Obituary: Donald Stoffel

Donald Stoffel

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” —Winston Churchill

Donald L. Stoffel, 88, of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, and formerly of Hayward, was born March 24, 1932, and died peacefully Feb. 23, 2021, at Agrace Hospice Center in Fitchburg.

Don was born to Peter M. and Thelma J. Stoffel in Galesburg, Illinois, where he grew up with an “idyllic childhood” with his friends Ron Pearson and DD Cox. Don graduated from Galesburg High School and attended Knox College, graduating in 1954 with a degree in political science and as a member of Phi Gamma Delta, Pi Sigma Alpha and Scabbard and Blade. After serving as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army in Germany for two years, he entered the University of Michigan Law School, where he met his future wife, (Helen) Jane Trackler, who was a student in the school of nursing. They were married in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, in 1959.

After receiving his law degree, Don and Jane returned to Galesburg, where he practiced private law until 1974, when he became Knox County’s first full-time public defender. In 1989, he was appointed to the bench as an associate judge. Don and Jane enjoyed a wonderful group of relatives, friends and colleagues in Galesburg. Don was active in community affairs in Galesburg, having served as a member of the Galesburg City Council and the city’s Board of Local Improvements. He served as chairman of the Pioneer District of Boy Scouts, was a member of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony Board, and was a past-president of the Knox County Bar Association. He served as an assistant Illinois attorney general and as a hearing officer for the Illinois secretary of state.

He and Jane retired full-time to Hayward in 1994, where they had a summer cottage for 20 years. They relished their time on Round Lake, and also immensely enjoyed their Hayward area friends. He was a member of the Hayward Area Rotary Club, becoming a Paul Harris Fellow. He was an active member of the Hayward United Methodist Church, having been a Lay Leader and Administrative Council member. Don moved to Madison in 2014 to be closer to his daughter.

Don was one of the most intelligent and articulate of men, always ready with an obscure but meaningful bit of history or experience which he could fit into any conversation. His sense of humor and ability to set up a joke were legendary. His family and friends remember him as a man who mentored others, gently leading by example, whether teaching sports and skills to his kids, or teaching other young lawyers the skills of the profession. He was well-respected for his legal acumen. He was pleasant and liked by all who met him and endeared himself to those who cared for him in his later months.

Don is survived by his daughter, Dr. Mary Stoffel and her husband (son #4!) Rich Novotney of Madison; his son, Rob and wife Janet of Indianapolis, Indiana; his son, Dan and wife Jenna Sellers of Flagstaff, Arizona; and his son, Lt. Col. (Ret) Rick and wife Donna of Sequim, Washington. He is also survived by grandchildren, Sam and Eva Marley of Madison, Dr. Jenna Stoffel of Richmond, Washington, and Max and Abby Stoffel of Sequim. He was proud of every single one of his descendants. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Lynn and her brother, Dick, along with several caring nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Jane, in 2011, his parents, and his sister, Alice Anderson.

Don enjoyed watching sports (especially college football), old classic movies, The Three Stooges, all things U of Michigan, listening to Stan Kenton and his Orchestra, jazz (really LOUD), classical music, reading history (especially Civil War and World War II) and non-fiction books, traveling, fishing, happy hours with gin on the rocks with an olive, his many beloved pets, and especially spending time with his family . . . where he would regale them with stories that inevitably turned into something funny before you knew what hit you. He was well-loved, and will be sadly missed. He was never a perfect man, but those perfect people are never very interesting!

The family wishes to thank all of Don and Jane’s friends in Galesburg from their earlier years, their friends in the Hayward area from their later years, their extended family members who have given great support and friendship, the staff at Coventry Village, Dr. Tom Casper for his wise and compassionate care, UPH-Meriter Hospital and Agrace Hospice for a peaceful ending to a well-lived long life.

At this time, there will be no immediate service due to restrictions and safety with the pandemic, but consideration for a Celebration of Life in the spring or summer at a location to be determined later (we will re-post a notice). Memorials in Don’s name can be made to the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (, Northwoods Humane Society (, Hayward United Methodist Church (, Knox College (, Southern Poverty Law Center (www.splcenterorg) or Agrace Hospice (


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