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


Peter Gerard Dwyer

June 12, 2021 | 13 comments

Peter Dwyer passed away peacefully on Thursday morning, June 10th  2021, as only he would, on his terms. The old Irishman, born September 18th 1936 in Ann Arbor, MI, was the consummate survivor and jokester. Peter overcame enormous odds as a child to become a proud servant of La Crosse County Human Services and, most importantly, a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend.

His surviving wife, Hilary Dwyer (Wignall), was his crown jewel. They met when he was looking for a part-time secretary. Well, he found a full-time wife. They were the ultimate odd couple. A perfect ying for each other’s yang. They rarely fought though he would sometimes convince people she was the former captain of the Canadian Wrestling team, and she would constantly jab him for his unwillingness to pay full price for pretty much anything. Their love was endearing and unwavering. Their kindness and generosity were a beacon of solidarity for their children and those who knew them well.

He was extremely proud of his three surviving children Adam Ostwald (Krysta Ewens) of Calgary, AB, Caragh Dwyer (Brian Hoelzel) of Forest Lake, MN, and Brendan Dwyer (Lori Ketelhut) of Richmond, VA. Though they often gave him a hard time for buying day-old bread and locking his car in a locked garage, he was their counselor. He gave sage advice about careers, relationships, and condiments for an onion sandwich. He spoiled them. Most importantly, he supported them know matter what even if it meant attending to show choir competitions.

Peter became Pops in his later years. His seven grandchildren (Jakob, Zachary, Turner, Mason, Finley, Daxton, and Piper) brought him great joy and laughter. Pops was known for his ridiculously bad jokes, and while laughter was often lost on adults, his grandkids loved it and loved him even more. Pops always related well to children, as his familiar catch phrase “watch out for elephants” both puzzled and captivated young ones.

Peter was preceded in death by his four siblings: Nancy, Alicia, Jack, and Patrick. Peter was a twin, born premature in the Great Depression. His brother, Patrick, died at six months. The doctors did not think Peter would make it either. His mother (preceded in death), Mary Marguerite, did not even see him for the first two months. Yet, Peter endured. His father, John Edgar, died when Peter was only five. He was then sent to a boarding school on his own from age five to 18. Yet again, he persevered. Peter graduated from St. Thomas Military Academy in St. Paul, MN, where he was a state champion one-miler on the track team. His running success was not only a testament to his work ethic, intensity, and determination, but a representation of what he had overcome. In 1957, he attended Northern Michigan University, in Marquette. This is where he really hit his stride both on the track and in the classroom. He was captain of the university’s track and field team and graduated in 1959.

Inspired by John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you – Ask what you can do for your country” speech in 1961, Peter chose to get a graduate degree in Social Work at the University of Michigan. After graduating, he worked for several years in and around Detroit, MI, serving the marginalized and less-privileged. He moved back to Marquette and worked for the Juvenile Court System of Marquette County. He volunteered at Bay Cliff Summer Camp for Disabled Children during his time off. In Marquette is where he met Hilary and Adam. They shotgunned to La Crosse in 1972 where he became the manager of Child Protective Services for La Crosse County. This was a job he took very, very seriously. Even to his very last few days, he agonized over the difficult decisions he made that surely impacted the La Crosse area’s most vulnerable.

He retired in 1998 to focus on several “hobbies du jour” like frame making and fly fishing and more enduring interests like drinking dry martinis, chasing garbage cans, and wearing socks with sandals. Peter had a profound love for sports and more specifically sports statistics and swearing at referees. He was so passionate for his beloved Michigan Wolverines he could not actually watch their games. He would spend hours in his home office exploring the demise of the single wing formation in football or predicting which coach would call a two-point conversion instead of an extra point.

He left no pun unintended, no quiet moment unspoiled, no food left safe on the table. He never met a cat or beer stein he didn’t like. And, while he dedicated his life to protecting our country’s most vulnerable and serving the less fortunate, his humor and wit became his hallmark. His legacy will live on in the stories shared and lives touched.

