Dr. Darold A. Treffert
1933 - 2020
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Dr. Darold A. Treffert

Fond du Lac - Leaving this world a much better place simply by being himself, Darold A. Treffert found rest in the arms of God on December 14, 2020. If ever there was a good and faithful servant, it was he. Darold was born March 12, 1933 to the late Walter and Emma "Mary" (Leu) Treffert at St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac- it was there he died at the age of 87.

Knowing he wanted to be a physician from early on, he followed his dear father's advice to "get that piece of paper"- thus began a journey that would have global impact and touch countless lives.

At Bethany Lutheran College, Darold met the woman who has truly been the wind beneath his wings - the lovely Dorothy M. Sorgatz. They were married on June 11, 1955 in Faribault, MN.

Darold graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1958, interned in Eugene, Oregon, and completed a residency in Psychiatry at University Hospitals in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1962, he developed the child-adolescent unit at Winnebago Mental Health Institute and in 1964 was named superintendent. It was there he met his first savants, sparking an unquenchable curiosity that would last over 50 years. Dr. Treffert often noted that while medical science could explain many things, there was so much yet to be explored about the human brain and its potential. And until we could understand the savant, we couldn't truly understand ourselves. In 1979, he began dividing his time between the private practice of Psychiatry and a position as executive director of the Fond du Lac County Health Care Center. He was also medical director of the Alcoholism Rehabilitation Unit of St. Agnes Hospital. In 1991, he retired from those positions but continued to write, conduct research, and offer guidance and encouragement to countless families around the globe.

Dr. Treffert served as president of the State Medical Society of Wisconsin in 1979-80 and chairman of the Board of Directors from 1981-87. The Wisconsin Medical Society Board of Directors recognized his contributions by awarding him with its highest honor - the 2019 Director's Award. He also served as president of the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association and the American Association of Psychiatric Administrators. He was a member of the Controlled Substances Board of Wisconsin from 1970 to 1982, and reappointed to that Board by the Governor in 2004. He was a member of the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board from 1995 to 2003 and served as chairman in 2002.

Dr. Treffert spoke and wrote extensively on several mental health topics and advocated tirelessly for the rights of the mentally ill. He became an internationally-known researcher in the areas of savant syndrome, autism, and hyperlexia, and was a consultant to the movie Rain Man. He made many television appearances, participated in documentaries, and published numerous articles. His first book, Extraordinary People: Understanding Savant Syndrome has been translated into a dozen languages. This was followed by Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired and Sudden Savant, which summarizes his years of interest and research.

Dr. Treffert leaves behind a wonderful legacy through Agnesian HealthCare's Treffert Center, established in 2016, which invites individuals, families and communities globally to explore the potential of the human mind, focusing on strengths rather than limitations. He firmly believed in finding and nurturing the "islands of intactness" in everyone. He wanted the Treffert Center to be a place of "happiness and hope" - and in such a short time it has become a dream realized, exactly where he wanted it to be - in his hometown. In 2019, the Treffert Approach was further expanded to public education through the Treffert Way for the Exceptional Mind, a partnership with the Treffert Center and the North Fond du Lac School District.

Dr. Treffert was a kind, humble, gentle soul who saw and nurtured the best in those who had the honor of meeting him. A man of unwavering principle, to know him was truly to love him. He was brilliant and wise beyond measure, yet incredibly caring, down-to-earth and approachable. He was a mentor to people of all ages, and would give equally and generously of his time to both elementary school science projects and complex research studies - his interest was genuine, his enthusiasm often life-changing. He took particular pride in inspiring a generation of "fresh, new explorers" in the area of neuroscience. He spent hours each day at his home office, writing to parents who reached out to him for answers - and ultimately for hope. He kept in touch with many of these families for years, following the individual journeys of children as they grew into young adults. He understood the importance of supportive families and caregivers, noting frequently that "love is a good therapist, too."

