Donald “Don” Maurice Elsing

Donald “Don” Maurice Elsing, 80, passed away from colon cancer on Dec. 27, 2017, at his home in Cornell, Mich., surrounded by those who treasured him.

Don was born April 5, 1937, in Kendall, the son of Maurice and Dorothy (Hansen) Elsing. He was raised in Kendall and graduated from Kendall High School in 1955. In 1958, Don enlisted in the United States Marine Corp and served his country proudly from 1958 to 1960. Don graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1994, and on June 15, 1968, he was united in marriage to Phyllis Sterk in De Pere, Wis.

For Don, there were never enough hours in the day, nor days in his lifetime. Don died as he lived: bravely and on his own terms, squeezing every last bit of life from his body. 

Don took enormous pride and satisfaction in his work as a wildlife biologist. His career with the Forest Service was spent on the Shawnee and the Superior, and on the Hiawatha until his retirement in 1993.

But Don never really retired, carrying his passion for management of habitat and wildlife with him until his last days. His biologist skills were first rate, and he prided himself on being a field biologist, providing outstanding wildlife management science to decision makers and never fearing to speak truth to power.

He inspired many resource managers, nurturing a passion about wildlife in those around him. He was particularly proud of the role he played in overseeing the recovery of numerous wildlife species in the UP, including the bald eagle and the Sandhill crane.

He also developed the management guidelines, many of which are still in use today, for several hundred wildlife species on the forest.

If indeed God treasures all creatures great and small, Don is in heaven now, assessing the habitat conditions of the ever after and getting acquainted with wildlife species new to him, like the ivory-billed woodpecker, passenger pigeon and perhaps even the dinosaurs!

Don never rested. He was always in the midst of one or several projects and planning for the next. His game-management skills also included harvesting: he was an avid hunter, angler and trapper, traveling the country and the world.

After Don retired, his focus turned from work to his family. In the last month of his life, his energy turned to recording many of the stories and life lessons from his life for his grandkids, hoping to continue to nurture and teach them after his death.

Although proud of his wildlife management legacy, his most important legacy was his family: his wife of 49 years, Phyllis; his two daughters, Dr. Erica (Jeff) Stevens of Rockford, Mich., and Julie Winkelbauer of Rock, Mich.; his grandchildren, Cheveney and Landri Koski and Mara and Logan Stevens; his brother, John Elsing of Kendall; and a few nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was preceded in death by his parents; Julie’s husband, Scott Winkelbauer; and John’s wife, Dorothy “Dort” Elsing.

The Elsing family will receive friends from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, at Faith Lutheran Church in Rock, Mich. Military honors will be presented by the Rock American Legion Post 559 at 12:45 p.m. Memorial services will follow at 1 p.m., with Pastor Rell Spickerman officiating. A luncheon will follow in the fellowship hall.

Memorial services also will be held at the Fountain Lutheran Church and Cemetery in Kendall in the spring.

The family is enormously grateful to UP Home Health and Hospice for its care and sincerely thanks Don’s many friends for their visits, calls and letters.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Don’s name can be directed to the charity of the donor’s choice.

All of us who were blessed to know Don will remember him for the impact he left upon this world as well as upon ourselves. The family welcomes any memories about Don, and they can be shared at

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