Harvey Malzahn, Former Town and County Chair, Dies at 86

For Harvey Malzahn, community service was a way of life. The former chair of the Door County Board and Gibraltar Town Board died July 30 at age 86.

Malzahn pushed hard to implement recycling programs as a member of municipal government and as a charter member of the Door County Environmental Council. He served on the Door County Board of Supervisors for 16 years, including six years as its chair, and served as Door County highway commissioner for 10 years.

But his community involvement didn’t end with elected office or appointments. Malzahn facilitated the building of St. Paul’s church –  now Stella Maris Parish in Fish Creek – where he was a life member and treasurer. He was also a member of the Baileys Harbor Knights of Columbus as a 3rd Degree Knight and a 50-year member of the Egg Harbor Lions Club. Malzahn was a life member of the American Legion and a charter member of the Peninsula Gun Club.

When he wasn’t filling those roles, Malzahn was a well-respected painter and wallpaper professional who learned the trade from his father and took over the family business. 

As a town and county leader, he was known as a diplomat who “pushed, but pushed intelligently,” remembered longtime friend Bill Bertschinger. “I don’t recall anyone ever saying, ‘That damn Malzahn!’”

Bertschinger and Malzahn – along with friends Pat Spielman, Gordy Nevins and Cliff Ehlers – met for fish fries most Fridays for 40 years as the “Friday Night Group.” He also kept tabs on the county with longtime Door County Sheriff Hollis “Baldy” Bridenhagen and reveled in the stories of characters such as Freddie Kodanko and Coony Fish. 

Malzahn was born Sept. 14, 1933, above the old Peninsula Pub in Baileys Harbor and graduated in 1951 from Gibraltar High School, where he was a talented athlete. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served from 1952 until 1955 in the 82nd Airborne, with stops at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before returning to Fish Creek.

He married Evonne Sandell in 1955, and together they had three daughters. After she died in an automobile accident Jan. 1, 1966, Malzahn was left with three daughters to raise alone. On Aug. 25, 1978, he married Barbara Stephenson in Fish Creek.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara; daughters, Diane Jarman Vandermuse, Denise (Gary) Harmann of Algoma, Debbra MacDonald of Valmy; stepdaughter, Kristine (Scott) Schuetze of Green Bay; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Malzahn was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Evonne; two sisters, Marion Schultz and Mildred Hachey; and son-in-law, William MacDonald.

A service will be held Tuesday, Aug. 25, 1 pm, at Stella Maris Parish in Fish Creek, with military honors to follow before Malzahn is buried at Blossomberg Cemetery.