Rhiel Funeral Home & Cremation Services Offering dignified services since 1919

Back to Obituaries

Donald J Kannel

Donald J Kannel

Donald James Kannel was born to eternal life on June 3, 2023, at home in Arkansaw, Wisconsin. He was a lifelong, devout Catholic, dairy farmer and baseball fan (in that order), and for his goodness and faith, he felt like the world’s oldest altar boy. 

Born April 28, 1939, Don was the fourth of eight children of Earl and Rosella (Gilles) Kannel. He grew up on a dairy farm on East Hill above Plum City and attended St. John the Baptist Catholic School. He graduated from Plum City High School in 1957 and later enlisted in the Army, where he learned rocket firing. He served in Germany for 18 months. 

Upon returning from the service, he married Jean (Black) Kannel at St. John’s in Plum City on December 29, 1962. He loved to tell how a very surprised Jean picked him up as he was hitchhiking home to Plum City when he returned from the Army. He had written letters to be mailed after he left Germany, so Jean and his family weren’t expecting him for nine more weeks. Legend has it that he had an engagement ring in his pocket that day! 

After marriage, Don and Jean farmed in Plum City, and later Don worked for Bob Lecander of Elmwood for six years, making a lifelong friend in the process. Bob’s generosity to him was a topic of well-loved stories. In 1971, Don and Jean and their children moved to Jean’s family farm above the Big Arkansaw Valley. There they farmed, for better or worse, until selling the cows in 2003 for a well-earned retirement and some delayed traveling to visit family.

Don was a loving father and friend to many. Throughout his adult life, he told (and retold!) stories of his younger years, a pleasure he retained long after dementia caused his memory to fail. He was a blood donor (16 gallons!) and an enthusiastic singer. Jean played organ and Don sang with her at church for more than 40 years. He was also a member of the American Legion Post #365 in Plum City and helped to serve fish frys every year during Lent. 

An avid sports fan, Don loved to tell that he had a .500 batting average as a high school senior! When there were cows to be milked, there was always a game on the radio. When the cows were gone, he finally got the chance to go to Madison for Badger basketball games and to Milwaukee to watch the Brewers.

Don is survived by his wife Jean; children Mary (Keith) Heavilin, Monica Cicci, Mark (Lynn Wolf) and Marcia; grandchildren Kayleigh (fiancée Lily Straus), Cole (fiancée Abi Hall), Noah Cicci and Maya Kannel; and great-granddaughter, Leo Straus. He is further survived by his brothers Marvin (Dell Jane), David (Phyllis) and Edward (Marjorie) Kannel; his sister, Mary Ellen (Dale) Nevalainen; Jean’s siblings and sister-in-law; and dozens of nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; in-laws Willard and Bernadine Black; siblings Kenneth Kannel, Steven Kannel and Virginia Webb, son-in-law George Cicci; and granddaughter Elizabeth Kannel.  

As Don lived with dementia, his daughter Marcia became his primary, live-in caregiver. Marcia filled his days with field trips, painting, shopping and many other enriching activities. Her family gratefully acknowledges the loving care she provided day and night so he could enjoy the best possible quality of life during his illness. In his last four months, he also had care from St. Croix Hospice at home.

The Kannels were assisted in so many kind ways by neighbors Jim Lieffring, Kelly Kallstrom and Brandon Hughes (along with the Hughes children Corbin, Charlie, Cooper and Caylee, who brought Don much pleasure with their friendship). Chris Keyes Winkler and Helen Keyes of Wheatfield Hill Farm in Durand showered him with kindness (and a kitten named Tiger), and Lori Klein became the family’s treasured respite caregiver and friend. Scott Black, Don’s nephew and neighbor, also lent his support generously. Thank you to everyone who visited and loved Don. May God bless all of you for your goodness and compassion. 

Rhiel Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Durand, is assisting the family. Friends are invited to a visitation at Rhiel’s in Durand on Sunday, June 11, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial and military honors are planned at St. Henry Catholic Church, Eau Galle, Wis., on Monday, June 12, at 11 a.m., with visitation for an hour before Mass.


  1. Brian & Norma Gabriel

    Sending you our deepest sympathies and condolences.

  2. Pat Petrie Kurth

    My condolences to the family. I remember Mary--one of my very smart and energetic 5th grade students. Hugs to you all

  3. Ed and Jean Fritz

    Monica, so sorry to learn of your dad’s passing. You and your family have our deepest sympathy.

  4. Susan Benjamin

    Don was a blessed father and friend to my dear friend Monica. I know they shared the love of baseball and family time. My heart goes out to the entire Kannel family in hopes Don’s memories will make you laugh, and probably cry, for years.

  5. Amy Ketterer

    What a man! What a life! What a legacy! I am so sorry for the family's loss - I truly hope that you can all find peace in the beautiful memories of such a wonderful human being. I hold deep gratitude for having known him! Sending love.

  6. Susan Hanson

    Ed sorry to read of your brother passing. My sympathy to you and all your family.

  7. Amanda Glaus

    I am sorry to hear of Don's passing. I enjoyed his singing and many compliments he gave at church. Praying that God gives you comfort at this difficult time.

  8. Patty and John Wayne

    Our Heartfelt Sympathy goes out to you and your family.
    Yes Don enjoyed his stories and he also was amazing with dates if I remember right. Always a joy to talk to.

  9. Malori Larson

    Sending my deepest sympathies to the Kannel family. Don was a great man and his kindness and amazing desserts will be remembered fondly.

  10. Judy and John Parr

    Sorry for your loss

  11. Joe and Jan Drier

    Jean and family, So very sorry to hear of Dons passing. Sending our Deepest Sympathy to you all!!

View More Posts ( # )