Jeffery Eaton

RHINELANDER, Wisc. — Jeffery Thomas Eaton of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, passed away at home on November 9, 2023. He was 71.

Jeff was born on February 6, 1952 on Midway Island to Betty Jean and Leslie C. Eaton, Sr. After graduating from Big Rapids High School in 1970, he went on to study English and Journalism at Central Michigan University.

Jeff worked for 15 years as a reporter, photojournalist, and editor for newspapers in Cadillac, Lansing, and Marquette, Michigan, before returning to his studies and earning a Master’s Degree in English and Writing with an emphasis in poetry from Northern Michigan University.

On New Year’s Eve 1989, Jeff met Mary Kinnunen in a booth at Ten O’Clock Charlie’s in Marquette, kicking off 26 years of love, family, sailing, art, poetry, and loud music. They married on Leap Day in 1992.

In 1992, Jeff moved with his family to Chengdu, China as the first participant in a teacher exchange between Northern Michigan University and Sichuan Normal University. He taught English Composition and Anglo-American Studies to English majors. Following his return from China, Jeff took a job in the English department at Nicolet Area Technical College in Rhinelander, where he taught writing, literature, and interpersonal communication for 20 years.

In his retirement, Jeff threw himself into his community, carefully curating Blues Friday and Crossroads Cafe programs on WXPR radio, volunteering with ArtStart, participating in open mics, and driving around the region to support live music. He was a passionate supporter of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau and volunteered his time to film and edit video coverage of their exhibits.

Jeff was preceded in death by his beloved wife Mary Kinnunen and his parents, Les and Betty. He is survived by his brother, Leslie C. (Sharon) Eaton, Jr., of Schoolcraft, MI; his daughters Megan (Martin) Kinnavy of Medfield, MA and Eleanor Kinnunen of New Orleans, LA; granddaughter Fiona Kinnavy; nieces Kirsten (Jonathan) Mycko, Amber (Adam) Cegelis, and Katherine (Steven) Polinger; nephew Shawn (Caren Raymond) Willie; and goddaughter Neva White.

A memorial reception will be held at ArtStart in Rhinelander on November 19 from 1-4pm CST. A burial and memorial event are being planned for the Upper Peninsula in Spring 2024. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Oneida County Humane Society or WXPR Public Radio.