John Andrew Kowal

May 28, 1958 - July 8, 2020

John Andrew Kowal, loving husband, sibling and uncle passed away at the age of 62 on Wednesday July 8, 2020 at home with his family at his side.  He fought the good fight against cancer until the very end.

John was born on May 28, 1958 in Chicago, IL to John Andrew Kowal and Loretto Estelle (Walsh).  He received his degree from Knox College in 1980.  He worked as an advertising executive early in his career until he found his true passion in industrial automation where he worked for most of his career.  He married his best friend and “the girl next door” Stephanie Frisque on September 16, 2000 and they made their home in Batavia, IL.

John was the Director of Business Development for B&R Industrial Automation for the past 11 years where he was responsible for business development and marketing of their industrial automation technologies. John’s biggest passion, outside of his family and fly fishing, was industrial automation.  He also played a leadership role in the Global Packaging Solutions Group.  John was the inspiration behind “The Adaptive Machine”. This project was his focus for the past two years at B&R and it has driven disruptive innovations into Industry towards a batch size one manufacturing process. John was a true visionary who will leave a lasting impact for not only B&R but also the field of industrial automation. John earned a great place in industrial automation and leaves a legacy for manufacturing excellence that will continue into the future.

Prior to B&R, John served as Global Marketing Manager of ELAU, where he revolutionized marketing and communication within the Global Packaging Community. 

John was co-chair of the Industrial Internet Consortium’s Smart Factory Task Group, current member of OMAC and former member of PMMI Boards of Directors, PMMI Strategy, Global Marketing and Membership committees, Purdue University - Calumet Dean’s Executive Council, AMT, ISA, BMA and Automation Conference Advisory Board.  John was a prolific speaker and frequent editorial contributor.

John was commissioned as an officer of the Commemorative Air Force in the grade of Colonel.  Dedicated to the preservation of American World War II Combat Aircraft and support of the CAF Flying Museum for permanent preservation, maintenance and display of these historic aircraft as symbols of our American Military Aviation.  John and the CAF Great Lakes Wing flew WWII airplanes in airshows throughout the country.  He was partial to the C-47 and the Junkers JU-52 both military transport aircraft during WWII.  A highlight of his hobby was assisting as a pilot in a flag jump honoring WWII Allied Nations at Andrews Air Force base (now Joint Base Andrews).

John was a passionate fly fisherman and it was one of his greatest enjoyments in life.  The solitude and excitement of “chasing fish” all over the world brought great joy to John.  His experiences included fishing “Brookies”, Steelhead and Brown Trout in the Midwest to Salmon in Alaska, Bonefish in the Caribbean, Tarpon, Snook, Snapper and Barracuda in Mexico, Machaca in Costa Rica and wild Trout and Grayling in Europe.  No matter where John was in the world, he always found a day or two to get a guide and fly fish in the region.  John especially had a fond place in his heart for his local fly fishing friends in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) and fishing in the region.  Which to this day remained his favorite place to “chase fish”.

John and his wife Stephanie were best friends and had a storybook marriage.  They spent a lot of time traveling to new places around the world and they always had smiles on their faces. They chose each other for companions in everything they did in life.  John and Stephanie had a passion for new cultures, new cuisine and world history.  John had a special affinity for mastering languages which made him a wonderful traveling companion.  John was an adoring husband and a mentor and role model to all his nieces and nephews. 

John was a brilliant man, known for his quick wit, intelligence, honesty, knowledge about anything you could possibly think of, his humbleness, infectious smile and his kind, compassionate spirit.  John defined himself as “the honest marketing guy”.  He was an amazing writer as witnessed by everyone who knew him.  John was an extraordinary man and will be missed by all who were fortunate to have had the chance to know him. 

It’s been an honor and privilege to be part of John’s life.

John was preceded in death by his father and mother, John and Loretto Kowal and his father-in-law James Frisque.  He is survived by his beloved wife Stephanie, his mother-in-law Kathleen (Bob) Hosch, his sister Loret (Joe) Beach, brother Mark Kowal, brother-in-law Scott Frisque, sisters-in-law Sharlene (Dan) Otto and Shawna (Kevin) DuBois and many nieces and nephews.

Due to Covid-19 a private visitation will be held on Thursday, July 16, 2020, at Moss Family Funeral Home, 209 South Batavia Ave., Batavia, IL 60510.  A private memorial service will take place on Friday, July 17, 2020,  also at the Funeral Home.  A Celebration of Life memorial will take place in August in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at East Branch Fox River State Forest Campground in Seney, MI which was the inspiration for John’s favorite author, Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Big Two-Hearted River”.

