On a seemingly bright and sunny day, a cloud hung over the community on Monday.
Dr. Michael Rizzo, 67, Dr. Vincent Rizzo, 76, and Mary C. Rizzo, 74, all of Kenosha, were identified as the three victims killed by a suspected drunken driver on Friday in Salem Lakes.
Gerald Rizzo, 72, was also injured in the crash and remains hospitalized, according to the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department.
Michael Rizzo was a popular family physician in Kenosha, while his brother Vincent Rizzo served the community for decades as a local dentist. Mary Rizzo was a longtime registered nurse who also worked at her husband Vincent’s dental office.
“These were just wonderful, wonderful people,” Kenosha native Sue Geissman said. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around this and wake up from it. I can’t even imagine what this family is going through.”
Geissman, along with her family, were patients and friends of Vincent and Mary Rizzo. Geissman said she recently recommended a Lenten fish boil at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, 6301 344th Ave., in New Munster and believes the Rizzo family was returning from dinner when their vehicle was recklessly rear-ended by a pickup.
Michael Rizzo died at the scene. Vincent and Mary Rizzo died after being transported to area hospitals.
“We were just talking about fish fries,” Geissman said. “I told him to go early because the parking is really bad. I’m assuming that’s where they were Friday night. They always went out together.”
Edwinna Coon, 54, of Pleasant Prairie, has an appointment scheduled in two weeks for her annual physical exam with Michael Rizzo. She was devastated to discover he was one of the three killed in the accident.
“For these people, this was their life,” Coon said. “They gave their lives to helping other people and now this happens. It’s so very unfair. The community is definitely going to be impacted by this. I know we’re all still in shock and disbelief.”
Coon was one of many of Michael Rizzo’s patients who were deeply affected by the incident.
Christina Wienke, 58, of Salem, was a patient of Michael Rizzo for over 35 years and credited him for saving the life of her daughter.
“She had just turned 1 year old and, since it was a weekend, I had to take her to an emergency room,” Wienke said. “She had a fever of over 104 (degrees) and the emergency room doctors told me it was a virus and she would be fine. I took her to Dr. Rizzo. He found that she had E-coli in her blood and sent me straight to the hospital. Thank God he caught that or I would have lost my 1-year-old daughter.”
Michael Rizzo graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1970. He obtained a degree in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside before getting his medical degree at UW-Madison.
Staff at Aurora Health Care in Kenosha, where Michael Rizzo worked, also offered up condolences to the Rizzo family, expressing their own sorrow at the tragic loss to the community.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of Dr. Michael Rizzo and his family members,” said Dr. Jeff Bahr, chief Aurora Medical Group officer. “He was a wonderful colleague and cherished member of the Aurora Health Care and Kenosha communities.
“The compassion he provided to patients and colleagues every day will be greatly missed. We are devastated by this weekend’s news and continue to hold the Rizzo family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Vincent and Mary Rizzo (formerly Fulmer) celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last summer. They were married at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Kenosha on June 29, 1968, and became active members of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Mary Rizzo, a 1962 St. Joseph High School graduate, frequently sang in the church choir on Saturday nights.
“These were community-involved people,” Geissman said. “They were very religious. They went to Rome to have their marriage blessed.”