Dr. Donald Christian FahrbachAugust 6, 1927 ~ April 9, 2017 (age 89)
Updated New Obituary
Don Fahrbach died on April 9, 2017 in Kailua, Hawaii. Now he is coming home to be buried in Munising. Friends, patients, and colleagues are invited to a memorial service to be held at Bowerman's Funeral Home on Monday, August 14. Visitation is from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. with a service at 5 o'clock pm.
Dr. Fahrbach came to Munising in 1969 with his wife, Alice and four children, Dan, Jan, Nancy and Thom. Before the move, the Fahrbach family had been living in Benghazi, Libya where Dr. Fahrbach worked in a mission hospital. Earlier, he and his family lived in the mountains of north Georgia for 10 years. In Munising, he joined the practice of Dr. Walter Olsen and Dr. Gene Hildebrand, and the staff of Munising Memorial Hospital.
Forty years ago, being a family doctor meant doing everything from high school football physicals to delivering babies. Besides office hours, Munising doctors shared 24 hour coverage of the Emergency Department, saw patients in the hospital and at the nursing home, and performed basic surgeries.
Personal relationships with people are why Dr. Fahrbach continued to see patients well into his 80s. When a patient and doctor see each other over 30 or 40 years, a rich relationship often forms. While Dr. Fahrbach was fastidiously tight-lipped with patient confidentiality, it was easy for family members to see that patients and co-workers must have often confided in him and sought his advice and counsel. It was clear that many patients became friends with Doc and felt healed in both mind and body.
Dr. Fahrbach was deeply involved in the local Seventh-day Adventist congregation where he variously served as head elder, chairman of the school board, and as long time lesson teacher. Through the years at church he could always be found in his spot three or four rows back on the left side. Church life is full of joy and occasional trials, and through it all, Dr. Fahrbach deeply believed that "where two or three are gathered together" God was to be found there, too.
Nearly the same thing could be said of the Munising Tennis Club. For decades, tennis and the Munising players were a passion. He found pleasure in the camaraderie on the courts and never seemed to tire of friendly competition. As his game eventually slowed, he still came by the courts regularly to visit dear friends. Naturally, he took immense pride the success of the Mustang tennis teams.
Scarcely a week passed over 40 years that Dr. Fahrbach and Alice would not be out of the trails and waters of Alger County, no matter the weather or the season. They felt blessed to live here and never seemed to tire of the walk out to Beaver or a paddle along the Lakeshore. Dr. Fahrbach's capacity for noticing and appreciating beauty never faltered and was one of his most indelible traits. His sky-blue soul rejoiced always and opened the eyes of those who knew and loved him.
Dr. Donald Christian Fahrbach, 89, died April 9, 2017 in Kailua, Hawaii. On the last day of his life, he enjoyed a full day: a walk at the beach, lunch with family, and an afternoon outside soaking up the last rays of the sun. In the early evening, he was struck by a cerebral bleed—a stroke. So ended a good day and a good life.
A 48-year resident of Munising, Michigan, Dr. Fahrbach was in Hawaii visiting his daughter, Jan and her husband, Ron, when he passed away. He’d planned to return to Michigan in time to see the tulips in his yard in bloom.
Dr. Fahrbach was born in 1927 to Maude (Boeken) and Christian Fahrbach in Chicago, Ill. Don was born at home, the youngest of three children. He attended high school in Chicago, where he acquired a lifelong love of active sports: swimming, speed skating, and baseball. He pitched a high school championship game at Old Comiskey Park, home of his beloved White Sox.
After serving in the US Army during the War, Don attended Emanuel Missionary College in southern Michigan, where he met Alice Jane Duffie, an especially a lively nursing student whom he always credited for guiding his restless energy from sports to serious study. Don and Alice were married in Central Lake, Michigan. Together, they raised a family of four: Dan, Jan, Nancy and Thom—and were married for 63 years before Alice’s death in 2012.
After medical school in California, Don and Alice moved to the South where Dr. Don began his medical career as a solo physician in the rural mountain town of Cleveland, Georgia. In the early years, the family lived upstairs above the clinic. When office hours were over, sick or injured patients simply came around and rang at the front door. He developed an ethic of never turning away a patient regardless of their ability to pay.
In 1966, the Fahrbachs volunteered as Seventh-day Adventist missionaries in Benghazi, Libya. Returning stateside after three years, the family relocated to Munising, where Dr. Fahrbach joined the practice of Drs. Walter Olsen and Gene Hildebrand. Over the next 44 years, hundreds of Alger County residents received medical care from Dr. Fahrbach, which was infused with his belief that good health included both the spiritual and emotional dimensions. Dr. Fahrbach delivered babies into his 60s, covered night calls to the emergency room into his 70s, and saw patients and served as the medical director of TenderCare nursing home until he retired.
Throughout his life, Dr. Fahrbach served on short-term mission trips to all parts of the world, including Kenya, Nepal and Guam. For Don, being a doctor was a call to service. He made little distinction between care delivered at his home clinic on the shores of Lake Superior, or to patients in a lean-to at the end of a trek in Nepal. Dr. Fahrbach retired from medicine in 2012, aged 83.
As much as Don loved his work, he retained a passion for play. Recreation revived him, challenged him and became the focus of his spiritual quests. He could be counted on for tennis night, and took secret pride in besting players half his age. His love of canoeing persisted despite a near sinking in an early homemade canvas boat. He and his wife, Alice, honeymooned on the Manistee River, and family trips to Boundary Waters were fueled by his sense of curiosity at what might be just around the bend. Alger County residents could be counted on to pick up the hitching-hiking Don and Alice following their afternoon paddles down the Indian River. He loved exploring Grand Island, the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore, and the forest around camp, both on foot and skis. No trail ever became boring, only more deeply loved.
Dr. Fahrbach is survived by his four children: Dan (Abigail Chipley), Thom (Jean Sammis) and Nancy Fahrbach of Portland, Oregon and Jan (Ron) Sauder of Kaneohe, Hawaii. He is also survived by six grandchildren: Julia, Jana, Reed, Jens, Willa, and Silas. His wife, Alice, passed away in 2012.
There will be visiting time on Monday, August 14, 2017 at the Bowerman Funeral Home in Munising from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m., Dr. Fahrbach's memorial service will start at 5:00 p.m. in the Funeral Home's Chapel.