In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to, Michigan Trout Unlimited P.O. Box 442 Dewitt, MI 48820
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Guest Book

  • Fritz Goeckner My condolences to John's family (from his freshman roommate at Knox)
  • Dan O’Shea Goodbye, John. I’ve always treasured the conversations and minor escapades at Knox College in 79-80 with Josefiak, Oscar, and others. Thought I’d check in with y’all after several decades, googled, and have now discovered that you’re not likely to respond. My humble prayers for you and your family. Dan O’Shea, Austin, TX
  • Brian and Karen Kelly Dear Stephanie and family, We send our deepest condolences, comfort and love. John was a great man and heaven got a very special angel. All the best, Brian and Karen
  • Ramon Diaz I've seen John a couple of times and had the opportunity to share some conversations with him. He's the kind of person you want to be with because he listened and gave you part of his experience. It was an honor to meet him.
  • Diane Sinicrope I am so sorry to hear this news. I met John when he was with Schneider and was so impressed with his technical knowledge and marketing expertise. It was always great to see him at shows and meetings and discuss industry trends. Sincere condolences to John’s wife and family.
  • Peter Gucher John was a positive person and gave us a lot of inspiration. He was very friendly and even we met only from time to time, we always had a nice conversation. We all will miss John!
  • Anne Gartland So sorry for your loss, Stephanie. What a beautiful tribute.
  • Anne Gartland So sorry for your loss, Stephanie. What a beautiful tribute.
  • Hans Wimmer John an I have met in Austria in 2009. I still remember the great conversations we have had back then and over the past 11 years..We see a great person and a friend go much too early and it makes me and the B&R team sad. John, it was a great pleasure to work with you and an honor to know you. Thank you for everything, Hans
  • Cindy Frisque Kraack Stephanie, I am so sorry for your deep loss.
  • Paul Mancini I had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time with John early in my career at various packaging events. John took genuine interest in what I was doing, and helped open doors and guide me without expecting anything in return. He had a long term vision, and was the best relationship builder I've ever met. I'm not sure he realized how much of an impact he had on my career, but he was always, and will always be in my thoughts as a mentor and friend.
  • Kara Conner I had the opportunity to know John for a little over four years as he was the one who hired me to join the North America Marketing team at B&R. He was a great mentor; one who was approachable, sincere and knowledgeable. He always gave me the best advice with such kindness and thoughtfulness. He also knew how to connect with people on a personal level and once I moved from Philly to Atlanta to join the B&R team, he recommended the Atlanta Rowing Club as he knew I was a collegiate rower in my former years. John, I am sure you are at peace and looking down on all of us while you’re endlessly fly fishing in heaven. You will be greatly missed!
  • Kate Putnam I had the great pleasure to know John through committee work at the PMMI. John was so nice and kind, but more he did it in a thoughtful and helpful way. My sincere condolences to his wife and family. You have a great loss and the world is missing a true gentleman.
  • Helmut Kirnstötter John and I met the first time on a rainy Saturday in Austrian when he interviewed to work with B&R. From the first meeting it was clear that John will be a great person to work with and we were happy to get him on board. He was a great listener and capable to execute. He was very intelligent and had his heart at the right place. I was fortunate and blessed to have worked with John. Thank you, John!
  • Rick Forsgren I had the extreme pleasure of working with John at B&R for several years. As my “boss” John was patient, nurturing, confident, helpful and most of all encouraging. He had a way of putting the needs of others ahead of his own. His pragmatic approach to work and life was calming to those with whom he worked. John possessed a brilliant grasp of the industrial automation realm and was respected by all who had the opportunity to meet him. He was a dear friend and a wonderful mentor. He will be missed…greatly!
  • Bob Bos I knew John for 26 years. He was one of the nicest people I knew. John was always willing to engage other people in his and their interests. John was a very bright person. Outside of his profession, John had many interests; one was the Commemorative Air Force. He was a Colonel in charge of public relations. John participated in many air shows throughout the country. He will always be remembered as an outgoing and friendly individual.
  • Eugene Suksi I first met John at Knox College in 1977 and was struck by his intelligence, quick wit and affinity for Ernest Hemingway and Jack Daniels. Then, as now, John was a loyal and trustworthy friend and a dependable confederate in all manner of shenanigans. His presence was felt by many, and his absence will be felt as well. Peace to you, John. Godspeed.
  • Rich Huss I knew John since we worked together and Rexroth. Always had nice conversations at trade shows and meetings. My condolences to the family and I will miss him during industry events.
  • Sharon K O'Bryan Mark, We are so sorry for your loss. We know how you admired your brother and pray that you, and all the family, will find a way to turn some of the sadness into comforting memories and celebration of time shared.
  • Andy Butler You were a gentleman and great man. I will miss you. I always enjoyed talking fishing with you and loved the trip you came with me to the canyons way southeast of cape cod fishing for will be missed. My sincere condolences to your family.
  • Jack Aguero John was such a very nice person. He reached out and invited me to fly fish with him in Georgia where I live and taught me about the best practices as I tried as a raw beginner to learn to fly fish. He always included me in professional gatherings and I enjoyed many lunches and dinners with John. I will miss him very much.
