Dr. Donald Christian Fahrbach


MUNISING, MI – 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.

A memorial service for Dr. Fahrbach is planned for August 14, 2017 at the Bowerman Funeral Home in Munising. For now, patients, colleagues and friends are invited to leave remembrances of Dr. Fahrbach at www.bowermanfuneralhome.net