Donald F Gatz, 84, retired from this life to be with his Heavenly Father, on April 30th, 2023. A memorial service will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church, Arcadia, at 11AM on July 31st, followed by a meal in the fellowship hall. A private burial will be held at Pilgrim Home Cemetery, on Glover’s Lake Road, in Arcadia, MI.
Donald was known to all as a birder, the quiet rock behind [his wife] Joanne, or the man who wouldn’t play bridge, but actually did before all was said and done, but most important of all, a dedicated Christian and follower of Christ.
Don was often the silent partner in the background to his wife Joanne who had a tendency to “use all her words” during each day, but if you got Don alone during a party, he always had quick wit and a good story to tell. His gentle spirit and quick wit, accompanied by that ever-present twinkle in his eye, were a lovely combination.
Don was a volunteer AARP tax preparer for the elderly and low income during his years in Arizona. He also volunteered as a birding guide at Patagonia Lake State Park. Don and Joanne traveled around the southwest hiking with their Leki walking sticks and keeping their eyes open for birds he’d never seen. Don shared his love of birds by leading numerous “bird-walks” during the summer season at Camp Arcadia.
Don was born to Vernon and Everly Gatz in Berwyn, IL, in September of 1938. Don was the oldest son, followed 3.5 years later by his brother Dale. Don graduated from Sterling J. Morton high school. He later majored in Chemistry at Valparaiso University, where he was introduced to his future wife, Joanne Burgasser, by Barb Wolkenstein, a Valpo friend of Joanne’s, and graduated in 1960. He and Joanne were married in 1961. Don obtained his masters and a PHD in meteorology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Both his children were born during this time. He was then employed as a meteorologist for Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL from 1968 until 1972. During this time the Gatz family lived in Naperville and built lifelong friendships that introduced them to Camp Arcadia in northern Michigan, a Lutheran family retreat on the shores of Lake Michigan. Don and Joanne eventually bought a “lot” in the Camp Arcadia Cottage Colony, and built a retirement home lovingly called “the cottage.”
Don spent a majority of his life in Urbana, IL, attending Trinity Lutheran Church where he was an elder and taught confirmation for many years. During this time, he worked for the University of Illinois and the State of Illinois at the Illinois State Water Survey as an atmospheric scientist and researcher studying acid rain. He retired in 1999.
Don and Joanne then became part of the flock of snowbirds that migrated south for the winter splitting their time between Michigan and Arizona.
The last six years of his life Don lived at Beacon Hill, a lovely retirement community in Grand Rapids, MI. Joanne lived with him for a very short time there, moving to the Memory Care unit shortly after their move. During his years at Beacon Hill, he wrote hundreds of cards for shut-ins, that were delivered through Meals on Wheels. Everyone who met Don thought highly of him and described him as a kind and gentle man.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:17
To send flowers
to the family or plant a tree
in memory of Donald Fred Gatz, please visit our floral store.