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Illinois construction company founder dies after going underwater in Kentucky lake

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Charles “Chuck” Poettker, the founder of Poettker Construction, died Saturday after he jumped off of the back of a boat into Kentucky Lake in Trigg County, Kentucky at about 3 p.m. and didn’t come back up. Poettker’s body was found about two hours later, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. He was 69 and lived in O'Fallon, Illinois.

An autopsy will be performed at the Western Kentucky Regional Medical Examiner's Office in Madisonville, Kentucky.

O'Fallon, IL construction company founder, 69, dead after going underwater in Kentucky lake

Charles "Chuck" Poettker was a veteran and operated his Illinois-based construction company for more than four decades. Image courtesy of the Poettker family

Poettker Construction has been in operation for 41 years, according to their website, and has offices in Breese, Illinois, and Charlotte, North Carolina. All four of Poettker’s children work for the company, along with 200 employees.

Poettker himself is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam and was awarded the U.S. Bronze Star. According to a statement on Poettker's passing posted to the company website on Sunday, he served in the 101st Airborne Division in south Vietnam.

"In April 1971, Poettker and his unit were given orders into Laos to rescue two door gunners and recover the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot of a downed helicopter," the statement reads. "This grueling journey back to safety earned him a U.S. Army Bronze Star for heroic service in a combat zone. He prayed that if he made it out alive, he would dedicate his life to building something of value."

“He was the greatest man I ever met,” his son Ryan Poettker, COO and Executive Vice President for Poettker Construction, said. “He served this country, and he basically started his construction company from scratch and built it to the level it is today. He’s a tremendous man.”

Poettker owned a boat out on Kentucky Lake, family said, and was on his boat with his wife Linda when he disappeared underwater. Ryan Poettker said his father’s death was “unexpected,” as the elder Poettker was a capable swimmer.

“He was a great father figure for us,” Poettker’s son Keith Poettker, the company’s president, said. “He was a great mentor for all of us kids and many people throughout the decades. It’s going to be hard for a lot of people because he was such a big personality and had such thoughtfulness for everybody."

“He had this saying,” Keith Poettker said. “If anybody asked how he was doing, he’d say ‘I’m having the greatest day since yesterday.’”

Rachel Rice • 314-340-8344

@RachelDRice on Twitter


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