Joseph G. Eirich
Joe Eirich died peacefully Tuesday, March 13, 2012, while under the compassionate care of Aspirus Comfort Care & Hospice Services in Wausau. Due to a sudden stroke and long-time heart disease, Joe’s big heart finally gave out, leaving to those who knew and loved him, his gifts of love, laughter and truth. Joe touched many, many lives, and will be so missed especially by his loving wife and best friend of 20 years, Terri.
Joe was born April 12, 1944 in Sheboygan, WI, the son of Julie and Edwin Eirich. He graduated from Sheboygan South High School in 1962, where he played championship football. Joe served both in the United States Naval Reserve and the United States Army and was honorably discharged in 1966. He received an Associate Degree in photography from the Milwaukee Area Technical College in 1968, and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1978. Joe taught at UWM for over 20 years in the School of Fine Arts, and was known by all to be a devoted and dedicated teacher, always putting the needs of his students before anything else. Joe was an accomplished photographer and sculptor in his own right, exhibiting in many shows. He retired from UWM in 2002 as a senior lecturer with emeritus status.
After hunting in Lincoln County with close friends for many years, Joe, with his wife Terri, decided to retire to the Merrill area in 2003. His love of sitting quietly in the woods, letting chickadees land on him while waiting patiently for the perfect deer to come by, is legendary. And he was an extraordinary hunter: “one bullet, one deer,” and so it was. He hunted only for the venison, but after seeing firsthand the suffering of a mature bald eagle from lead poisoning, Joe became an avid proponent of using copper ammunition.
His love of the north woods led Joe to plant many trees over the years, knowing they’d be there long after he was gone. He was known to fly kites, sometimes three at a time, on fine, windy afternoons, as can be testified to by neighbors driving by the house. One of Joe’s favorite things was to putter and tinker, making new “somethings” out of old stuff, improvising, improving or rebuilding from the ground up. He was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable firearms collector, loved gun shows and had a secret talent for gunsmithing.
Joe had a wonderful, wicked sense of humor, a sharp wit, and even though he may not have “suffered fools gladly” on occasion (often calling himself a “curmudgeon-in-training”), he was extremely generous with his knowledge, time and advice. He would go out of his way to help wherever and whenever he could. In addition to his wife, Joe leaves behind his daughter, Julia and four grandsons in Atlanta; his sister Sharon, of North Carolina; his brother Peter, of California; his cousin Judy, and aunt, Alice, both of Sheboygan; Miss Hobbes (a well-loved and much spoiled cat); nieces, nephews, in-laws, and many, many friends in Merrill and across the country. Joe’s parents preceded him in death, along with a dear brother and sister-in-law, Charles and Stormy, of Colorado, who had gone before him to show him the way.
At Joe’s request, no services are being held, his remains have been cremated, and his ashes will be dispersed privately. A simple gathering to honor Joe’s memory may be held at a future time. If desired, memorials can be made in Joe’s name as the donor may wish; however, Marge Gibson’s Raptor Education Group of Antigo had become dear to him in recent times. The family was graciously served by Mid-Wisconsin Cremation Society of Schofield.
“What the caterpillar calls the end of life, the master calls a butterfly.”