Cover photo for Donald C. Rambadt's Obituary
Donald C. Rambadt Profile Photo

Donald C. Rambadt

May 14, 1934 — March 7, 2022

Donald Carl Rambadt Sr, age 87, passed peacefully in his sleep, after a brief battle with cancer, on Monday, March 7th, 2022, in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

Don is survived by his loving wife of 33 years, Barbara Sorenson Rambadt, his daughter, Jennifer (Rambadt) Brown, grandson Sawyer Brown, son Don Rambadt Jr, brother Merlin Rambadt, first wife Karen Rambadt, and the large extended families of cousins, nieces, and nephews. His step children: Julie (Ken) Welsh, Sue (Scott) Bechtel, Tom (Sue) Sorenson, John (Leah) Sorenson, and the 11 grandchildren* who've blessed the family and added immeasurably to the richness of Don's life. He was a beloved “Opa” to every child that entered his life. Don was preceded in death by his parents Arnold and Hilda (Karstaedt) Rambadt.

Born in School Hill, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin on May 14th, 1934, Don's life path took him many places. He grew up endlessly exploring the fields and streams around his parents rural home, but was steeped in the work ethic brought over by his German ancestors. A chance encounter with a stack of National Geographic magazines in his uncle's closet ignited what would become a lifelong passion to explore the world, and expand his education.
After graduating from Lincoln High School in Manitowoc (1952) he enrolled at the Wisconsin State Teachers college (now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) where he was the institution's first Student Body President. While earning his Bachelor of Science (1957) majoring in Geography and Elementary Education, with minors in Art and Military Service, he enlisted in the University's ROTC program. This was the beginning of an illustrious and fulfilling 30 year career in the US Army. Don served in Germany as a border patrol pilot in the early 60's, taught military history at the Command and General Staff College, and served as the Commander of the 85th Division, a Brigade-level training unit. He received a host of accommodations throughout his military career, and retired as a Colonel in 1987.

His military service was an integral and honorable part of Don's life, but his God given gift was education. He truly loved to learn, and never missed an opportunity to share his enthusiasm about the things he was passionate about, which was just about everything. He took the understanding of the world and accumulation of knowledge incredibly seriously, but was able to share that knowledge with a dash of humor, approachable anecdote, or whatever else it took to present even the most complex concept in the way that anyone could understand. This approach made him a much loved teacher at Richard's Junior High School in Whitefish Bay, WI (1962-1975), and Whitefish Bay High school, (1975-1989) where he also coached the rifle team. After retiring from “The Bay” Don started a new career as a Geography professor, teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Parkside, and Waukesha, before settling in at UW Whitewater, where he developed a field study course that took him, his wife Barbara, and scholarship students to nearly every country in Europe. In preparation for his teaching career, he earned an MA (Geography and Secondary Education) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1968) and Doctor of Education from Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI (1976). He taught a wide variety of “Learning in Retirement” courses at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Hartland Wisconsin until mid-February, 2022.

In addition to his multifaceted career path, Don had a wealth of hobbies and interests. He spent years documenting his family's genealogy, and compiled numerous books on his immediate family's histories and interests. He loved to fish, tend his flower gardens, play racquetball, golf, and had a weekly sheepshead game with his friends for almost 60 years. He volunteered his time to family and friends without limits, served his church and community in any way he could, and his positivity was infectious. He offered his friendship to everyone he met, and few were able to turn it down.

Family, friends, and former students are invited to attend a Celebration of Life service on Sunday March 13th at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 111 Church St Hartland WI. Visitation starts at 12:30, with a memorial service at 2:00. We will celebrate his spirit with fellowship and “brat fry” after the service. He will be laid to rest at the Summit Cemetery at 9:30 am, Monday March 14th.

For those unable to attend, the service will be live streamed. Click on link below.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to your favorite charity..or take someone you love out for dinner or a beer.

*Don's beloved grandchildren on the Sorenson branch of the family tree are; Katie and Matt Welsh. Karyn and Joe Bechtel. His “right hand man” Mike, Steve, Paul, and John Sorenson. Christie, Maddie, and Natalie Sorenson

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Donald C. Rambadt, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Sunday, March 13, 2022

12:30 - 2:00 pm (Central time)

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First Congregational United Church

111 Church Street
Hartland, WI 53029

*Standard text messaging rates apply.


Sunday, March 13, 2022

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

Add to Calendar

First Congregational United Church

111 Church Street
Hartland, WI 53029

Watch Livestream

*Standard text messaging rates apply.



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