Cover photo for Donald D. Pfahler's Obituary
Donald D. Pfahler Profile Photo
1944 Donald 2024

Donald D. Pfahler

April 23, 1944 — April 29, 2024


Donald “Don” David Pfahler Jr., 80, of Madison, Wisconsin, passed away on April 29 after a valiant battle against Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).

Don was born on April 23rd, 1944 to Donald David Pfahler Sr. and Mae Genevieve Pfahler (nee Bevirt) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Don spent the first two years of his life living with his mother and maternal grandfather in Milwaukee, while his father was deployed to Europe, serving in WWII. He met his father for the first time in 1946 when Donald Sr. returned from war. Don’s early years were spent in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin where he was raised with his younger brother Dick and sister Jane.

The family moved to Madison in 1959 where Don attended Madison West High School, graduating in 1962. Don was a talented athlete and a varsity letter winner in football, basketball and baseball. He met several friends at West with whom he remained close for the rest of their lives, including Dale Johnson, Tim “TVG” Van Galder, Hank Cuccia and Brekke Johnson. High school reunions for decades included games of Euchre in Don’s backyard, often with their high school football coach Burt Hable, reminiscing and keeping each other laughing with their non-stop jokes and antics.

Don attended the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater and then the University of Wisconsin - Madison. There he played baseball and graduated in 1968. He continued his studies at Marquette University School of Dentistry, graduating in 1972 and becoming, as he often remarked, “A lonely warrior in the battle against tooth decay”.

After graduating from dental school, Don returned to Madison to start his dental career and raise his two children, Madelaine and Evan. He first practiced on Midvale Boulevard with Harris Keel and then founded Madison Family Dental Associates (MFDA) in 1981 with another Madison dentist, Ron Schmidt. Ron’s daughter Lori Veerman joined them in 1987. Ron retired in 1997 and Lori practiced alongside Don until he retired in 2008. Don was fortunate to work with two wonderful dental assistants for many years, Tammy Wise and Connie Flood, and with whom he remained close after his retirement. Don loved practicing dentistry and was a wonderful, kind dentist who could talk to and calm anyone who sat in his chair. He took great pride in his MFDA family and was known for his dedication to the business and the associates who made it successful. The best part of his job was always the people, his patients and his colleagues. His ability to remember details about everyone’s life, the names or careers of their children and spouse, where they last went on vacation, or some other detail was legendary. Of course, they were also the best audience for his non-stop jokes and practical jokes. (Who remembers his fake teeth that would come out at funniest moments?)

While many know that Don was indeed the real tooth fairy, he was so much more than that! He was a beloved father to his children, Madelaine and Evan, always supporting their various adventures and endeavors and providing them with absolute unconditional love. No matter where his children would go, Don was always visiting and exploring and encouraging them to find their own paths and further their interests. He exemplified the love and support that a father has for his children. He taught them that a sense of humor will get you through just about

anything, working hard feels great and gives you a true sense of accomplishment, an ice cold beer at the end of the day tastes great, an afternoon nap is one of the best pleasures in life, family and friends always come first, and you can never tell your child that you love him or her enough.

In 1995, with his children grown, Don met the love of his life, Linda Dawson. Don and Linda were a match made in heaven. They traveled frequently together and shared a passion for food, a highlight of which was a special “Big Night” dinner at Lombarino’s in Madison. When Don met Linda Dawson, he also met her wonderful young children, Sam and Emma. After a 24-year courtship, Don and Linda were finally married in 2019. Linda passed away from COPD in March 2021 with Don by her side…as he always was.

In addition to his family and career, Don loved sports. When he was a young dentist, he started playing tennis. He was a member of the John Powless Tennis Center and Cherokee Country Club where he regularly played tennis with Peter Karofsky and Jon Friedberg and collected victory trophies from local tournaments. He took a weekly tennis lesson with Pat Klingelhoets for decades and enjoyed supporting the Wisconsin Badgers Tennis Team at Nielsen Stadium. Although Don had a lifelong passion for tennis, he took up golf upon retirement and proved he was talented on the golf course too! He loved playing with Greg Samuels, took weekly golf lessons with Larry Tiziani at Cherokee, and got a thrill from hitting balls alongside Steve Stricker on occasion.

Don died peacefully at home, with Madelaine and Evan at his side, shortly after celebrating his 80th birthday. He was overjoyed to see his five grandchildren the weekend before he passed away as well as family and his dear friends who joined us to celebrate his milestone birthday. The love that was shown, the stories told, and the memories made those last weeks of his life meant so much to him and will be forever remembered by his children.

Don is survived by his adored children Madelaine (Chuck Saxon) Pfahler and Evan (Laura Lee) Pfahler, his stepchildren Sam Lundsten and Emma (Sam) Vincent, his cherished grandchildren Isabelle and Nic Saxon, Beckett, Brett, and Ellis Pfahler, his sister Jane (Dick) Hemberger and his Sister-in-Law Sandy Pfahler. Don is also survived by his beloved dog Archie who he and Linda adopted in 2018 and provided a loving home (and lots of treats) that any dog would cherish.

Don is also survived by his amazing friends Greg Samuels, Peter Karofsky, Jon Friedberg, Eddie Saur and the Breakfast Boyz, who met for breakfast and coffee every Wednesday, rain or shine, or Covid (when they met via Zoom) and more recently in Don’s living room. Their friendship over decades meant so much to Don and to his children. Their support when Linda was sick and more recently when he was sick has meant more than Madelaine and Evan can adequately express. They also proved to be an endless source of jokes.

Don was predeceased by his parents, his younger brother Dick, and his wife Linda Dawson.

Services will be held at Cress Funeral Home on June 8 at 10:00 AM. The family requests that those who love Don consider a donation to a worthy cause to “pay it forward in some meaningful way,” as his wife Linda said. The following organizations are suggested:

The PKD Foundation, PO Box 871847 Kansas City, MO 64187, []

Underdog Pet Rescue, 231 S. Fair Oaks Ave, Madison, WI 53704, []

Smiles for Life, 975 E. Woodoak Lane #200, Salt Lake City, UT 84117 (800) 276-9658, []

Gilda’s Club Madison, 7907 UW Health Court Middleton, WI 53562, (608) 828-8880, []

World Central Kitchen, 200 Massachusetts Ave NW, 7th Floor, Washington DC 20001, []

We welcome you to share your thoughts and memories on the Donald's Tribute Wall.

Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road
Madison, WI 53705
(608) 238-3434

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Memorial Service

Saturday, June 8, 2024

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

Cress Funeral & Cremation Service - Madison - West

3610 Speedway Rd, Madison, WI 53705

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