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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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October 19, 2021

10/17/2013 7:30:00 AM
David H. Dawson

David H. Dawson died Oct. 13, 2013 in Wausau after 94 years of excellent health and vitality. He was born Sept. 21, 1919 in Brillion, the son of George and Mabel (Stewart) Dawson.

He graduated from Brillion High School in 1937. He was a superb athlete and set a state track record in the 880 yard run which held for many years. After high school, he served in the Civilian Conservation Corps, developing a lifelong passion for forestry and conservation.

He enlisted in the Army in May of 1941, attended officer training school at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and was personally selected for the First Ranger Battalion by Colonel Darby. Dawson bravely served in World War II, participating in the invasion at Anzio in Italy as well as serving under General Patton in North Africa. He remained in Europe until the close of World War II, having been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for Valor, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and a Presidential Unit Citation. He carried his wartime experiences throughout his lifetime and often reminded family and friends, "Freedom isn't free."

In 1949 Dave received a bachelor's degree in forestry from Michigan State University and in 1976 received a Ph.D., also in forestry, from the same school.

On May 6, 1950, he married Minka Anne Hofstra in Cadillac, Mich.

He had a distinguished career, serving in the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, and the U.S. Forest Service at Rhinelander's Institute of Forest Genetics. Subsequently, he served as a consultant to the Biomass Program and the Environmental Sciences Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In the 1980s, he was appointed to represent the United States on the International Energy Agency Task Force on Biofuels. In 1984 he led the American Intensive Forestry Task Force to India twice in projects designed to identify woody plants which could serve as cooking fuel.

He was a member of the Northwoods Land Trust and recently had arranged to have his beautiful river property placed in trust for permanent conservation. He was an active layperson at the First Congregational Church UCC in Rhinelander where he served in a variety of leadership roles.

Dave had a keen interest in New Orleans jazz. Throughout his adult life, he played the tenor banjo in a variety of ensembles, most notably the Heritage Jazz Band of Rhinelander. In his younger days, he had played with the noted Coon Sander's band in Chicago.

Among Dave's greatest pleasures has been his longstanding tradition of daily walks in the woods with his dog, most recently Katie, his beloved Gordon Setter.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Minka; four children, Jennifer Dawson and her husband James Martin, Dean Dawson and his wife Susannah Rankin, Cary Polakowski and her husband John Polakowski, and Cecily Dawson; grandchildren, Rebecca Gehrke, Elizabeth Martin (Ian) Cliffe, Melissa (Cris) Nash, Andrew (Amy) Martin, Timothy Gehrke, Johnathan Mayer, Iozi Belongea, Gabi Belongea, Zeke Dawson and Grady Dawson; three step-grandchildren, Cindy Polakowski, Becky Hendricks and Lori Reblin; and nine great-grandchildren, Gwen, Tyler, Maggie, Alice, Claire, Sam, Annika, Haylee and Brook.

He was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers, Stewart and Ivan Dawson; a sister, Jean Dawson; and two infant daughters.

A Service of Thanksgiving for his life will be held at the First Congregational UCC of Rhinelander on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 11 a.m. with visitation to precede the service from 9 to 11 a.m. Officiants will be the Rev. Chris Hucker, the Rev. Jennifer Dawson, and the Rev. James Martin.

In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, the family requests memorials to the First Congregational Church UCC or the Northwoods Land Trust.

Carlson Funeral Home (715-369-1414) is assisting the Dawson family with arrangements and condolences may be forwarded at

Related Links:
• The Carlson Funeral Home

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