Sunday, November 29, 2020


March 9, 1983—July 20, 2020

   SPARTA - Donleigh O. Gaunky, 37, was born in Lake Forest, IL, on March 9, 1983, and passed away on July 20, 2020, in La Crosse, WI. His early years were spent in Lake County, IL, but his family relocated to Sparta, WI in 1995. He completed his middle and high school years in Sparta, graduating from Sparta HS in 2001. Among the extracurricular activities he participated in were band, theater, and managing the football team.

   Upon graduation, Don entered military service, joining the Army. He spent eight years in the Army as an intelligence analyst. He was deployed to Iraq, twice. His first deployment was with the 101st Airborne Division, which spearheaded the initial invasion in 2003. His second was with the 205th Military Intelligence Battalion. It was during that deployment, in 2005, when his youngest brother ‘Alex’ was killed in action. Don performed the sad duty of escorting his little brother’s remains home. He later published a memoir documenting that experience titled, “The Hardest Journey Home.”

   Completing his military service, Don started his college career. He graduated from both Western Tech and UW-La Crosse, with honors. One major wasn’t enough. Don’s interests were political science, economics and history. He was equally well versed in all of them.

   His post-graduate life was spent primarily as a writer. He self-published a number of books. His current projects were collecting ‘war stories’ from his brothers and a book on veteran’s suicide.

   Don was known for having a big heart and for always being willing to lend a hand. He was a passionate advocate for better mental health services for Veterans, and worked tirelessly on behalf of his fellow veterans.

   He will be remembered by the loves of his life, his niece, Alexia and nephew, Sammy, as being the “Goofy Uncle.” To all who knew him, he will be sorely missed.

   He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Donleigh O. Gaunky, Michael Greenley and Annette R. Gaunky; his cousin, Heather LaMarche; and by his beloved brother, Anthony “Alex” Gaunky.

   He is survived by his parents, David G. (Lisa) Gaunky and Lorraine M. (Brad) Friske; grandmother, Claudia Greenley; his brothers, David A. (Alicia) Gaunky, Robert A. Gaunky; step-siblings, Andrew J. Gaunky, and Jacob (Sara) and Jessica Friske; niece, Alexia Gaunky; and nephew, Samuel Gaunky. He is also survived by a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of large families.

   Don will be cremated and his ashes placed in the same plot in which his brother, Alex, is buried, in Leon Cemetery. Military honors will be rendered. Don escorted his brother, Alex, home. Now, Alex can return the favor.

   Online condolences may be sent at

   Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home

Evans Print & Media Group

1302 River Rd.
P.O. Box 252

Sparta, WI 54656-0252

Office Number: (608) 269-3186
Fax Number: (608) 269-6876


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