all its nuances for life. You go ahead; we will follow.
 Our life and love is better for having known you. Watch over us all until we meet again in Love forever.
Posted by James Groth on November 23, 2019
So sad to hear of Chet’s passing.  While we could not interact much for the last 15 or so years, thanks to my moving 1500 miles away, I can never forget all of the outdoor activities we enjoyed together for so many years. Early in my career at Minnesota, Chet became a good friend. I appreciated his initiating skiing outings at some of the better cross-country trails in the area. There were several of these outings, each winter for a number of years. And we would also ski locally for day trips.  We seemed to be well matched. Chet was older, but more fit and competitive. I had the benefit of youth, but I was less fit and more laid back than Chet. We always seemed to get tired and rest at about the same time along the trail.  I kind of wonder if he was decent enough to accommodate me, but he never let on. 

Chet and Donna and my wife Jo Ann and I also helped organize several group winter weekend ski trips to Camp Du Nord above Ely and to Itasca State Park. Anybody in the Department was invited, and a lot of people came. It seemed to be always very cold. One year,  a number of us were on a day-long ski into the (then) Boundary Waters Canoe Area. There were some trails, mostly portages, but it was necessary to ski the river in places.  At one point I was leading the group,  breaking trail, when the ice gave way, and I found myself chest deep in water. Luckily my ski encountered a log or something and I was able to pull myself out with the help of the ski poles.  About this time Chet went through close to shore and soaked his boots and ankles. So, it was late afternoon, and the two of us decided to make haste for home. We flew, but my wool pants became frozen stiff, and both of us had cold feet. We made it, luckily. I was on the verge of hypothermia. The rest of the party continued on our planned loop and made it as well. 

These are kinds of adventures that I was able to engage in thanks to Chet. Some would say it was foolish, but in general we were quite careful. 

I was also into long-distance cycling. I could do 100 miles in a day in my youth. I biked to work, about 3.5 miles every day, even in winter, and back, for 40 years, including biking to school about 20 miles round trip to reach both campuses. Chet also biked, and we would often bike together. He always warned me to be alert to frustrated or aggressive drivers on Monday mornings or Friday afternoons (or, to be safe, other times). Good advice. Luckily we did not have bad traffic where we biked to work. 

We started to do some long-distance bike rides. We rode in Aitkin County where the Mirochas had a cabin, in SW Wisconsin along the St. Croix River—very hilly.  And I am sure I have forgotten some of our day trips.  Later, Dr. Frank Pfleger from the Department joined us on several bike trips in the area around Pine and Carlton counties where I had a place. Very nice. 

Chet always had a plan for hiking near where the American Phytopathological Society met in late summer. And it always included others who might like this kind of activity. There are two that I remember. We had meetings in Salt Lake City. Chet rented a car and he and I and Frank Pfleger drove into the S. Cottonwood Canyon to where two huge ski areas were. We hiked around the Wasatch Range for two days. I suppose we went back into town for the night—I can’t remember. The other trip was when we went from Portand OR up the Columbia River to White Salmon and up into Washington to a cabin owned by Chet’s son, Andrew. We ended up hiking up a trail into the Gifford Pinchot NF. I believe it was Indian Heaven Wilderness. Lots of huckleberries, which I had grown to love in my 1965 summer in Idaho. All of these experiences made me decide to move out here after retirement 

In summary, Chet Mirocha was a huge influence in my life, and I will always remember him fondly.  
Posted by Fred Baker on November 22, 2019
I remember Chet at coffee hour, always willing to talk with graduate students. He was interested in canoeing, and in cross country skiing, asking about good places to go. He was also fond of sharing a factoid from his research that “urine is sterile u til it leaves the body!”  He was one of the first faculty to show a young graduate student a human side.  I am proud to have known him.
Posted by Marguerite Clemens on November 21, 2019
I worked in the Department of Plant Pathology office with Debra Drange from August 11, 1980 to November 21, 1997. I had the pleasure to work with Chet Mirocha on helping him with typing his manuscripts to get them ready for publication using the Olivetti word processor and later the computer. I also helped Chet with typing the paperwork to get his grants out the door for his research. I always remember Chet and Donna MIrocha enjoying the punch that I made for the annual Department of Plant Pathology Christmas Parties.

I remember the cross-country ski trip to Ely, Minnesota with Chet and Donna Mirocha and the various faculty and staff members from the Department of Plant Pathology. I remember when the lead cross-country skier went through the ice/water and we had to change our direction on the trail to get back by bush whacking through the dense woods, which seemed to go on forever.

I ditto Debra Drange that Chet cared about people and made them feel as an important individual.

I introduced myself to Chet’s daughter Stephanie Mirocha at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair where she shared with me on her father and mother’s health problems.

It is very sad to see Chet leave us but I know he is now in a better place with no more suffering. I will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers and give Donna a big hug from me as well.
Posted by Debra Drange on November 21, 2019
I was very sad to hear the news of Chet passing away. I met Chet September 16, 1974 when I began as receptionist in the Department of Plant Pathology. Chet was one of the first professors that came into the office to meet me and introduce himself. He also made a point that he WOULD be bringing me work to do.

Chet was kind, funny and always asked how you were doing and stop to really listen to your answer. He cared about people and made them feel as an important individual. 

I recently ran into him at the grocery store and he told me of his cancer and treatments but didn't dwell on his health, he wanted to know how I was doing. That's the kind of kind sole Chet was. 

I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. Please give Donna a big hug from me.
Posted by Phil Larsen on November 20, 2019
It was an honor to know and work with Chet.  He was a terrific person and esteemed faculty member.  Blessings to all the family. 

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