  • Paul Redwood My sincere condolences to John’s family and I pray for comfort and serenity as they grieve. John had a knack for knocking on doors and getting people to answer and embrace whatever he was promoting. It was John who called & invited me to participate in many industry technical panels as well as keynotes. It was John who called and invited me to run for the OMAC board. It was John who called & encouraged me to run for the Chairman of the OMAC board. John was used to open many doors for me and inside those doors I was able to witness a man who was skilled in closing the deal. John was not afraid of pounding the streets to pound home a point. I remember the OMAC Road show when he first visited with us at Church & Dwight and made a nice connection. I will miss many of our deep and animated technical discussions but even more so our keen discussions about people & organization development. John sets himself apart in being mindful, insightful and faithful in shaping discussions about integrating technology. In Hebrew the name John means God is gracious so I’m grateful to God for John being in my life these last 10 years. Paul Redwood Chairman Emeritus, OMAC
  • Lisa Pierce I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with John over the years about packaging automation. I'll miss seeing him at PMMI events. Sincere sympathy to his family.
  • Roger Altendorf I am truly saddened to hear of John's passing. He went out of his way to help me and others in the packaging industry by connecting people and ideas together. His pleasant demeanor and wealth of knowledge were uniquely special. Our paths crossed a number of times over the last 12 years and I will miss him.
  • JIm Powers John was a customer and a friend for many years. As a customer he cared about the impact his decisions had on the company. I would call him on Sunday with a fishing question and he would always answer. We fished together up on the Manistee (MI) and a memorable trip to the Broad River in Montana. I miss you John. It was a pleasure to have known you.
  • Wlady Martino I met John in ELAU more than 20 years ago. I was fascinated by his vision, his passion and his ability to revolutionize marketing and communication in industrial automation. John was a mentor and a teacher to me. When I joined B&R I was super excited to work with him, again. I fully embraced the Adaptive Machine which is a breakthrough in the market. I have had the great pleasure and honor to work with him to launch such innovation globally. But above all, John was a friend. He was so kind, humble and honest. He made me fell important. I remember when I apologize to him because my English was not so good and he always answered me "your English is better than my Italian and you are so good". John is one of those person that when you meet, you have awareness to be fortunate. He was, he is a great man and a great person. Thank you John, I'll miss you so much.
  • James Chrzan As a customer, John was so knowledgable, not only about his own techology, but industry trends at large. As a content source for business journalists, his writing submissions were among the best. As a friend and mentor, he never passed up a chance to teach me something, whether we were having a cocktail along the river in Marktheidenfeld, Germany, or walking through a B-29 that had come to Chicago. Many wonderful dinners together here in the U.S. and in Europe. I will miss you old friend.
  • Robert Kickinger I had the pleasure to get to know John in 2017. It was at interpack in Duesseldorf and we sat together to conceptualize B&R’s marketing campaign for track technology. It was the beginning of a wonderful journey of working together, that has come to an abrupt end now. John was a genius in linguistic perfection combined with deep industry knowledge and great human spirit. Who else on earth was in his league – I can only think of Geoffrey Moore, whom we both had great respect for. Now, John has crossed the last chasm of life on this earth. I have tears in my eyes and my feelings are with John’s family. We have lost one of the greats. If heaven exits, John is already there then.
  • Nicholas Masterson I'm deeply saddened to hear of John's passing. It was my pleasure to work with him for many years. John had an inspiring ability to captivate an audience while also being very grounded and approachable. His presence will truly be missed by those that knew him.
  • Cody Jung Even though I didn't share a lot of time with John, the time I did share was filled with honest help and feedback. He will be missed. Condolences to the family.
  • Torsten and Birgit Kirchmann John was not a, but the most honest marketing guy I`ve ever met. I had the privilige to work closely with John at Indramat, building a very special American-German relationship. Our friendship stayed strong after our professional paths diverted, and we kept in close contact, visiting each other, talked for hours about automation, politics, history and mysteries of a good life. He will live on in our memory and our thoughts are with his wonderful wife Stephanie.
  • Grace Nyiry I am so sorry to hear of John's passing. My deepest condolences go out to his wife Stephanie and family.
  • Tina Hapner Being new to joining the B&R team I only had a short time to get to know John. He took time to teach me about the technology sector, which I am brand new to. I immediately recognized his knowledge and love for the industry. He was always very kind and extremely patient in answering my questions. I just wish I could of had more time to get to know him. Prayers to his family.
  • Marcel Voigt How incredibly sad to receive the news of John's passing. Meeting John back in Germany in 2005 while working for ELAU and getting to know is great marketing genius first @ ELAU and after joining B&R together in 2010 was truly awe inspiring. I will miss him as a good friend and great mentor. There should be a rule against people like John taken from us that young. RIP John
  • John Roberts John and I worked together for just over 10 years and very closely over the last 3 years. I was extremely fortunate and blessed to have worked with John. I will remember John as a Friend, a colleague and as a visionary. I know you are watching over us John