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Remembering Accounting Professor Don Etnier

Donald E. Etnier, 79, died Monday, February 2, 2015 at home surrounded by family. He died of metastatic prostate cancer and dementia.  

Don was born July 17, 1935 in St. Cloud, MN to Raymond E. and Alice L. (Steindorf) Etnier. He grew up in Watertown, MN. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1956 and joined the U.S. Army for two years. Upon returning to the University of Minnesota for a master's degree, he met the love of his life, Janet L. Pearson, and they married on September 11, 1960 in Story City, IA. 

In the master's program, Don also discovered his love of teaching. After completing his CPA by working three years at a Big 8 accounting firm, he devoted his professional life to college students. He began at Arkansas State University in 1963 and in 1966 moved to the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire (UWEC), where he was an accounting faculty member in the new School of Business. In 1986, he was awarded the UWEC Excellence in Teaching award.  Don also taught at Sophia University in Tokyo, the University of Southern Denmark, and—after retirement from UWEC in 1994—at the University of Maryland's campuses on U.S. military bases in Germany and at California Lutheran University. Students across the decades have remarked at how Don taught accounting principles so clearly—and filled the classrooms with laughter. He was also active in state and local accounting organizations. 

Don volunteered frequently in the community. While he moved across the political spectrum from being an Eisenhower Republican to a Joe Bee Xiong/Obama Democrat, he donated his time and skills to many non-partisan organizations including First Lutheran Church and the Ager Association. After working with college students, he took great pleasure reading with and to first- and second-grade students at Lakeshore School for 17 years. 

Don's jokes and sense of humor were legendary. He delighted in practical jokes that didn't hurt anyone. 

In his personal life, he enjoyed travel—to six of the seven continents and to all 50 states—skiing, hiking, gaming, running, camping, canoeing, baseball, and singing. But nothing compared when, at 74, he was blessed with the first of two grandchildren, Easton Donald , followed by Raya Louise. Little did he realize the best name was Bestefar ("grandfather" in Norwegian). He delighted in reading and roughhousing with them. 

At the end, when he often could no longer find the words to express anything else, Don could still say "thank you" to those around him—and did so frequently. He showed kindness and graciousness to all he met. 

Don is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jan Etnier; children Carlton M. Etnier of East Montpelier, VT and Lynn L. Becher-Etnier with daughter-in-law Lisa Becher-Etnier of Madison, WI; grandchildren, Easton and Raya Becher-Etnier; brother and sister-in-law David A. Etnier and Elizabeth L. (Lewis) Etnier, of Knoxville, TN; sister-in-law Mary (Pearson) Hoff of Northfield, MN; and five nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by brother-in-law Jerome P. Hoff of Northfield, MN. 

A memorial service will be held July 18 at First Lutheran Church, 105 Oxford Avenue, Eau Claire, WI. A visitation will be held from 9:30-11 am with a service to follow at 11 am. Don has donated his body to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine for anatomy instruction; he will continue teaching, even in death. 

In lieu of flowers, please send any memorial donations to the First Lutheran Church Malawi Medical Clinic Project, 1005 Oxford Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54703; Beaver Creek Reserve, S1 County Road K, Fall Creek, WI 54742; or the Don Etnier Memorial Fund at the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, 115 Garfield Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701. 

Submitted by the family