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
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
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.