Joseph G. Eirich, age 67, of Merrill, died peacefully March 13, 2012, as a result of stroke and heart disease. He is survived by his loving wife, Terri; daughter, Julia; four grandsons of Atlanta; sister, Sharon of North Carolina; brother, Peter of California; cousin, Judy and aunt, Alice, both of Sheboygan; nieces; nephews, in-laws; many friends; and a much loved cat, "Miss Hobbes." He was preceded in death by his parents, Julie and Edwin Eirich, as well as a brother, Charles, and sister-in-law, Stormy of Colorado.
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Joe was born April 12, 1944, in Sheboygan. 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 MATC in 1968, and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1978. From 1979 to 1982, Joe was a certified welder with Ironworkers Local Union 8 of Milwaukee. In addition to being a visiting instructor at Beloit College, he taught at UWM for over 20 years in the School of Fine Arts. He was known by all to be a devoted, dedicated teacher, putting the needs of his students before anything else. Twice in the mid 1980's, Joe helped conduct student-orientated Canadian Wilderness Workshops in Quetico Provincial Park, traveling only by canoe or backpacking; he enjoyed a number of return trips to the Park in subsequent years, traveling solo. Joe also 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. He and his wife retired to Merrill where he enthusiastically enjoyed hunting, fishing, planting trees, flying Kites, puttering and tinkering. Joe was an avid and knowledgeable firearms collector, enjoyed gun shows and designed and built specialty flint locks, rifles, and hand-scrimshawed powder horns. He was known for his wonderful, wicked sense of humor and sharp wit, leaving smiles wherever he went.
At Joe's request, no services have been held, and his ashes will be dispersed privately. If desired, memorials in Joe's name can be made to the Raptor Education Group of Antigo, WI or to a
"What the caterpillar calls the end of life, the master calls a butterfly."
Family and friends wish to express their gratitude to Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice of Wausau for the compassionate care in Joe's last days, and for services provided by Mid-Wisconsin Cremation Society of Schofield, WI.
Published in Sheboygan Press on Apr. 1, 2012