Obituary: Eric Thomas Cooley

April 30, 1971 ~ February 22, 2023

 Eric Thomas Cooley, age 51, died at home in Sturgeon Bay, on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, surrounded by his family.  He succumbed to pancreatic cancer after a courageous yearlong battle.

Eric was born on April 30, 1971, in Marquette, Michigan.  He is the son of Bonny (Bigge) Cooley and the late Dr. Thomas Cooley.  At the age of five, his family moved to Sturgeon Bay.  Eric attended Sevastopol Schools until his 11th year, at which time his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he graduated from DeForest High School. 

After graduating high school, Eric served his country for six years in the U.S. Navy, where he earned a Nuclear Engineering Technology Degree. Upon completion of his enlistment, he was honorably discharged from the US Navy with the Medal of Good Conduct.  Eric graduated from University of Wisconsin, Madison with a Bachelor of Soil Science and a Master of Soil Physics.

Eric returned to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, a place where he always thought of as home: surrounded with open waters, beautiful lands, and great friends and memories.

On January 31, 2009, Eric was united in marriage to Ashley Hagmann at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Sturgeon Bay.

Eric was the Director of UW-Discovery Farms where he was able to combine his passion for the outdoors with his passion for conservation and sustainability, through research and education.  His research and data articles are published in many science journals.

Eric was an avid outdoorsman who found peace and solace when he was part of nature; fishing on the lake and bay, hunting his lands and reveling in horticulture. He took pleasure in the years he served on the Board and ran the live weigh-in of the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament. He enjoyed wandering his lands for morels in the spring, asparagus in the summer, and hunting in the fall.  At most sundown’s, you’d find him tending his garden for strawberries, edamame, beans, various lettuces and much more. He took great pride in maintaining a well- manicured landscape.  He always had a major project or two in progress, whether it be installing a meticulous patio of pavers, configuring a flagstone fire pit, or rehabbing an old building.

Eric was the kindest man you’d ever know. He was selfless and humble. He was able to brighten any room and make anyone feel welcome. Forever an optimist.

Eric was a strong, brilliant, and caring man. A get-it-done right the first time, type of man.  He was a protector and a provider. He was an irreplaceable, adoring dad and a faithful, selfless husband. Eric truly led a joyous life full of spirited adventures. A genuine fun-loving guy. He loved and was loved by all.

Eric is survived by: his beloved wife, Ashley Hagmann Cooley; his two children, Finnegan and Rowan; his mother, Bonny Cooley; his sister, Colleen (Tim) Schmitz; his father and mother-in-law, Chuck and Leslie Hagmann; his brother-in-law, Laird (Ande) Hagmann; and several nieces, nephews, many aunts, uncles and cousins.

A memorial Mass of Christian Burial will be held for Eric on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sturgeon Bay at 11 am with Fr. Robert Stegmann as celebrant.  Military honors will be conducted by the United States Navy and the Weber-Tess AMVETS Post 51.  On Friday, March 3, 2023, visitation will be held from 4 pm – 8 pm at Huehns Funeral Home in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.  On Saturday, March 4, 2023, visitation will be from 9 am until the time of service at St. Joseph Catholic Church, in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.  

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Eric’s memory to DOOR CANcer Inc.

Burial will take place in Rockland, Michigan at a later date. 

“A special thanks to Unity Hospice for guiding us through Eric’s final journey, and to Green Bay Oncology along with Door County Cancer Center, and to our dear family and friends for the support given to Eric and our family.”