No donations to the family, please. They do not need your hard-earned money. No flowers either. If you are feeling generous, Peter would like you to help a child in need or one who is struggling. His family is raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association so we can one day defeat this horrible disease. Should you feel so generous, your donation could help. A sincere, sincere thank you to the staff and administration at Bluffview Memory Care. Their tireless and often thankless effort to care for Peter and the other residents mean the world to families who can no longer shoulder the burden of those with memory loss. And, in the time of COVID-19 their compassion and adaptability were remarkable and unprecedented. Peter’s family are and forever will be grateful.

An informal celebration of life will take place Monday, June 14th, at the Coulee Region Cremation Group, 133 Mason St, Onalaska, WI from 1-3pm. A light lunch will be served and bad jokes will be told.



  1. Larry Czechowicz

    To my dear friend Hilary & Family,

    I was saddened to read of the death of Peter. Although we have not seen each other for a number of years, I have the fondest of memories of my times with you and Pete. Deepest sympathy to you from Maza and myself.

    May your grief soften quickly and your own joyful memories sustain you.

    Larry & Maza Czechowicz

    • Hilary

      Thank you for your kind words. He was a good man.
      I hope your family is doing well. Stay healthy

  2. Teri Geier

    My deepest and heartfelt sympathy go out to All of Pete’s family Peter was my manager boss while I worked at La Crosse County Human Services I still see Pete sitting behind his desk blue and orange colors flavoredhis room always typing away Looking up allowing one to come in and get advise direction or once in awhile “ don’t do that again” 😅may God comfort u all thsnks for sharing him with us all PS when 4th of July sales comes around look for Pete’s spirit he WASThe best sales shopper I ever met sending hugs Teri Geier

  3. Jeff Tooke

    Hilary and family,

    Peter’s kindness, leadership and humor will always be remembered.

    In our prayers,

    Jeff and Kate Tooke

  4. Linda Downer

    Pete was a great guy and a tremendous supervisor. He always supported those who worked for him and that meant alot. I’m glad I got to see him again when the two of you moved across the street from where I live.

  5. kathy reilly

    Hillary and family, I am sending my sympathy to all of you! The last time I saw you was at Bluffview when you were taking Peter out for lunch! What a beautiful obituary you wrote telling of his life! Sounds like he was a wonderful person. With love, Kathy Reilly

  6. Steve & Vicki Stromberg

    Hilary & Family,

    We just learned of your loss of Peter. We are so very very sorry. He was a great man and I was honored to have worked for/with him. I loved all his jokes and stories!
    He will be sadly missed by so many. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all. 🙏🌹

  7. Wilson Family

    Hillary, Adam, Carragh and Brennan – we only met your Dad a handful of times – but he left a warm impression – and his handiwork is obvious in his children. We were sorry to hear of Peter’s passing and raise a glass to his memory.

    David, Ingrid, Bianca and Saskia

  8. Robin Scott

    Aunt Hilary,
    We are sorry to hear about Peter. I hope you are hanging in there during this time of loss. Hopefully your kids are able to be there to get you through this.
    Love Robin and James

  9. Doug Huggett

    What a very special tribute to Pete! The loss of your soul mate and life’s partner is by no means an easy thing to endure, and I can attest to that! Whether the loss is sudden or stretches out for a long period of time, repair and regeneration back to wholeness to fill the emptiness the loss created is a journey in and of itself. May that journey be a positive and fruitful trip Hillary! My condolences go out to you and your entire family.

    Doug Huggett

  10. Alyce L Erickson

    Hilary and family,

    Please accept my sympathy and the loss of Peter.

    May you find comfort in your memories.

  11. Brian And Rita Whissell

    We are so sorry for your loss. The obituary was truly a lovely tribute to a man who was well loved and respected.

  12. Tracey Harris

    Hilary, Adam, Caragh& Brendan,

    What a beautiful tribute. Wish we were there for hugs and bad jokes.
    Lots of love,

    Tracey and Brent


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