But above all, Darold was a family man - a thoroughly devoted husband, the best father to his children, and a fun-loving grandfather and great-grandfather. It was a complete privilege to call him husband, Dad, or Grandpa D. In his last years, he could slow down and do what he loved the most - spending precious time with his beloved Dorothy. He loved to walk his land and point out the beauty of the waterfall, especially right after it rained. Though he was known around the world, he never wanted to travel very far from his home in the Holyland. His warm, welcoming presence filled every room, and it was a comfort to hear his voice - especially his laughter. He was always there for his family. He was always home for dinner. He always listened, always encouraged, always loved. And that, to quote him, was "as good as it gets."

Darold is survived by his devoted wife and best friend, Dorothy; four children, Jon (Kathleen) Treffert; Joni (Rodney) Stine; Jill Treffert and Jay (Cecilia) Treffert; seven grandchildren, Lorna Treffert, Hilary (Jared) Keahey, Greg Stine, Trevor (Kelsey) Stine, Evan Kosik, Kirsten and Mikaela Kosik and two great-grandchildren, Floyd and Audie Keahey. He is further survived by two sisters, Phyllis (Warner) Sell and Gail (Al) Brown and one brother, John (Patricia) Treffert.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Private family services have been held. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.

Memorials may be directed to the Treffert Center in Fond du Lac.

Online condolences may be shared at www.zacherlfuneralhome.com






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Published in Fond du Lac Reporter from Dec. 18 to Dec. 20, 2020.
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Memories & Condolences
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31 entries
January 13, 2021
I first met Darold in 1993 as I traversed the USA in a beat up mobile home. I was a young student in search of savants. Struggling for support, Darold opened his mind, heart and home to help me in my plight! I will be forever grateful for his support and wisdom. Such a wonderful man.
Robyn Young
Coworker
January 8, 2021
I am very sorry to hear about the passing of Dr. Treffert. I send my condolences to his family and friends. I am from Ireland and in 2019 I got in contact with Dr. Treffert who very kindly helped me. Rest in Peace.
Daryl Neeson
January 3, 2021
I am so terribly sad to read of Dr. Treffert’s passing, my deepest condolences to his family and friends. I have only just discovered his writing, as the mother to twins with autism, one of whom is potentially displaying hyperlexia. I was looking for a way to write to him when I discovered he had died. It seems he has helped so many and just reading his work has already helped me. This is such a sad loss and I wish I could have thanked him for his wonderful insights into my children. Rest in peace, in the knowledge that your wonderful work lives on.
Rachel Filmer
Acquaintance
December 31, 2020
I offer my deepest condolences to Dr. Treffert's family and friends. I first met Dr Treffert when I was a student at UW-Oshkosh in 1970, studying Psychology. He was instrumental in getting me a student-study position at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in the child-adolescent ward and later in Fond du Lac. Years later, I obtained my PhD in Clinical Psychology and by coincidence specialized in working with children and adults with what is now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I last saw Dr Treffert in 2016 at his clinic in Fond du Lac. He was warm, friendly, engaging, humble, and one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. He left an amazing legacy and a hole in this world that can never be filled. He will be dearly missed.
Ann M. Flood, PhD
Friend
December 30, 2020
May memories of him be a blessing. He seemed like such a kind and considerate person. My son has a better life because of his research on autism. I send my sincere condolences to his family, my thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.
R.H.
December 26, 2020
My condolences go out to the Treffert family on the death of Darold. He will be missed by many.
LeeRoy
December 24, 2020
My condolences to the family. We appreciate the research. May the God of Comfort, continue to comfort the family, during these difficult times.
December 24, 2020
My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Darold Treffert for your loss. So many are thankful for his research that benefited so many. May God comfort and strengthen you at this difficult time.
Mary
Neighbor
December 23, 2020
Thank you for making the world a better place for my daughter. She is accepted and respected for who she is, my husband and I cannot thank you enough.
Lisa Faulkner
December 23, 2020
My son was diagnosed with autism in 1984. I am most grateful for all the awareness Dr. Treffert brought to the illness, I cannot tell you how much it helped. May the God of tender mercy strengthen and comfort his family at this time.
S.W.
December 23, 2020
Grief can be so hard, but our special memories help us cope. Remembering you and your loved one today and always.
December 23, 2020
To the family,

