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Daniel J. Dettmann, 71, beloved husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend passed away peacefully on the afternoon of November 17, 2022, at St Mary's Hospital surrounded by the love of his family. It was his favorite kind of gloomy, snowy, wintry day. Death was due to massive bleeding in his brain caused by a recently diagnosed rare blood disorder which affects platelets.
Dan was born in Milwaukee on March 8, 1951, to Clemens J. Dettmann and Loretta A. Dettmann (nee Burkart). His grew up on Booth Street and was a Milwaukee Journal paperboy. He spent memorable years with the nuns at St. Elizabeth grade school and attended Messmer High until moving with his parents to their retirement farm in Birnamwood where he graduated in 1969. He attended UW Platteville and North Central Technical College in Wausau where he studied architectural design and technology. He also took classes at the U.W. Madison College of Engineering. His professional career was spent as a draftsman and designer of medical buildings at Marshall Erdmann and Associates in Madison.
In 1985 he met his future wife Mary J. Schmidt through the Isthmus Personals, back in the day when people still exchanged real handwritten letters. On their first date they went for cheeseburgers and Augsburger Dark beer at the Laurel Tavern on Monroe Street. They both found true love and were together for over 37 years.
Dan showed an early affinity for adventures in watercraft. As a child his mother intercepted him just in the nick of time as he was about to launch his homemade submarine into the Milwaukee River. As a teen he and his younger cousin Mike took a rowboat out onto the big water of Lake Superior. As a young man Dan canoed solo in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. He took pride in maintaining his classic wooden Old Town canoe.
Dan was a very private quiet man with a quick wit and keen sense of humor. He would help anyone who asked. He wanted to give the gift of life to others through organ donation, but in the end his illness prevented it.
He was an expert woodsman, felling trees, clearing deadfalls, cutting and splitting firewood, and milling lumber with his chainsaw. He was a talented woodworker and carpenter. He built a small chalet style cabin among the rock outcroppings overlooking the Wisconsin River. About his recently completed deluxe shed he liked to say “no plywood was used in the construction of this building.” Dan and Mary loved to get away from the city on their Green County acreage. Dan made salsa from their homegrown tomatoes and intrigued the neighbors by tapping a grove of box elder trees to boil syrup in the spring. (“they're in the maple family.”) He just generally enjoyed being out in the country working with his collection of tractors and implements.
He did his own automotive and small engine repairs. He was interested in vintage cars and go karts and was restoring a 1969 Saab. He followed all manner of auto and go kart racing from an early age and was an avid fan of Formula 1. He honed his skills taking welding seminars at EAA Oshkosh. He liked bluegrass and folk music and concerts at the Stoughton Opera House. Dan planted thousands of trees in his lifetime. He protected a magnificent tree in Wingra Park from the emerald ash borer through Madison's Adopt-A-Park-Tree program. He loved winter and big roaring fires. Dan was kind to all animals and enjoyed decades of companionship from rescued cats including his two surviving kitties big Atticus and Rufus. Dan walked the Southwest Bike Path five mornings a week since 2009, and liked seeing the other regulars and their dogs, especially Louis the corgi.
Dan and Mary camped, backpacked, and birdwatched, usually in the very late fall, throughout the northern U.S and Canada including Newfoundland , the Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park, Vancouver Island , and Alaska. In all of his travels there was no place Dan loved more than the big waves and breathtaking shorelines of Lake Superior, and he chose that as his final resting place.
Volumes could be written about Dan's youthful exploits with his brothers and his knack for clever letters and observations. His brothers treasure those memories of their beloved “Danno”.
Dan will be deeply missed by all who loved him. He is survived by his wife Mary, brothers William (Sue) of Fond Du Lac, Richard (Lori) of West Allis, Thomas (wife Lyn, now deceased) of New Prague MN, and John (Vickie) of Eland, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, and his sister Kathleen (Peter) Economou.
Per Dan's wishes there will be no funeral. Memorials are suggested to any humane society or conservation group of your choice or consider planting a tree in Dan's memory.
“Godspeed Danny, you are surrounded by our love forever and always. “
Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road Madison
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