Don Kanel

Don Kanel

MADISON-Don Kanel, age 93, passed away early Wednesday morning, Aug. 17, 2016.

He died very quietly in his sleep after a peaceful day in his room at Agrace HospiceCare.

Don was born in Bialystok, Poland, January 25, 1923 to Moses (Mojzesz) Kanel and Beyla (Bejle) Kanel (Wolman). He came to the United States in 1938, at the age of 15 to live with his uncle in Far Rockaway, N.Y. where he finished high school. Most of his family was lost in the Holocaust during World War II.

In September of 1941, Don entered the University of Wisconsin. He once said “The University had a great influence on me, I came here as a Jewish Socialist from Eastern Europe and became a New Deal Progressive and a member of a much larger human community.” Shortly after graduating from the University with a degree in Agricultural Economics, Don was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent 1946-1949 in Lake View Sanatorium and the Lake Tomahawk State Camp recovering. Don grew to love the Northwoods and fishing during his time there. In 1949, he returned to the University of Wisconsin to complete his M.S. and Ph.D. In 1963, Don joined the University of Wisconsin faculty in both the department of Agricultural Economics and the Land Tenure Center. His research, teaching and consulting took him to places such as Chandigarh, India, El Salvador, Santiago, Chile, and Botswana. Don said “The exposure to the third world and working as an adviser with many third world students helped me to appreciate how vital appropriate development is, not only to the third world but for the future of all of us.” A former student shared, “Don helped all of us in the Land Tenure Center understand the role of European revolutions in liberating the peasantry from the bonds of feudalism. So simple, yet so profound.” He loved astronomy, archaeology and the Northwoods.

His children fondly remember the little bark boats he carved for them when they were small.

Don is survived by his children, Michael Kanel (Rebecca Cole) and Elizabeth Kanel (Edward Waddington); his beloved grandsons, Avery and William Kanel and Tristan and Galen Waddington; as well as his cousins in Canada, Israel and here in the U.S.; and his students from all over the world that he held in such high regard and with great affection. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ellen Kanel (Harding) in 1966; and his wife, Elisabeth Diaz Herrera (Bettina) in 2009.

A gathering of friends and family will be held at AGRACE HOSPICECARE, 5395 E. Cheryl Parkway, Fitchburg, from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016.

Don’s family wishes to thank the staff at Agrace HospiceCare for their warm and outstanding care and above all Sam Price, who cared for our father and his wife, Bettina, with such love and gentleness for many years.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to Agrace HospiceCare, Wisconsin Public Radio, Jewish Social Services or the Holocaust Museum.

Online condolences may be made at

Gunderson Fitchburg
Funeral & Cremation Care
2950 Chapel Valley Road