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Donald M. Brill

Donald M. Brill

September 13, 2017

Donald Maxim Brill 

September 8, 1922 - September 13, 2017 

 

Today, our father finished his race and was welcomed into a blessed eternity with the Lord. Donald M. Brill, 95, of Wisconsin Veterans Home – Chippewa Falls, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, with his wife faithfully at his side. He was born in Elk Mound (Dunn County) WI, Sept. 8, 1922, to John and Grace (Mayo) Brill, the third of four children. Their farming family survived multiple disasters, first their home burning down in mid-winter 1929, then losing everything again in the Great Depression.  Don grew up hunting, trapping, logging, tenant farming, and freezing in winter. He was good with a rifle, and comfortable in freezing weather, which came in handy later on.   

 

In 1942, Don was drafted into the Army, and, as an outstanding student, was selected for engineering studies with the Army Scholar Training Program (ASTP). That did not last long – in late 1943, ASTP was disbanded and students were reassigned. Don was a sharp shooter assigned to rifle infantry. As a Private First Class, he served the entire WWII battle and occupation tour with the 301st Infantry Regiment (in 94th infantry division). He was on occupation duty facing the Russian Army until November 1945, and then briefly in an artillery unit awaiting discharge. During his U.S. Army service 1942-45, he earned many awards including two Bronze Stars, 4 battle stars, 5 othermedals, unit commendations, and several combat infantry awards. In 2015, he was knighted by the French government and given the French Legion of Honor award for his service in helping to liberate France.  

 

Don thanked the Lord for many occasions of miraculous survival during the war. This included many near misses from snipers, 88mm shells, and land mines which killed those around him. He kept his Bible with him everywhere. Like many of his friends, he had Psalms 91 bookmarked and prayed a lot. With losses from those killed, wounded, frozen, or losing their grip in battle, his regiment went through four to five replacements per position in combat companies, and against great odds Don survived the entire duration.   

 

Postwar, Don completed his bachelor's degree at UW-Stout in 1947, where he would later serve as an adjunct professor at the end of his career. He earned his master's degree at the University of Minnesota in 1949. He married the love of his life, Meredith Wright of Eau Claire, WI, on June 25, 1955; they moved to Madison in 1958 where they raised a family of four children. While working full time in administration at the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), Don went on to earn a PhD at UW-Madison. His work from 1958 -1982 included the original vision, design, and setup of WTCS, making current-technology training accessible to all in Wisconsin. He was a past member of Phi Delta Kappa and was in Who's Who in America for more than 40 years, as well as Who's Who in American Education. Don loved gardening, nature, science, music, family history, genealogy, and every discipline of learning. He was a prolific writer. He insisted on academic achievement and work excellence from all his children.  

 

Protecting and defending this country in every way was dear to him, and he was active many years in the Republican party, nationally and locally. Don was from a long family line of American Colonial and U.S. war veterans back to the mid 1600s. He served as president of the Tainter chapter of Sons of the American Revolution (Eau Claire and Dunn counties) from 2004—2010. He was a descendant of seven Jamestown and Mayflower families, many American Revolution soldiers from New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, Sgt. John Brill from the war of 1812, and four grandfathers who served in Wisconsin and Minnesota Civil War regiments. He was also a life member of the Descendants of the Mayflower Society. 

 

Throughout his postwar life, Don had difficult memories and flashbacks, and never forgot the "real heroes"—the many soldiers left in the cemeteries of Europe, including many of his friends. The destruction of so many brilliant ASTP students in combat was something that always grieved him. He wrote, "Who is there to remember the lost except those who fought beside them?" He rarely talked about the war until the last decade when he spoke to a WWII high school history class and also took a Freedom Honor Flight to Washington D.C. to see the WWII Memorial. Then, he spoke often of his experiences and greatly appreciated his time at the Veterans Home, where he felt honored and revered for his service. He called the VA Home "fantastic" and was happy to be around people who understood and appreciated his war experience and "treated him like royalty."  

 

Don is survived by his wife of 62 years, Meredith, who was always there for him as he achieved highly in his career and as he healed from the war. Other survivors are his son John (Debby) of Inverness, FL; three daughters Rebecca (Glenn) McClintock of Glenmoore, PA; Linda (Brad) Hubbard of Eau Claire; and Susan Brill of Glenmoore, PA; plus many grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and three cousins. Don was preceded in death by his parents, brotherRichard who was lost at sea in US Navy pre-WWII service, sisters Margaret McCullough and Grace Miriam Klefstad, and grandson Scott McClintock.  

 

As a father and church deacon, he continued his interest in other cultures and with friends and relatives who lived overseas. He and his wife hosted international students for meals and visits, offering their children exposure and understanding of other cultures. As a Grandpa, Don enjoyed and loved mentoring his grandchildren, four of whom were adopted from other cultures. Don lived the example he taught—love and respect for the Lord, family, others, and country. Don lived a life of service, love, humility, integrity and sacrifice, happily for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, his family, and his community. There are no words of praise which can do our father justice. He was a living miracle to us all.  

 

We thank all who helped, honored, and appreciated him and were his friends in this life. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be sent to the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Chippewa Falls or to the Chippewa Valley Technical College Foundation in Eau Claire.

 

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