By Marlys Kruger
To say staff members from the Colfax School District as well as members of the community were shocked when they heard the news of the death of Dennis Geissler last week would be an understatement.
Geissler, age 58, was found dead in his car in his garage at his home in Chetek, Wednesday, Nov. 28. According to investigators, his death appears to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning but an autopsy is being done to determine the exact cause. The car was not running and not out of gas when he was found.
Geissler grew up on the family farm near Tilden and graduated from Chippewa Falls McDonell High School in 1972. He received a bachelors degree in 1976 and a masters degree in 1981, both from UW-Eau Claire. After teaching math and working as an assistant principal in the McFarland School District, he came to Colfax for the elementary principal job in 1994.
He moved into the high school principal job in 2004 then became district administrator in 2006. After retiring, he stayed with the district as the interim superintendent for a year, then decided to take his administrative knowledge to the Osseo-Fairchild School District in 2011 and was their superintendent at the time of his death.
Geissler had called in sick on Tuesday and when he did not show up for work Wednesday, O-F principal Bill Tourdot and another staff member went to look for him and found him in his car.
“Mr. Dennis Geissler will always be remembered as a wonderful and jovial person with a huge heart,” current Colfax District Administrator Bill Yingst said. “He was always concerned about the well being of our students and staff and wanted to ensure our students had every opportunity to be successful. His caring way, generosity and well know infectious laugh will be missed by all of us. Dennis was a great servant to the School District of Colfax families in his tenure here. Our hearts are with his wife Patty and his daughters Kristi and Erin and the entire Geissler family during this most difficult time,” he added.
Long time Colfax school board president Don Berge commented on working with Geissler during the 16 years he was with the district.
“Dennis was a strong educational leader here at Colfax,” Berge said. “His leadership was instrumental in the success of our school district. He demonstrated genuine concern for the students and he wanted to give them every opportunity to be successful. As a superintendent, his enthusiasm for the school and community was always evident. He was open minded and made everyone feel at ease in his presence. He was a good friend who will be missed by all,” he added.
Debra Berndt, an elementary teacher for over 30 years in the district, had the privilege of working with Geissler through the years.
“Dennis was truly an educator who cared about the students as well as the staff,” she stated. “He was supportive, compassionate, helpful, caring and an all around wonderful man. He not only helped the students to succeed but also cared about the parents of his students. Dennis only wanted to see everyone smile and his contagious smile usually did the trick. He was the calm voice in any hectic situation and we will have many fond memories of him. He had a great impact on the community and the hundreds of children that were lucky enough to have him as a principal and superintendent. He helped make me into the teacher I am today and will continue to strive to be tomorrow.It was truly an honor for me to work for such a compassionate man,” she concluded.
Funeral services for Geissler were Monday, Dec. 3 at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Tilden and burial will be at the church cemetery at a later date. Geissler is survived by his wife Patty and daughters Kristy (Brandon) Flug and Erin (Sean) Robbins along with four grandchildren, his mother Shirley and seven siblings. Memorials will go towards an educational fund in his name which will be set up at a later date.