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Valley of the Sun Mortuary and Cemetery

10940 East Chandler Heights Rd, Chandler, AZ

OBITUARY

Donald Joseph Waldvogel

July 29, 1941November 26, 2019
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Donald Joseph Waldvogel was born in Antigo, Wisconsin to a poor farming family. His 3 older sisters were already adults starting their own families when he arrived. Life on the farm instilled his a strong work ethic where he worked side by side with his Father and later his younger brother. Donald was a lifelong educator earning both his bachelors and master’s degrees. He taught high school Physics, Chemistry and early in his career Math in New London, Wisconsin for over 30 years and was one of the most popular teachers with students often coming to visit his classroom just to talk. As a result of his humble childhood, he had very simple tastes enjoying a bacon cheese burger and onion rings more than a fine steak. He had a sweet tooth savoring desserts of all kinds especially if they contained chocolate. He met his beautiful and loving wife Deborah who was also a Science teacher when they were both teaching school in Wisconsin. They were married in Sedona, Arizona enjoying 21 years of a very special marriage together. He adored her- she was the center of his universe and she loved him deeply in return. Don took wonderful care of his family. Together they raised Deborah’s 2 children. He had 2 adopted children by a previous marriage and has 4 grandchildren. He led a very full active life. He loved to explore the world with Deborah, visiting 40 countries around the globe. People enjoyed being around Don. He was genuine and kind and was known for his quick wit and sense of humor. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2006 and managed the disease amazingly for the first 10 years with a positive attitude and healthy lifestyle. He was under Hospice care for 1 year as his condition declined, but was able to remain at home until his passing on November, 26, 2019. A funeral mass and reception celebrating his life took place on December 4, 2019 at St Andrew the Apostle in Chandler, Arizona

Full Tribute to A Precious Husband, Father and Friend by his Loving Wife Deborah Waldvogel

This is a celebration of the life of an extremely special person and my soulmate Donald Joseph Waldvogel- affectionately known as My Sweetie Bear and My Most Precious Love.

Those of you who knew Don well, are familiar with his very quick wit so I need to keep this tribute to him light and hopefully even make you laugh at times. He enjoyed to tease and had a sense of humor you would only appreciate if you knew him well. His jokes got lots of eye rolls from teenagers in the house. Only my sister’s knock-knock jokes topped his one liners.

Don grew up in a very small rural community in Northern Wisconsin working the farm operation with his parents and younger brother. His 3 sisters were already adults and starting their own families when Don was born. His life on the farm instilled a strong work ethic and he was very good with construction and handy man type projects. He was grateful for opportunity to get an education since his family was very poor earning his Bachelor and Master’s degree in Science. In fact his first taste of Arizona was while he was taking summer school classes for his master’s program in Tucson (or “Tuckson” as he pronounced it to see who he could reaction out of for his mispronunciation). He fell in love with the state then and always dreamed it would one day be home.

Our life together began in late 1997. Don had recently taken early retirement from teaching High School Chemistry and Physics and earlier in his career math in New London Wisconsin, where I was also teaching Biology, Anatomy Physiology and our favorite Senior Science class for the students that needed a science credit to graduate…Don always played his senior department head card to give me this class- fun times. He had moved to Arizona where he had investment properties and asked me to take the leap of faith and join him. We started in Flagstaff but decided still way too much winter and the white stuff so we moved to Sedona where we go married. Here we purchased a travel agency and worked together until I entered the spa industry with the opening of Mii amo and the encouragement from of one of the most special people we grew to love in Sedona- Miss Sylvia.

Don’s two adopted children Julie and Steve were young adults while Samantha was age 6 and Seth 4 when we first came to Arizona. Seth had to stand on a kneeler to see over the pews in church when we first became a family. Don was committed to being a Father to my two as if they were his own. Our early memories are of weekend getaways to Phoenix to enjoy the winter warmth and sunshine, or road trips to Las Vegas to play at Circus Circus and watch the shows along the strip. Seth was terrified of the dragon at Excalibur. The kids loved Furr’s buffet and we watched in awe at the piles of mashed potatoes they both could consume. Sam’s eyes were always bigger than her belly and it drove Don Crazy because he grew up poor so really had an issue with food going to waste but he really disliked mashed potatoes so it was an internal battle for him with what to do with those she could not eat. We hiked extensively and enjoyed picnics along Oak Creek as well as magical Sunsets together on the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. We never grew tired of the incredible natural beauty that is Sedona. Saturdays were Don’s morning to make pancakes with the Lion King soundtrack cranked up to wake up sleepy babes and their friends. He feels his biggest challenge and failure as a Father was to train the children to keep rooms clean.

