All-around businessman and sports enthusiast Joe Pankus died suddenly on April 10, 2018, several month’s shy of his 80th birthday. Best known to readers as the former Exec. VP of Seeburg and (from 1990 to 2005) as President of Wurlitzer USA, Pankus was also an avid golfer who had actually designed two 18 hole courses in Wisconsin. He was also the co-founder of the Greenbay Packer/Chicago Bear celebrity Pro-Am Golf event.
A native of Chicago, Pankus began his career with the famed advertising agency Young & Rubicom, sold advertising for Playboy Magazine for a short time and worked in product and brand licensing with such companies as Sears, Disney and Coca-Cola.
While at Seeburg under the Nick Hindman regime, Pankus played a significant role in their development of the first full CD jukebox. . .the configuration that eventually replaced 45rpm disc machines before digital music showed up to capture the coin-op music industry’s fancy.
Then at Wurlitzer USA, he performed all key duties as their top man in the North American market. . .from logistics to promotion and the rest of management duties. Jersey Jack Pinball’s Jack Guarnieri helped Pankus warehouse Wurlitzer boxes that newly-arrived from their factory in Hullhorst, Germany. “He even appointed my Pinball.com company an authorized Wurlitzer distributor,” Guarnieri recalled.
After his tour with coin-op, Pankus landed with Barden Entertainment as the CEO of this audio/visual advertising producer. He also devoted his time to the TEC Executive Committee which is a group of CEOs who lend their experience to other businessmen seeking guidance in solving problems and exploring opportunities.
Pankus was a gregarious salesman no matter where he worked or which product or service he sold. He loved to identify as a Lithuanian-American as if that was the oddest kind of person anyone ever met. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Patti, daughters Jill, Mark, Sharon and son Mark and three grandchildren. Catholic services took place Monday, April 16, 2018. May he rest in God’s peace.