Donald E. Utschig, age 93, died peacefully at the ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, lovingly surrounded by his family on Wednesday December 22nd after a courageous battle with AML, an aggressive type of leukemia. A lifelong resident of Appleton, Don was born on May 25th,1928 to loving parents, Theodore A and Pearl A (Boldt) Utschig. Thirteen years later, he became the brother to his dear sister and only sibling Sandra (Robert) Bradshaw of Woodstock, Illinois.
When Don was in 9th grade, he attended church camp and met the love of his life, Janet Mae Lederman, formerly of Brodhead, Wisconsin, parents John and Esther (Petersen) Lederman. Don and Jan parted ways that summer but were unexpectedly reunited at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. They married on June 13th,1953 and recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. When our father was asked what he thought was the success of their long marriage, he stated “I was the boss at work, your mother was the boss at home and we never went to bed angry”. Our mother’s parting words to our father were “I’ve loved you since the moment I saw you”.
Don attended Appleton High School where the football coach gave him the distinction of “having the intestinal fortitude” to be the center of the football team. His love of the game never faltered as he and Jan were lifelong season ticket holders of the Green Bay Packers starting with the first Green Bay Packer Football game at City Stadium on September 29th, 1957. That passion for football continued as he tried to attend every football game his son and grandsons played which even included college bowl games. Another proud accomplishment of Don’s during high school was to be chosen an American Legion Delegate to Badger Boys State where it could be argued his keen interest for politics, government and community service were kindled.
Don’s lifelong passion for business began early as he left North Central College to start a vending machine business in1950 when he was 19 years old. The business had to be sold after a year since the United States Government had other plans for him. He was drafted to participate in the Korean War where he proudly served in the 322nd Signal Battalion Corps and later was transferred to the United States Marine Corps, Special Services Division.
After the war, he returned to Appleton to start his married life with Jan and resume his entrepreneurial spirit. He joined his father’s construction company which he grew to become Theo Utschig & Son Construction. For decades his construction company would build schools, churches, shopping centers, corporate headquarters and did millwright work while averaging over 200 employees. Some of the projects his company built, to name a few, were Saint Pius X Catholic Church and School, Johnston Elementary School and McKinley Elementary School Appleton, New Holstein High School, Markesan High School, Elm Tree Bakery Appleton and Matthew Tire Appleton. He was able to foster decades of working with companies like Miller Electric and Fox River Paper because of his dedication to service and attention to detail. He believed in people and providing opportunity for others to succeed. This belief gave him the strength of character to collaborate with business partners of the same mind to create additional companies like Warehousing of Wisconsin, Inc., WOW Logistics Inc., Utschig Imperial Inc., Utschig Development Corp., Valley Grinding & Manufacturing, and Norka Inc. He was always proud of the people employed in these companies and believed it was through their hard work and accomplishments that made them successful not him.
Don and Jan had an active, robust family life with their five children. They were passionate about attending their children’s extracurricular activities and this interest increased exponentially with their seven grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren. They relished in entertaining and welcoming their home to others. Family and friends will long remember the grand holiday parties every Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the 4th of July. They loved to travel and circled the globe to places like China, Russia, Australia, Greece and most of the countries in Europe. They were members of Butte Des Mort Country Club and Ridgeway Country Club. For many years they ventured to Mexico with friends for lively times and golf outings. Don gave everyone in his family the opportunity to learn the game of golf. He was convinced that lessons and practice were the avenue to enjoying the sport. He was thrilled when he finally achieved the elusive hole in one at the Tiburon Golf Course Hole # 8 in Naples, Florida with Jay whom he considers like son. He was an active member of the Appleton Curling Club where he and Jan would attend Bonspiel tournaments throughout the state. They were also members of the Valley Dance Club. Dad was an excellent dancer, and it was a joy to watch him lead our mother around the dance floor. Finally, Don was an active member of the Rotary Club of Appleton where he looked forward to meetings with his fellow Rotarians and enjoyed bringing in special speakers for the group.
Donald is survived by his beloved wife of 68 years, Janet; children: Jamela (Gregg) Voigt, Kohler, WI; Donna (special friend Jeff Wellhouse) Utschig, Kewanee, WI; TJ (Kim) Utschig, Winneconne, WI; Linda (Brett) Robertson, Appleton, WI; Debbie (partner Jay Plamann) Gorman, Appleton, WI; grandchildren: Autumn (Richard) Stief; TJ Jr. (Veronica) Utschig; Dustin (Bridget) Utschig; Lindsey (fiancée Jon Dudzinski) Hunt; Jonathan Hunt; Andrea (fiancée Andrew Minkley) Gorman; Richard Allen (fiancée Emma Doe) Gorman: great grandchildren: Annessa, Elaina and Josephine Stief; Tristan and Vianca Utschig; Ezra, Malachi, Isley and Isaac Utschig; Laela Doe-Gorman: sister: Sandra (Robert) Bradshaw; nephew: Greg (Kris) Bradshaw; niece: Kristen (Lance) Huber.
The family would like to extend their gratitude to Dr Jack Anderson, Dr Xin Yao and Dr Douglas Mielke and their staffs for the conscientious care they’ve provided recently and throughout the years. We would like to thank the staff at ThedaCare Medical Center-New London and ThedaCare Hospice for the dignity and compassion that was shown to Don and our family while Don was in their care. A special thanks to his grandson, Dr. Allen Gorman, for helping his grandfather navigate the healthcare system and advocate for his medical care during times of need. We are also so grateful for his daily caregivers these recent years and would like to acknowledge his special “angel” Julie Pitsch, who brought care to his body and smile to his face every morning.
A private family service will be held to respect the health and safety of Don’s family as the pandemic continues. A Celebration of Life will be planned for golf season on the evening of Tuesday, May 31st at Butte Des Mort Country Club for all to come to share stories and memories of Don, enjoy a cocktail and something to eat – just the way he would want it to be!
If so inclined, the family would appreciate donations be made to WOW-We Care Charity, Inc which is a non-profit organization that works to benefit our local community.
Dad, you were first and foremost a builder and you and mom built a beautiful life. We will love you forever. We are going to miss you and your guidance, even your advice that was unsolicited. You’ve been a wonderful and colorful mentor to your family, friends, business associates and employees. You strived to be a good provider to your family, and you accomplished that many times over. God worked through you every day to serve others and now He’s called you home to Everlasting Life.
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