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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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November 23, 2020

10/20/2020 7:30:00 AM
Donald Kichefski

Donald Kichefski passed away in Rhinelander on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020 after battling Parkinson's disease.

He is survived by his wife, Juanita (nee Spafford); his children: Donna (William) Woodward of Ashland, Joseph (Sonia) Kichefski of Volant, Pa.; Tammie (Roger) Grimmage, of La Reoulx, Belgium; Conrad of Minneapolis, Minn.; Anita of Madison; his brother, Kenneth of Rhinelander; his beloved grandchildren: Stephanie (Jeff) Zuech of North Canton, Ohio; Stacy Woodward of Madison; Kyle (Melissa) Kichefski of Rochester, N.Y.; Gavin Kichefski of Volant, Pa.; Jacob Grimmage of Eglin AFB, Fla.; Tessia Grimmage of Baraboo; and great-grandchildren: Emma, Matthew, and Isabelle.

He is preceded in death by his daughter, Sandra Lee Steiner; his brothers: Edward and James; his sister, Evelyn Udovich; his parents, Andrew and Ella Kichefski.

Don was born in 1929 in Rhinelander and raised on a dairy farm. He is a 1946 graduate of Rhinelander High School.

Don and Juanita were married on June 4, 1949 in Rhinelander.

In 1951, Don began working for the Wisconsin Potato Breeding program. After graduating from the Farm Short Course at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at UW-Madison, Don managed the UW Agricultural Research Station near Starks for nearly 40 years.

He was involved in the breeding and development of several top-selling potato varieties.

He was also responsible for Wisconsin's participation in the North Central Regional potato trials where sample potato varieties were exchanged and tested among several participating states.

He was well respected and oft cited in doctoral theses by UW-Madison graduate students from around the world.

He retired from the UW Agricultural Research Station in 1991 and worked at the Frito-Lay potato breeding facility near Starks.

In 1996 Kichefski was named as an honorary life member of the Potato Association of America.

After retiring, Don and Juanita often traveled to visit their children and grandchildren.

He especially liked Topsail Island, N.C.; and spending Christmases with his grandchildren in England.

Don sang in the Nicolet Male Chorus for over 40 years - starting in 1956.

He was a member of the First Congregational Church, UCC, where he sang in the choir and volunteered at the food pantry.

Don was also a volunteer firefighter for many years in the town of Stella.

Due to COVID-19, services will be postponed until a later date. You may leave your private condolences for the Kichefski family at

The family requests that memorials be made to the Parkinson's Foundation (

The Carlson Funeral Home (715-369-1414) is serving the Kichefski family.

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Article comment by: Mike Mangerson

I've had the privilege to work with Don for many years with my prison crew from McNaughton. Don was not only focused on the daily harvest, but was also a friend and mentor to the many inmates he met.

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