For 14 years life revolved around the swimming pool with both Samantha and Seth swimming competitively year round. With our swim team family we traveled to Phoenix and around the state most weekends. Samantha and Seth got a little too comfortable with the 5 start hotel trades I got while in hospitality operations. Our home was known as the swim team after school snack stop as it was perfectly located between the school and pool. We always had a houseful of hungry teenagers raiding the cabinets. Don was heavily involved in the Swim program serving on the Board and assisting with timing and organization of meets. He was always the proud Papa enjoying the accomplishments of our two athletes.

Christmas was not a very special holiday for Don growing up but he quickly learned that I was a holiday enthusiast to put it mildly (no smart comments from my family) and grew to appreciate the celebration and prep almost as much as I do. He enjoyed the decorations- especially since I love love doing it. His only question was how I set up everything similar each year but still needed more lights and little items to fill spaces every year. He did not encourage me to start shopping early because I love to give and shop up until the 23rd regardless. He always took a deep breath before opening the December credit card statements, but deep down he loved and appreciated all that I did to make the holiday special and bring out the true spirit of the season. He often hid gifts in safe places and then forget where he put them- so an intended Christmas gift became a Mother’s Day gift. He even established the tradition of writing silly hints on gift tags- often times they had nothing to do with the actual gift creating very puzzled looks on the recipient. Even since moving to the Valley we established traditions such as Zoolights Christmas night.

Travel was a passion of ours and Don loved showing me the world. Our goal was to hit all 7 continents – we didn’t quite make it but traveled to over 40 countries in 20 years spanning the globe including the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, China, Thailand, Europe, the entire circle of Caribbean islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Central America and Mexico. Hawaii was both our first and last trip together where I always got for my much needed ocean fix and we tried to get to Colorado as often as we could to fulfill Don’s need for mountain scenery. The Grand Canyon has always been and will remain a very special place for us. This is the place where we first recognized our love for one another. We returned at least once a year to hike and appreciate the breath taking sunsets along both rims.

Don was a man of very simple tastes. While he enjoyed a quality tenderloin steak, given a choice, a good bacon cheese burger and onion rings would be his preference for literally any occasion. He enjoyed “happy hour” sipping a dirty martini with munchies, or margaritas with the household staple homemade Pico and chips. Don really loved his sweets - chocolate and peanut butter topped the list and in fact a chocolate brownie with a thick layer of peanut butter frosting was the last thing he ate in his final days and he savored every bite like it was the best thing he had ever eaten. His philosophy was that the brownie served merely a foundation to support the 2 inch thick frosting layer.

John Denver was one of his favorite musical artists. Samantha and Seth did not share his appreciation for John Denver’s music and could not help but tease Don when our minivan was stolen and later recovered with everything stripped out of it – but the good old John Denver CDs were left behind.

Don had a very genuine way of connecting with people. I have received so many messages about what a kind, gentle caring man he was and how much they liked being around him. He was one of the most popular teachers at the High School he was employed at, with students often coming to his classroom or our office to simply chat.

Don’s favorite challenge was to save money as well as negotiate prices. I found clothes with tags still on them as we were going through his things that we knew he was saving for special occasion. He often told me he loved it when I paid for things because if he didn’t see the cost he was more inclined to do whatever I arranged. I think it was his excuse to not have to take care of the details. Yet he was always way too generous with gifts for me and our trips together and the children always had more than they needed. He enjoyed the challenge of investing in the stock market and actually liked preparing taxes- I know- don’t ask me how that was possible…

The only thing he ever bought for himself came shortly after Seth graduated high school. A little background required here. For those of you who don’t know Seth, as much as we all love him, it took a village to get him through both elementary and high school. Don was front and center in the process home schooling him in Math, constantly searching for missing assignments and became best friends with the principal and assistant principal and all of Seth’s teachers.

