Rev. Donald F. Hetzler

April 7, 1923 ~ February 23, 2019 (age 95)


The Reverend Donald F. Hetzler died February 23rd, 2019 at age 95.

He was born on April 7, 1923 in Fargo, North Dakota, to Karl Philip and Rose (Bergeson) Hetzler. He was educated in the Minot and Fargo (ND) public schools and graduated from Fargo Central High School in the class of 1941.

He served 46 months in the Signal Company of the 86th Infantry Division (the Blackhawk Division) in World War II as division cryptographic security officer.  He participated in the two battles the 86th Infantry Division fought in Germany. He was then redeployed to the Philippine Islands for the duration of his military service.

Having been honorably discharged in 1946, after serving in the European and Pacific Theaters of Operation, he was able to attend the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa through the government funded veterans benefits program (the GI Bill) graduating in 1948 “with high distinction”.  After spending a year at the University of Chicago he changed fields of interest from art history to theology. He then enrolled at Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a Bachelor of Theology degree and being ordained in 1952.  He received the Master of Fine Arts degree in the history of Art and Architecture (Iowa 1960).

He met Marilyn J. Jens of Appleton, Wisconsin, during his student years in Iowa City.  They were married at Zion Lutheran Church, Appleton in June of 1950. Donald and Marilyn were blessed with three sons, Jens, John, and Paul.  They happily celebrated their 68th Anniversary in 2018.

Reverend Hetzler’s involvement with the Lutheran Student movement and other student Christian movements led to a call to the Lutheran Campus Ministry after a brief pastorate in Concordia, Kansas.  He was Lutheran Campus Pastor at the University of Iowa for six years, Central Regional Director for National Lutheran Campus Ministry for another six years; Assistant Executive Director and Director of National Lutheran Campus Ministry, Chicago for eleven years.

The Reverend Hetzler changed fields in 1978, balancing two half-time positions as Executive Director of the Associated Church Press and Director of Pastoral Care for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. He was also a member and officer of the founding Board of Directors for Fox Valley Hospice Geneva, Illinois from 1981-1990.

He served on the Youth/Student Work Committee of The Lutheran World Federation (1966-1970), the Central Committee of the World Association for Christian Communication (1978 – 1980), the Executive Committee of the North American Regional Association of WACC (1978-1980) and the sponsoring committees of the Religious Communications Congresses, 1980 and 1990. 

During his active career, the Hetzlers traveled extensively to Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Canada and China.  Also after retirement, they traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Russia, Ukraine, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. 

The honors accorded to Don include Phi Beta Kappa, (Iowa 1948), Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree, Wittenberg University (Springfield, Ohio) and citations from the Ministry to Blacks in Higher Education, the National Council of Churches, the Catholic Press Association, and the Associated Church Press.

The Hetzlers have resided in Appleton, Wisconsin since 1995 after having lived in Geneva, Illinois for 35 years.

Having a sense of duty and giving back to the community, Don supported the Fox Valley Symphony, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, establishing a Trust fund with the Appleton Community Foundation.  He also continued sustained giving to Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula.

Don was preceded in death by his parents, his older siblings, Eleanor (Robideau) and Karl. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn Jens Hetzler, his sons, Jens (Lynel Hedquist), John (Marc McClellan) and Paul (Betsy Weller).  One grandson, Matthew.  His brother Robert and nephews Kenneth, Ronald, Richard, David, Keith, Steven, John Fisk and one niece Ann Fisk.

A Celebration of Reverend Donald’s life will take place at 11:30 AM, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 at Zion Lutheran Church with Rev. Chuck Fluegel officiating. Interment will take place at Highland Memorial Park, Appleton. Friends may visit the family directly at church on Thursday from 9 – 11:30 AM.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Zion Lutheran Church or a charity of your choice.

The family would like to thank the staff of ThedaCare at Home, Cherry Meadows and all of their supportive friends for the wonderful care and concern shown to Don and his family.  

To send flowers to Rev. Donald F. Hetzler's family, please visit our floral section.


February 28, 2019

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Zion Lutheran Church
912 N Oneida St
Appleton, WI 54911

Funeral Service
February 28, 2019

11:30 AM
Zion Lutheran Church
912 N Oneida St
Appleton, WI 54911

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