Donald K. Parker

Donald K. Parker, age 87, of Tomahawk, passed away on Monday, April 29, 2024, at Aspirus Howard Young Hospital in Woodruff, Wis. Don was born on Oct. 24, 1936, in the Village of West Milwaukee, Wis., to the late Donald and Frances (Sidoff) Parker. He was married to Jean Altenbach on May 16, 1962; she passed away in 1996.

Don’s family moved to Rhinelander, Wis., in 1946 where he attended St. Mary’s Grade School. The family then moved to Markesan, Wis., to oversee family holdings after his grandfather passed away. Don attended Markesan Junior High School from 1948 to 1950. In 1951, Don and his family moved to Phelps, Wis., a place that he loved and always considered his hometown. Don was a 1955 graduate of the Phelps High School where he played basketball and baseball and also participated in many other school activities.

Don retired in 1995 from the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office after serving for 15 years as a Criminal Investigator. Prior to that, he worked as a Narcotics Investigator with the Racine County Sheriff’s Department and served stints with the Waterford Township Police Department, the Laona Police Department, and the Palmyra Police Department. Don also served as a Criminal Defense Consultant for the Mole Lake Indian Reservation after his retirement.

Don served for three terms as the Town Chairman for the Town of Phelps in the 1990s and as Chairman of the Board of Review for eight years. He also served on the Vilas County Commission for Aging. In addition, he was a transportation volunteer for the Vilas County Veterans Office. In 2013, Don returned to the Tomahawk area to be closer to family. He was an avid sportsman who enjoyed fishing, hunting, and trapping in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Don also loved pheasant hunting in South Dakota. His true passion was fly fishing for trout, especially in the Nicolet and Ottawa National Forests, which he pursued right up to the end of his life.

Survivors include his children, Kathryn Zernach, of Tomahawk, Brenda (Dusty) Thompson, of Spring Green, Wis., Susan (Greg) Ayres, of Tucson, Ariz., and Patricia (Steve) Reif, of Wausau, Wis.; his stepchildren, Linda (Thomas) Seitz, of Union Grove, Wis., and Steven (Cheryl) Neuwald, of Greendale, Wis.; and his sister, Nancy (William) Strand, of Edmonton, Canada. Don shared a special relationship with his grandson, Derek (Anne) Zernach, and his great-grandchildren, Viviann and Lawrence. He is further survived by his grandchildren, Veda Valek and Gregory Valek, and his extended family members, including additional grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.

Don was preceded in death by his parents, Donald and Frances; his wife, Jean; his son-in-law, Steven Zernach; his stepson, Daniel Neuwald; and his sister, Jeanne Ray.

The family wishes to thank Aspirus Comfort Care & Hospice and the staff at Aspirus Seasons of Life Hospice House for their exceptional and compassionate care.

In accordance with Don’s wishes, no formal services will be held. His final resting place will be at the Phelps Cemetery. Generations Funeral Home & Crematory is assisting the family. You may view Don’s obituary and leave online condolences at

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