Cover photo for Richard J. Birawer Jr.'s Obituary
Richard J. Birawer Jr. Profile Photo
1942 Richard 2023

Richard J. Birawer Jr.

May 22, 1942 — October 25, 2023

Cottage Grove

Richard James Birawer Jr.

Age 81, of Cottage Grove

Richard (Dick/Rich) James Birawer Jr was born May 22, 1942 in St. Paul, MN. He was the first born of Richard Sr, a mechanic at Midway Ford in St. Paul, and Mabel (Duchene) Birawer. Rich was later joined by his sister Carol and brother Curtis. 

During the first couple of years of his life, Rich's dad, Richard Sr was stationed in the Pacific during WWII. During this time, Rich lived in a duplex in Highland Park with his mom, and his German Grandfather, James Birawer and Grandmother Margaret.

Rich had a happy childhood in St. Paul. He was particularly close to his grandfather James, who spoke German and some Yiddish as he worked with many Orthodox Jews as an engraver for a local jewelry store.

Growing up as a Catholic, Rich told stories of how strict some of the nuns and priests could be. Especially during catechism, one particular priest "would grab ahold of your ear and slowly twist it until you got the correct answer".  

As a teenager, Rich and a group of friends had lots of fun running around, scaling bridges, and listening to rock 'n roll, particularly Elvis. His life-long love of classic cars began with his first car, a ’56 Chevy Bel Air. After graduating from Central High School in 1960, he attended the St. Paul Vocational School, becoming a certified boiler mechanic.

In 1961, Rich met Genevieve Walsh. Both had recently been unlucky in love and were set-up on a blind date by their mutual friends because Rich had a car, and they needed a girl to join their double date. It took some work on Rich's Part, but he finally won the affection of Gen.

Rich and Gen wed August 8th, 1964. In 1965, the couple welcomed their first son, James Patrick. Over the next seven years, they welcomed three more boys, John Richard, Michael Martin and William Jude. The family house on Jefferson Avenue in St. Paul was bursting at the seams. It was then that Rich decided to leave his beloved St. Paul and move the family to a more spacious house on Hyde Avenue in Cottage Grove.

Rich worked for American Linen in St. Paul during much of the 1970's and 80's as a boiler mechanic, and part-time delivering appliances at Larson Appliances. Rich often worked long hours, working both a full-time and part-time job. But as busy as he was, Rich always made time to be with his family and particularly loved to watch his sons play sports. 

Rich and Gen loved to take the family on road trips, especially out west. Family reunions were always a special time for vacationing in Detroit Lakes, MN in the family Ford LTD wagon, with a red canoe strapped to the roof; or visiting Gen's parents’ cabin on Norway Lake up near Pine River, MN.

In 1980, Rich and Gen lost their first born, James, to leukemia. This was an incredibly devastating time for Rich and Gen. They both did what they had to do in order to keep their family together. They relied on the love and support of family and friends to carry them through.

Rich was so fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel the world at a time when global traveling was not as common as it is today. Rich always remembered how eye-opening his experience was in England and Ireland. He even got to travel to Oman in the Middle East where he captured on video the experience of driving through the desert in SUVs for several miles until they made it to the ocean where they camped with a group of travelers from all over the world.

Rich was an avid reader. He particularly loved thriller novels. At his home you would see stacks of books, including everything Stephen King ever wrote. He also was a huge lover of movies, and the Minnesota Vikings.

Sadly, after a 7-year battle with cancer, Gen passed away August 16th, 2009. This was a moment that almost broke him. Gen was always there for him, in good times and in bad, and now she was gone. 

Proving almost everyone wrong, Rich was not about to give up on life. He was able to once again find love and happiness with Marsha McGrath, which lasted for the better part of 7 years, until she sadly passed. 

Miraculously, Rich was able to find love one last time with Karen McRunnel. They enjoyed a partnership that lasted only a short while before cancer would claim her life in 2019.   

After waiting many years, Rich finally became a grandpa when Mike and Nikki welcomed Arlo in 2012. This was always something Rich had hoped for. He even kept a cabinet filled with Disney movies so that one day he could have them on hand to play for his grandchildren.

Throughout his life, Rich instilled a strong set of core values into each of his sons. Each one treasures the time they had with him and the lessons he taught them. Through them, you can find his sense of loyalty and love, his strong work ethic, and just a little bit of his stubbornness.

Rich is survived by his sons, John, Michael (Nikki), and William (Tiana), sister Carol, brother Curtis, and grandson Arlo, as well as many in-laws, nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.

A memorial gathering will be held on November 4th, 2023, from 10am to noon with time for sharing memories at Kok Funeral Home (7676 80th Street S., Cottage Grove, MN 55016.) A private burial at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights, MN to follow.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Richard J. Birawer Jr., please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Gathering

Saturday, November 4, 2023

10:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

Kok Funeral Home & Cremation Service- CG

7676 80th St S, Cottage Grove, MN 55016

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