Steven Richard Dowling, 56, the oldest child of Forrest and Linda Dowling died Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, at Gundersen Health System from the ravages and complications of alcoholism.
He had worked and struggled so hard for so long to overcome this disease.
Steve was such a happy, loving little boy bringing joy to so many. Steve attended elementary schools in Middleton, Crestwood (and summer baseball), Newtown, Conn., Wheatland and Waubonsie Valley Middle School in Naperville, Ill. While an 8th grader at Waubonsie, he participated in the science fair with the construction of a model convection cell. He advanced from the local to the regional, to the state level with this project. He also began trombone lessons at Waubonsie and participated in the music programs. Steve was an avid highly skilled wrestler from the time he began wrestling in middle school and continued throughout his high school years.
After graduating from Waubonsie, his family moved to Westby. Steve graduated from Westby High School in 1981. While in high school he participated in wrestling, band, FFA and 4-H. He was always interested in learning and working on something new. He was member of Dell United Methodist Church, attending Sunday school and singing in the choir. He loved being on the farm and helping his little brothers, as they began riding horses, playing in the woods and then as their home coach as they became wrestlers.
After graduation, he attended college at UW River Falls, Wis. He participated in the rodeo club and worked part time while in college. He took a farrier course and enjoyed the horse shoeing and trimming he learned to do and later began his own farrier business.
He graduated from UW River Falls with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture with a major in animal science and a minor in chemistry, in 1986. He then moved to California, to attend graduate school and earned a Master of Science in agriculture-animal science from Fresno State University, in 1988. He then managed Zacky Farms Turkey Hatchery in Fresno, until he accepted a teaching position at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D. While there he became a certified EMT. He loved teaching and felt it to be his true calling. He left Watertown to become a county agent in Yakima, Wash., and later in Frankfort, Ind. He always said he should have stayed at Lake Area as a teacher. He truly enjoyed the students and teaching and while there was the rodeo coach for their rodeo team.
He moved back to Wisconsin, to further his education at UW La Crosse. During that time, he realized his issue with alcohol and started counseling and attending AA. While at UWL he worked at Wettsteins and Badger Corrugating Company in La Crosse. He then moved back to Westby, where he worked at Leer Hardwoods, Accelerated Genetics, Norseland Nursing Home as a CNA, and most recently at Tractor Supply Company in Viroqua. He had a strong work ethic and always hoped he could return to teaching.
As a youngster, Steve and his sister, Tricia, spent many wonderful summers with their grandparents, Hazel and Willard Erlandson, on their farm outside Westby. Steve learned to cultivate tobacco on the “G” from his grandpa and they learned about horses from their Aunt Susan, Uncle David and Grandpa. They so enjoyed the farm work, caring for the animals and hauling hay. Nobody ever cooked like his grandma Hazel. He, Tricia and the Ellefson cousins had hours of enjoyment with Grandpa and Grandma on their farm.
Steve loved country western music and also enjoyed old time dancing, polkas, waltzing and schottisches, taught to him by his grandma and grandpa. He and his mother would “hop waltz” and he even taught her line dancing.
He is survived by his parents, Linda and Forrest; sister, Tricia; brothers, Jake (Julie) and Ben (Seung- Eun Lee); uncles, David and Stan (Barb); aunts, Susan (Julie), Doris; nephew, Justin Midtlien; special friend of many years, Jean Hass; and many other dear cousins and relatives. He will be sorely missed by them all. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Hazel and Willard and Freda and Emil Dowling; his uncles, Bud Jr. and Tom; and aunts, June, Joanne and Helen.
These last several years, Steve has struggled so with alcoholism. He repeatedly told his mother that “nobody ever wants to be like this.” Steve was a very loving, caring son with so much goodness in his heart. Our hearts are breaking, but we know that he now has the peace that he prayed for and was seeking.
The family would like to thank Unity House, Casey and the other counselors, who gave us back the old Steve the last few weeks and also the staff of ICU and sixth floor of Gundersen for their wonderful, compassionate care in his last two days. Thank you to his friend, Neil, who never gave up on him and to Jordan who brought him to a safe place.
Memorials may be directed to Gundersen Unity House, La Crosse; or to the Fine Arts Foundation of the Westby Area.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Dell United Methodist Church. Friends may call from 4 to 6 p.m. today, Nov. 30, at the Vosseteig Funeral Home in Westby. Friends may also call from 10 a.m. till the time of service.
Online condolences may be offered at www.VossFH.com.
The Vosseteig Funeral Home of Westby is serving the family.