July 29, 1933 – September 24, 2020
J. John Penikis, 87, passed away peacefully in his home, September 24, 2020, with his family by his side.
Janis was born July 29, 1933 in Cesis, Latvia to the late Edgars and Lucija (Kurts) Penikis.
On October 8, 1955, he married the love of his life, Gundega Amols. She survives him. He is also survived by son, Andrejs (Amanda Bayer) Penikis of Swarthmore PA; brother, Aris (Lynn) Penikis of Brown Deer WI; sister-in-law, Marilyn Penikis of Milwaukee WI; and three grandchildren: Kristina Penikis of Brooklyn NY, Annalise (Tim Kwilos) Penikis of Baltimore MD and Suzanna Penikis of Boston MA.
World War II brought an end to an idyllic childhood growing up in the forests of Latvia. In 1944 his family fled to escape the Soviet invasion of their homeland. After years as Displaced Persons they landed in the US in 1950. He became an American, but he never forgot his Latvian roots.
Throughout his life he remained involved with numerous organizations promoting Latvian culture, education and history. In 2006 the President of Latvia bestowed upon him the Order of the Three Stars, the country’s highest state decoration for meritorious service to the Latvian state.
He earned his BBA, MS and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught Political Science at the University of Minnesota before taking a position at Indiana University-South Bend, where he taught from 1970 to 1998, serving as department chair from 1976 to 1980. John also held teaching posts at Western Michigan University and the University of Latvia. He was named a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in 1996.
John loved to play volleyball and participated regularly at the South Bend YMCA for as long as he was able, into his 70s.
Due to the pandemic, a celebration of life will be held at a later date.
Contributions may be made in his memory to the IUSB General Scholarship Fund (0320003743) or to the Vītols Fund in Latvia.