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A lasting tribute to a fallen DNR warden

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 3:30 PM CDT
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SUAMICO, Wis. (WBAY) - Nearly 50 years after after a DNR warden was brutally murdered after confronting a poacher, he is given a lasting honor.

“For any one of us, there’s nothing more than any one of us can give than to lay down our life for our mission, our cause and our calling,” stated DNR Chief Conservation Warden Casey Krueger today in Suamico.

On September 24, 1971, Neil LaFave spent his 32nd birthday in the Sensiba Wildlife Area, across the street from the Suamico Boat Launch, posting no hunting signs.

He had completed his mission, but then came across a poacher, who shot and killed him.

Brown County Judge Donald Zuidmulder was the county’s district attorney at the time.

“Neil LaFave represented the best in every public servant because his day was done, he could’ve gone home, he would still be with us, but like every dedicated law enforcement officer and every public servant, your day is not done as long as duty calls you,” said Zuidmulder to a crowd, which included LaFave’s family and friends, along with Suamico residents and law enforcement representatives.

For years, a stone memorial has marked the location where investigators discovered LaFave’s truck, but in the Fall of 2019, his daughter, who was two at the time of her dad’s death, launched a campaign to honor him more formally.

Today that dream came true with the dedication of the Neil LaFave Suamico Boat Launch.

“All the support that we received from the village, from Brown County, from residents, overall it’s just overwhelming,” says Nicki DeGreef, Lafave’s daughter.

Peg LaFave says her late husband would be honored and humbled by today’s dedication.

“I think he would be shocked, I really do, I just can’t believe the people that showed up here. It was beautiful, this was just beautiful, and like everybody said it’s a long time coming,” says LaFave.

A ceremony allowing a family, and community, that suffered such an intense tragedy years ago, a sense of peace and closure.

“All is well, safely rest, God is nigh,” sang Zuidmulder, which are the words from the first refrain of Taps, before adding, “Neil, your day is done, God rest and God give you peace.”

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