Torch passed at Cesarz, Charapata & Zinnecker Funeral Home
New owner remains committed to community, families

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

March 10, 2015

 Mary Lou Charapata with Ryan Nowatka at Cesarz, Charapata & Zinnecker
Funeral Home on Monday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Even though Mary Lou Charapata has handed over the reins of her century-old funeral home to Ryan Nowatka, she will continue to do what she loves - helping people as managing director.

Everything will essentially remain the same at Cesarz, Charapata & Zinnecker Funeral Home on Moreland, Charapata stressed, but Nowatka will bring a fresh perspective to the business that has been serving the Waukesha community for more than 118 years.

Nowatka has more than 20 years of funeral planning service and owns Pederson-Nowatka Funeral Home locations in Watertown and Waterloo.

The selection of Nowatka to lead CCZ was done with much consideration after Charapata decided it was wise to have a plan for the future in place.

“Every smart business person has a succession plan,” she said.

Charapata has a lot invested in CCZ - she joined Cesarz and Zinnecker in 1982, purchased ownership interest in 1993 and has been the sole operator for the past 13 years.

When she started to search for the next owner of CCZ, Charapata said, she looked for someone who would provide quality service and who has integrity, is honest and trustworthy. She said she found those attributes in Nowatka who decided to pursue a career in funeral service planning while in high school. He said with three boys ages 8 and 7, he wanted to offer them a large enough operation that they could one day take over, should they want to go into the family business.

Nowatka will also help to keep the business current with the changing wants of clients.

“He will enhance what we already have with his experience,” Charapata said.

With the ownership transition, Nowatka will take over more of the business operations, allowing Charapata to “continue to do what I truly love, which is working with the families and community,” she said.

An Illinois native, Nowatka plans to move his family to Waukesha and is already becoming involved at La Casa de Esperanza and Healing Hearts.

He said funeral planning is a rewarding profession. He wants to make the experience healing and meaningful for families.

By combining the two businesses, there will be efficiencies that will help to keep CCZ and Pederson Funeral Home costs down. The staff at CCZ is also remaining unchanged, and Charapata’s sister, Joanne Abbs, will continue as director of advance planning, a role she has had for the past 13 years.