Cover photo for Dr. John R. Ujda's Obituary
Dr. John R. Ujda Profile Photo
1943 Dr. John R. Ujda 2023

Dr. John R. Ujda

June 3, 1943 — August 29, 2023

La Crosse

John Riordan Ujda, June 3, 1943 - August 29, 2023, passed away at age 80 in La Crosse, WI. John is survived by his wife, Roberta (Toft); their 4 sons John (Mary), Robert, Justin (Leah) and Gregory; his 4 grandchildren Nathan, Andrew, Moira and Brennan; and his sisters Patricia Toft and Nancy Stanley. He was preceded in death by parents Chester and Lorraine.

John was raised in Wayne, MI, and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1965, becoming a proud Domer forever. He was introduced to Roberta Toft, a Marquette undergrad who would become the love of his life, while still at Notre Dame. They celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on June 22, 2023. John earned his M.D. from Marquette Medical School and completed his post-doctoral training at Duke University Medical Center. He practiced Internal Medicine and Pulmonary Medicine for over 35 years at St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse, which would later become part of the Mayo Clinic Health System. After retiring from practice, John continued work with Mayo as a medical ethicist.

As a critical care doctor, John treated his patients with expertise and empathy. It is not unusual to run into former patients who tell us they owe their lives to his care, or former colleagues who describe his commitment to undertaking the most challenging cases. His dedication to all his patients shines through in these narratives. Along with his compassion and knowledge, he believed strongly in the power of humor and laughter as part of the treatment process. He loved learning new jokes from patients and then sharing them with other patients, friends and family - and getting a joke back in exchange again to share on - his own medico-comic ecosystem.

John was also intensely competitive. He boarded at Assumption High School in Windsor, Ontario in Canada, where he was valedictorian and loved telling the story of winning the butterfly stroke in the city swimming championships. He and his dear friend George had an intense season-long golf competition for years with the winner each year taking home the Pierogi Cup trophy they had purpose-made. He excelled academically and professionally as a lifelong learner, respected for his knowledge, and appreciated for the light-hearted twinkle in his eye.

An avid golfer, John was always pushing to break 80, from an early age mesmerized by the futile pursuit of perfection that is the game. Achieving a single-digit handicap was a celebrated milestone. He led a series of famous golf trips with a crew of Coulee Region pals, stopping at midwestern courses on the way and sharing the experience of a Notre Dame football game with the group. Over the years, John had been witness to Parseghian coaching in the ‘60s, and to epic Irish victories like Miami in ‘88 and the Snow Bowl vs. Penn State in ‘92, and he always wanted to share the experience with others (and maybe make a few converts in the process!).

While golf was the sport John played, he was an ardent spectator of many sports, especially when any of his children were playing (not as many minutes as he would have liked!). He always tuned in to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Packers, Brewers (the jokester in him loved Bob Uecker), Bucks, and Marquette Golden Eagles, and went to Aquinas Blugold football and basketball games through the years regardless of there being Ujdas in uniform. His sons’ schoolyard brag was that he could watch a Brewers game, read the newspaper, shine his shoes, and drink a Manhattan, all at the same time.

John was a card-carrying Catholic. Literally, there’s a card in his wallet that says, “I’m a Catholic. In case of emergency, call a priest.” Since he was consecrated to the Virgin Mary, celebrating his life through the funeral mass on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is especially fitting. Firmly rooted in his faith, he proclaimed the Word as a lector at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral and helped lead faith formation programs there. He supported Catholic education from elementary grades through college and to seminary studies, and served as a board member for Cathedral School and Aquinas Catholic Schools Foundation. And he believed in assistance to expectant mothers and fathers, devoting time to leading Birthright of La Crosse fundraisers and serving on its board.

John loved travel and literature and was proud of his Polish and Irish heritage. He would read nonfiction and novels to immerse himself in places he would visit. In 2001 he fulfilled a lifelong dream by touring Poland with the family and visiting the “Black Madonna,” Our Lady of Czestochowa. Earlier in his career, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration sent John on a pilgrimage to Assisi to assimilate Franciscan spirituality, an experience that had an enduring influence. Other favorite trips included Ireland, where he never sideswiped any walls along the roads, Alaskan and Canadian cruises, and Papua New Guinea.

It is with joy that we honor and celebrate the life, love, wisdom, faith, and humor of our husband, father and grandfather John.

Please join us celebrating his life at the visitation and/or funeral service:

Funeral Service: Friday morning, September 8, 2023 at 10:30 AM at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral, 530 Main St, La Crosse, WI.

Visitation: Friday morning, September 8, 2023 from 8:30 AM until the time of Mass, with a Rosary to start at 9:00 AM, at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral.

 In lieu of flowers, we ask that memorial gifts be made to

The Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse, WI. https://cathedralsjworkman.org/

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 5250 Justin Rd., La Crosse, WI. https://www.guadalupeshrine.org/

The St. Clare Health Mission, 916 Ferry St., La Crosse, WI. http://stclarehealthmission.org/

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dr. John R. Ujda, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Friday, September 8, 2023

8:30 - 10:30 am (Central time)

St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral

530 Main St, La Crosse, WI 54601

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Rosary

Friday, September 8, 2023

9:00 - 9:15 am (Central time)

St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral

530 Main St, La Crosse, WI 54601

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Mass

Friday, September 8, 2023

10:30 - 11:30 am (Central time)

St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral

530 Main St, La Crosse, WI 54601

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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