I wanted to extend my condolences for your loss. Please know that God is a true source of comfort and strength and he will heal the broken hearted. (Ps. 147:3) Cherish the wonderful memories!
December 23, 2020
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends. A neighbor at 8600 Linden Beach.
Colleen MceEssy Kreuser
Neighbor
December 22, 2020
Sincere condolences are sent to the Treffert family. I worked for him at Brookside Clinic and am in awe of him. He was kind, gracious, intelligent and humble. He also shared Dorothy’s beautiful music with me on transcription tapes. He was sent from God and served so many.
Diane Griffiths
Coworker
December 22, 2020
Heartfelt condolences to the family in your loss of Dr. Treffert, May the God of tender mercy and ALL comfort, comfort you during this time of loss.
December 21, 2020
As the days and weeks pass,and as you return to life's routine,may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
December 21, 2020
Sincere condolences to the Treffert family, may all of you find the strength and comfort you need from God to help you, so very sorry for your loss.
December 21, 2020
A person like Dr. Treffert is very much appreciated for the research that they do to help us to understand different illnesses and I know he will be truly missed. May God comfort and sustain all of you in your time of sorrow. My sincere condolences.
patricia
December 20, 2020
ENJOY , A WONDERFUL HOLIDAYS TO YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SIR # 8 # 91 #84 & #43 PSALMS 23:01-23:70 ............... GENESIS 19:01-19:38 .......... JOSHUA 6:01-6:27 ......... MARK 1:01-1:45 !!!!!!!!!!!! & MATTHEW 26:01-26:75 ?????????????????????????????????????????
ANDREW JOSHUA LAWLESS SR
December 20, 2020
A kind and wondetful man. He took the time to allow me to interview him for a college paper I was writing. My sympathies to his family.
Nancy Prillaman
Acquaintance
December 19, 2020
He opened the eyes and minds of so many on autism. He was so very dedicated to his work and it benefited so many. My condolences to the Treffert family, at this time of of your tears. may God give you comfort and strength to help you through your difficult time of loss.
December 19, 2020
Sincere condolences to the Treffert family. may God comfort and strengthen all of in your time of loss.
December 19, 2020
Dear Dr. Darold Treffert, i was lost when my boy was diagnosed, then I have found your email, sent you an email and you replied back to me. This was a very comforting experience, you have shared your knowledge and experiences with a mother who was on the other side of the world. We will never forget you! Rest In Peace ♥
Bahar Acar
December 18, 2020
Carol Sivadge
December 18, 2020
My sincere sympathy to the family. I started working at WMHI in 1983 on the early adolescent unit. His mark was everywhere. Although I never had the opportunity to work directly with him, his legacy was alive and well then already. What a wonderful man who greeted all he met with a smile
Chris Prust
Acquaintance
December 18, 2020
Thank you for your research into what has become one of the best acting movies. My sincere condolences to the Treffert family. May the God of all comfort provide you all the strength to cope with your loss
TD
December 17, 2020
A debt of gratitude is owed, so many people have benefited from his hard work and dedication to autism. My sincere sympathies to the Treffert family and friends, may God be your comfort and strength to help you through this very difficult time of your loss.
December 17, 2020
I remember him from Winnebago State Hospital when I was an RN student. Great educator. My condolences to his family.
Mary
December 17, 2020
My condolences.
December 17, 2020
Rest in Peace
Scott Chamberland
December 17, 2020
Our deepest condolences to the family. We pray that God continues to strengthen and comfort the family during this difficult time.
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