Transportation 23

Donald "Duke" R. Mahan Sr.

February 16, 1942 ~ December 29, 2023 (age 81) 81 Years Old

Donald "Duke" Mahan Sr. Obituary

Donald Robert Mahan Sr., of rural Sparta, died Friday, December 29, 2023, in an accident at his home. He was 81.

Don – or “Duke” as many knew him – was born February 16, 1942, in Crawford County to Martha (Severson) and Newell Mahan. He worked on the family farm from an early age and walked to the one-room Oak Grove School with his brothers and sisters. He attended Seneca High School and then joined the National Guard. He served for six years, including active duty.

He worked as a mechanic in Bangor, at J.I. Case in Rockford, Ill., and then started his career in railroad maintenance with Milwaukee Road.  

He married Barbara Erickson at Trinity Lutheran Church in Sparta on July 22, 1972. In fall 1979, they moved to a 53-acre hobby farm near Cataract.

Duke was rarely at rest. He worked with a close-knit group of guys based out of the Sparta railroad depot for more than 30 years. He spent time before and after work tending to his cattle, pigs and chickens, and he used vacation days to plant and harvest crops. He liked working the land and believed in organic farming long before it became popular. His large garden and grass-fed beef not only fed his family but also many others.

Friends, family and Cataract neighbors knew him well as someone who befriended all and did whatever he could to help people. His home was a popular place to visit among friends and relatives, and they could usually count on a home-cooked meal.

He could often be found in the garage, often working on his cars, GMC pickup, or Minneapolis Moline tractors, and the vehicles of anyone who came by in need of a mechanic. He kept a photo album of the many Oldsmobiles he’d owned so he could look back on driving fast and having a good time with his brothers and cousins. Serving on his son’s pit crew at the La Crosse Motor Speedway was a chance to be close to loud engines again.

Duke had a great appreciation for the outdoors. He found time for fishing and hunting whenever he could and had many stories to share during deer season.

He retired from the railroad at age 60, which gave him more time on the farm. Despite his physical limitations after suffering a stroke, he continued working there until his very last day, just as he would have wished.

Duke will be remembered as a hard-working man always willing to help others. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Barb Mahan; children, Rob (Heidi Kast) Mahan, Becky Mahan and Angie Mahan; grandchildren Kiefer, Amethyst, Claire, Hallie, Lucas and Aubriella; great-grandchild Rylan; siblings David (Susan) Mahan, Mary Ann (Ron) Stingl, Richard (Bonnie) Mahan, Patti (Jim) Garves, Charles Mahan and Lorraine (Willie) Mahan; his dear cousins near Rising Sun; and many in-laws, nieces, nephews and friends.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife, Yvonne Bronemann Berg; his son, Kevin Mahan; siblings Paul Mahan, Geraldine Johnson, Rita Torgerud, Charlotte Arentz and Lawrence Severson; many extended family members and friends.

A memorial service will be held at 12:30 pm Thursday, January 4, 2024, at Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home and Cremation, Sparta, with Priscilla Hemmersbach officiating.

Family and friends are invited for visitation from 10 am until the time of services Thursday at the funeral home. Online condolences may be offered at

Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home and Cremation, Sparta, is assisting the family with arrangements.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Donald "Duke" R. Mahan Sr., please visit our floral store.

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January 4, 2024

10:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home and Cremation
106 W Franklin Street
Sparta, WI 54656

Memorial Service
January 4, 2024

12:30 PM
Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home and Cremation
106 W Franklin Street
Sparta, WI 54656

January 4, 2024

1:00 PM
Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home and Cremation
106 W Franklin Street
Sparta, WI 54656


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