We had gone to Phoenix to trade in the old dependable swim meet minivan (which Don loved btw). We were set to buy a small SUV as we planned to road trip more with the children out of the house, While I was test driving an SUV, Don decided to test drive a Corvette “just to get it out of his system” as he put it as he was very curious how it would feel to drive something with that kind of power He came back and insisted I take it for a spin. I had sports cars in my 20’s so was not sharing his enthusiasm but agreed to drive it as requested. When I came back, he was having a serious conversation with the salesman. I was shocked but I figured by dinner his practical-side would kick in and we would look at more SUVs the following day. But he woke me up at 1 am that night and told me he was really worried. I said why? He said- I still really want that car and I earned it- Seth graduated. So next day we bought a Corvette. I vividly remember following him back up the mountain to Sedona and all of a sudden I saw two puffs of smoke out of the tail pipes and he was gone. I was thinking this is going to be expensive as he is the only person I know who managed to get two speeding tickets in the minivan in the same day.

Despite Don’s Parkinson’s diagnosis 13 years ago, he was determined to stay healthy and active “for me” as he always said, for as long as he could. I so admire his courage and determination. As recently as two weeks ago he told one of the nurses he planned to live until the age of 99. He didn’t like the gym nearly as much as I do, but as long as he could workout with me he did it consistently. He walked 10 miles a day and ate in healthy moderation. For the first 9 years after his diagnosis, he was the poster child for the benefits of living the wellness lifestyle.

I feel very fortunate that I truly did find my soulmate, a person I loved so deeply, absolutely adored, respected and trusted unconditionally. I could be completely open and honest with Don. I could allow by vulnerabilities to show without fear or judgment. He was my biggest fan and at times my biggest critic, but in the healthy way I needed, seeing potential in me that I was blind to, pushing me to be the best Deborah I could be. He gave me space to explore, take risks, share adventure and live life fully with him always right by my side, and for this I will be forever grateful.

I was affectionately known to him as his “beautiful babe”, with his entire existence revolving around me, our relationship and family. He was respectful, loyal, and over protective. We shared such a special bond and unique love that did not go unnoticed by those who knew us as a couple. We did not see the age difference and we worked on our relationship every single day determined to have a marriage that would last forever- and my love- we did it! We have had many people comment on the incredible relationship we shared, asking us what our secret was. Our only response is that it was something we worked on every single day and it was always our priority. We were known in Sedona as the couple who walked hand in hand every morning and night. These walks were our time to connect on the day and talk about work and children, both of which were central to our daily life.

We were a very private couple and spent as much time together as we could. We were content to sit closely, “snuggle time” as Don called it, and simply be- no need to even talk. We kept Thursday night date night sacred every week that I was not traveling. We went to the same place and ordered the same thing so we could simply be present with one another- with no decisions required. Whenever I did travel, short love notes were tucked in my suitcase and I left one under his pillow. We talked every night regardless of time zone (he knew better than to disturb my focus during the day when I was in work mode) and I was always welcomed home to a clean house, a bouquet of flowers a warm embrace and passionate kiss. Every year we wrote long and thoughtful letters to each other for Christmas, our birthdays and our anniversary. These letters were filled with reflections, promises, and our priorities. There were many discussions about children and work but more importantly included what we were going to work on in our relationship the coming year. Of course these letters always included words of gratitude, appreciation and our deep devotion and love for one another that grew stronger and deeper with each passing year.

So my most precious love, my Sweetie Bear, thank you for being the most wonderful gift I could imagine and such a special person to so many people. I don’t know what I did to deserve your love and devotion. Despite the numerous struggles, stress, sleepless nights and fear that came with your disease, I would do it all again in a heartbeat as the world we created was so beyond my dreams. You have established a permanent place in my heart and soul that no one can touch. As we have said since day one- In you I trust, I will always believe in us.

As your loving wife I love you forever, may you rest in peace my love.

Services

  • Funeral Service Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Memories

Donald Joseph Waldvogel

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