133 Mason St., Onalaska, WI • Call (608) 788-2188


Dave Arneson

March 3, 2023 | 6 comments

Dave Arneson had a Wonderful Life.


Born June 1st, 1930, to the late Dorothy Arneson, the challenges of the depression era turned into a Norman Rockwell childhood for Dave. Raised by his loving mother and her siblings Carol, Armand, and Major in the neighborhood of 23rd and King Streets, hiking the bluffs and fishing the rivers surrounding La Crosse, Dave developed a lifelong love of all things outdoors. Dave was a caddy at the La Crosse Country Club where his uncles were pros and instilled in him a love of golf. He often recalled his joyful boyhood summers at the “Old Farm” on Amsterdam Prairie, hunting and fishing in “the Bottoms” of Seven Bridges Road, being mentored by his “Uncle Bunk”, and helping great-Aunt Mary run the farm.


Dave attended old Central High School where he began a lifelong interest in cars, lettered on the golf team, joined the Navy Reserves, and was always proud of his straight A’s in Latin. He and his life-long friend, Tom, began courting two beautiful ladies, Betty and Mary. In 1948, after graduation, Dave began working as a Teller at the State Bank of La Crosse at 4th and Main.


Dave was drafted into the United States Marine Corps and trained at Camp Pendleton. He served on the front line in the Korean War as a Field Radio Operator in the First Tank Battalion, First Marine Division. Dave rarely spoke of his military experiences for nearly 50 years but eventually opened up and rarely was seen during his golden years without a Marine Corps cap, which proved to be a great conversation starter and earned him countless thank-you’s and words of appreciation.


On October 17, 1953, he and Mary Jean Mezera were wed at St Mary’s in La Crosse. The family moved to Brice Prairie on Lake Onalaska in 1960, enjoying the views, the birds, and the waters of the Mississippi. They have remained there ever since. The couple raised three children and took special pride in seeing all three graduate from college.


Dave spent his entire professional career at State Bank, retiring after 42 gratifying years. From his office desk in front of the big windows on Main Street, attired in his trademark bow ties, Dave created a highly visible community presence for bank customers and passers by. He was proud to help bring the first ATMs to the area.


Dave’s curious mind led him to many lifelong interests including travel, astronomy, golf, and all things electrical and mechanical. He actively flyfished the Driftless Area for 75 years. He knew every creek and hollow, often returning home fishless (catch and release) but with a hat full of morel mushrooms from some secret valley. Private property, no doubt. Many a bitter cold fall day was spent fishing for walleye on the Mississippi, keeping the freezer stocked. He dedicated beautiful summer days to panfishing on Lake Onalaska, camping on its islands or exploring the sandbars up and down the river. He made epic trips with his boys Mike and Dan, canoeing the Boundary Waters and Quetico. Dave particularly enjoyed jazz and standards music. An accomplished pianist, Dave had a great voice and especially in his latter years would watch old movies and regale his family by singing along with the showtunes. Taking long, scenic drives throughout the spectacular Coulee Region backroads became one of his favorite pastimes. He and Mary traveled extensively around the USA in his Volkswagen Vanagon. They explored further destinations with the best travel planners, Mike and Sue.


He engaged in his community, serving as a red-coated Ambassador at countless public functions for many years, driving his 1930 Model A Ford in Octoberfest parades with the Old Style Auto Club, attending Trout Unlimited meetings, and many others.


Dave bridged the generations between his ancestral Norwegian immigrants and his present day clan, serving as the family historian and recalling countless stories of the early settlers. Dave had an incredible memory, so much of that family lore went along with him. Soft spoken, gentle and outgoing, Dave met people easily and readily made friends. He made a positive lasting impression on everyone he encountered and left each one of us better for having known him.


Dave passed away on February 28th, at age 92, in his home of 63 years, surrounded by family, the river, and the birds and views of the river valley he and Mary love so much. Dave is survived by his wife of 69 years, Mary. Sons Michael (Susan), Daniel (Sally), daughter Karen Miller (Steven). Grandchildren Kelsey Metzger (Thomas), Kari Blotske (Cody), Samuel Arneson (Steffi), Madeline Arneson, Alexander Miller, David Miller, Samuel Miller (friend Kira). Great-grandchildren Hank Blotske, Leo Blotske, Fiona Arneson and Percy Metzger.


The family appreciates the compassionate care givers especially Sandy at BrightStar and the amazing Mayo Clinic Health System Hospice Team.


A mass of Christian burial with military honors will be held at St. Patrick’s Onalaska on Friday May 5 with visitation at 10am, mass at 11am, and luncheon afterwards. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in his memory to Brice Prairie Conservation Association.



  1. Colleen Shore

    My condolences to the family of Dave Arneson. One of my first jobs was at State Bank of La Crosse. It was an honor to work with him.

    • Karen Miller

      Thank you, Colleen.

  2. Nancy Fulkerson Hill

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Dave was a remarkable man and had an amazing life.
    He and Mary and family did so much for the Mc Gilvray Road / Seven Bridges area, too.
    Best of all, he was a good friend and wonderful man.

    • Karen Miller

      Thank you, Nancy.

  3. Joan Johnson

    My condolences to the Arneson family.

  4. Tammy Selbo

    So very sad to hear of Dave’s passing. I remember so clearly his excitement the day they became our next door neighbors. My sympathy to all the family.


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