Donald Lee Roetter was born in Sauk Centre, Minn., June 19, 1937. He passed away Friday, July 28, 2017.
He grew up in many cities but considered Minnesota his home state. His parents, Herbert and Edith (Heath) Roetter, raised him with two sisters, Betty and Ruth (Conley), and a foster sister, Sharon (Waddell).
He graduated from Patrick Henry High School, Minneapolis, in 1955 and immediately enrolled in the U.S. Navy. Don spent his 18th birthday at boot camp and after two years, 11 months and 13 days, was honorably discharged. The places he visited when he was deployed on the U.S.S. Denebola-including the Arctic Circle, Spain, Italy, Lebanon, Gibraltar and Morocco-instilled a sense of wonder and adventure that he passed on to his children. After discharge, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, and fulfilled his dream of becoming a physical education teacher and coach when he graduated in December 1963. While at UW-L, he used the skills learned as a Navy corpsman and worked as an orderly at La Crosse Hospital. There he met the love of his life, Jean McHenry.
Jean and Don were married May 23, 1964, and had four children. He taught physical education and at various times, coached football, basketball, and track and field at school districts in Adams-Friendship, Melrose-Mindoro, and Whitehall, Wis. In May 1972, he earned a Masters of education from Winona State University and completed his thesis on integrating children of all abilities into physical education classes, which was a novel idea at that time.
Don was a talented woodworker, designing furniture and art pieces. He loved fly-fishing and tied his own flies; he enjoyed camping, hiking, marches by John Phillip Sousa, and was always the first to volunteer when something was needed in the community. Don was a devout Catholic and a proud member of the Knights of Columbus.
Don is survived by his wife, Jean; his children Dawn, Theresa (Mark McColloch), Andrew (Kellie), and Nicole (Jeffery) Roetter Gresback; his grandchildren, Ashley Roetter, Jasper Roetter Gresback, and Luca Roetter Gresback.
Visitation services to honor Don’s life will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. with rosary at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2, at Schumacher Kish Funeral Home, 200 West Ave. S., La Crosse. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 3, at St. Kevin’s Catholic Church, Melrose, with visitation before Mass beginning at 9:30 a.m. After lunch at St. Kevin’s, burial will follow with full military honors at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Winona, Minn.
Memorials to honor Don’s life can be made to the UW-L Foundation to support the University’s Track & Field program, (please note Don’s name in the memo line), PO Box 1148, La Crosse, Wis., 54602-1148.