Artists, innovators, business leaders, a young serviceman. We look back at some of the notable people who died in 2021 and the marks they left. Click each name to read more about their life and legacy.
When a tragic explosion devastated Ellison Bay in July 2006, the one solace for the community was seeing Carol Newman emerge from the rubble of the Pioneer Store alive and intact. For 53 years, seven days a week, Newman kept the light on at the store – a touchstone for a small town in good times and bad. Newman died in October at age 83.
Bill Boettcher rose to prominence as the owner of Boettcher Automotive in Sturgeon Bay for more than 40 years, then parlayed that into making a difference in his community. He was active with the Sturgeon Bay Breakfast Rotary, Baileys Harbor and Sturgeon Bay Lions Clubs, Door County Community Foundation, and Boys & Girls Club of Door County. He was still sharing his golf knowledge until his last days, when he died in November at age 91.
The art scene lost one of its great mentors and most vibrant spirits when Franne Dickinson died at 94 in October. Margaret Lockwood described her as “the heart and soul of women artists in Door County” – a person who wasn’t content simply to make her own imprint, but also nurtured many in the future generations of peninsula creatives.
With his wife, Jane, Don Wienke turned a home garden into one of the most well-known businesses in Door County. Wienke’s Market became a must-stop for thousands of tourists in Southern Door County searching for canned goods, fruit and gifts. Wienke was 82 when he died in October.
A WWII veteran, Lester Berns returned home to Sister Bay after his discharge to help run Berns Brothers’ Lumber Company. After his wife died in 2011, he began playing piano in local bars and restaurants for tips and later donated all $18,000 of those tips to the Christian Services Fund of St. Joseph Catholic Church. Berns died at age 103 in September.
Hastings was 72 when he died in January – 25 years after he made a reputation for pushing boundaries and pushing buttons as the CEO of the Door County Chamber of Commerce. He fought to ban billboards, helped make the county a leader in digital travel marketing, launched the Festival of Blossoms and personally put up signs for the countywide bike route. He left the Chamber in 1997 to found the now-defunct Door County Magazine.
For 24 years, Don Buchholz and his wife, Louise, were the face of The Clearing Folk School, managing the organization from 1975 until 1999. He died in September at age 87.
Door County lost a pioneer of agritourism when Bob Lautenbach died in July at age 72. He created Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery and Market in Fish Creek, growing the business from a simple roadside farm stand into a tourist attraction of its own, and becoming a leading voice for the state’s fruit-growing industry.
In the buttoned-down, monochromatic village of Ephraim, Karsten Topelmann was a splash of bright color. Part of the wave of artists who came to the peninsula during the 1970s, he operated the Hanseatic Gallery with his wife, Ellen Sprogø-Topelmann, for 50 years. He put his brush down for the last time only days before he died in February at age 91.
A distinguished journalist, poet and teacher, Tom Torinus was a wise voice and mentor to many in Door County. He served as a reporter, editorial-page writer and editor, and later as news director and general manager of Channel 11 in Green Bay. In retirement, he was a leader for the Door County Community Foundation. He was 82 when he died in January with his wife, Mary.
A native of Forestville, Butch Jacques was known to nearly anyone involved in youth athletics in northeastern Wisconsin, where he spent more than 30 years as one of the most respected high school officials in the state. He was 81 when he died in June.
Tim Fuerst spent nearly 30 years with the Door County Sheriff’s Office before he died at age 55 in June. He was known for his compassion and community relationships and his love of coaching youth sports, particularly baseball.
Philanthropist Bill Guenzel was a quiet supporter of causes and organizations spanning the spectrum. The man who shunned the limelight was a driving force or contributor to Write On, Door County; Peninsula School of Art; Sturgeon Bay Skate Park; and many other organizations. He died in May at age 74.
In 1980, Robert Pence returned to Door County and opened his first gallery in Ephraim. After several years, he relocated to Egg Harbor, where he ran a very successful gallery for 20 years. He was 84 when he died in March.
For decades, Donna Jorns welcomed customers to Jorns’ Sugar Bush, the small cabin next to the farmhouse in the woods that she shared with her husband, Roland. There, she sold their famous maple syrup, harvested from the trees on the farm, with a healthy dose of conversation. She died in April at age 87.
U.S. Air Force Sergeant Will Gonzales, age 26, died in a motorcycle crash in March while serving in the 36th Security Forces Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Known for his broad smile and love of life, he was a 2013 graduate of Gibraltar High School.
A nonstop storyteller, John Kenneavy made his mark on Sister Bay as the owner of Kenneavy’s Kitchen for nearly 20 years. The Korean War veteran also served as a teacher at Gibraltar School and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and as a volunteer for several community organizations. He died in February in Port Charlotte, Florida, at age 74.
When Cy Turnbladh opened Hands On Art School in an old farm on Peninsula Players Road, he aimed to make art accessible and fun. But he also created a destination for families, couples and friends who went to paint pottery, create in many other media and flex a bit of artistic muscle. He was 68 when he died in February.