Michael ‘Mike’ F. Van Lieshout, age 69, passed away peacefully at home during his morning nap on October 14, 2019 after more than a year of cancer treatment. Mike was born in Kimberly, Wis. where he was a Kimberly Papermaker. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh with a Bachelor’s degree in special education before enlisting in the Army from 1972 to 1976, but not before marrying the love of his life, JoEllyn Jerow, on June 10, 1972. Mike never met a stranger; everyone he met became a friend, usually through jokes, of which he had an endless supply up his sleeve, often not safe for work. Mike had a song for everything, and he sang something special to each of the grandkids when they were babies. His jokes and sayings were such a notable part of his personality that his daughter kept a hand written journal of them.
After serving in the Army, Mike taught school in Union Grove, Wis. He then enrolled in graduate school at UW – Oshkosh, earned a Master’s Degree in special education and began volunteering for Special Olympics of Wisconsin, which he continued to do for more than 40 years as a coach and official. He was recognized for his commitment to the organization in the summer of 2019. Mike moved to Merrill with his family in 1978 to teach special education at Merrill Jr. High, which he continued to do for 27 years before retiring in 2005 in favor of fishing every day. Mike was the president of the Merrill Teachers Association and chief negotiator; he remained active in Merrill Area Public Schools in his retirement as a substitute teacher and athletic official. Mike was an avid outdoorsman, naturalist, and hunter who aspired to build his own home on the lake, which he did in 1999 with his wife, son, and brother-in-law, where he lived an exceptional retirement life with his wife. He caned chairs in the basement, went ice fishing in the bay, and enjoyed every minute. Frequent visits from his children and grandchildren were a highlight of life on the lake.
Throughout it all, Mike was the consummate community servant being a lifelong advocate for veterans, serving on the Northwood’s Veterans Post, as past commander of the American Legion, and he was a member of the Veterans Service Commission. As a result of his work with the American Legion, Mike was instrumental in establishing the facilities at Merrill’s Athletic Park and bringing the American Legion Baseball state tournament to Merrill on more than one occasion. He was inducted to the Merrill Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018. Mike also belonged to the Lion’s Club, served as past president, and advocated tirelessly for their foundation that funds summer camp experiences for special needs children. He was also involved with the Merrill Optimists Club, served on the board of Habitat for Humanity, and was a well-known official for middle and high school athletics.
Mike is survived by his wife JoEllyn (Jerow) and his son John (Katie) Van Lieshout, both of Merrill, and his daughter Becca (Jesse) Polar of Madison, Wis. He is further survived by his grandchildren Emma, Colton, Piper, Nykola, and Nevada, his dog Aggie, his brothers David (Connie) Van Lieshout of Green Valley, Ariz., James (Barb) Van Lieshout of Jefferson Wis., and PJ (Kathy) Weyenberg of Algoma, Wis., his sisters Julie Jacobson of Wausau, Wis. and Joanne (Steve) Cegelski of Green Bay, Wis., and in-laws, Bonnie Jerow of Germantown, Wis., Jim Jerow of Davenport, Wash., Kathy (Jerow) Dutcher of Madison, Wis., Patricia (Dick) Garbleman of Shawano, Wis., John Jerow of The Villages, Fla., Tom (Steven Schreier) Jerow of Rhinelander, Wis., Steve Jacobson of Woodville, Wis., aunts, uncles, and dozens of cousins, and the following nieces and nephews, many of whom have children of their own: Craig Papke, Steven (Jill) Dutcher, Angie (Peter) Carriveau, Richard (Brandee) Jerow, Cecelia Jerow, Ellie (Kent Heberling) Jerow, Melanie (Scott) Sukow, Lisa Van Lieshout, Aaron (Frankie) Van Lieshout, James (Tiffany) Van Lieshout, Elizabeth (Doug) Hill, Marie Van Lieshout, Thomas (Megan) Jacobson, Katrina (Matty) Reidinger, Justina (Max Leibowitz) Cegelski, Suzanne (James) Clark, Anna Weyenberg, and Max Weyenberg. Besides relatives, Mike left behind a community of close friends too numerous to count. Mike was preceded in death by his parents, John Mark Van Lieshout in 1955 and later Betty (Meulemans) and her second husband Richard Weyenberg, his sisters Mary Beth (Van Lieshout) Goodwin and Sue Ellen Van Lieshout, his nephew Jeffery D. Van Lieshout, his niece Kate Adell (Jerow) Papke, and his in-laws, Richard and Patricia Jerow.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday, October 26, 2019 at the Merrill Senior High School Auditorium. Visitation begins at 9 am with a service at Noon. Visitors may enter through Door 17 at the high school. A private inurnment will follow at the Veteran’s Memorial within St. Francis Cemetery in Merrill with Merrill’s VFW Post #1638 presenting full military honors.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Northwood’s Veterans Post (northwoodsveteranspost.org), the Lion’s Club Foundation (https://e-clubhouse.org/sites/merrillwi/), or directly to the family for distribution to his favorite charities and causes.
~ It’s a Jungle Out There ~
Waid Funeral Home & Cremation Service of Merrill is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be made at www.waidfuneral.com.
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