May 31, 1964 — March 2, 2019
Steve Seyfert died early March 2. It was the completion of his long and
challenging journey with an aggressive brain cancer and the culmination
of a life of kindness, compassion, and service. He was the first
executive director of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and led its
formative years during which thousands of acres of natural areas were
His life ended with a graceful four weeks at the Kathy Hospice in West
Bend. It was a time when he was alert and responsive and could receive
the immense love of his wife, Alex, his family and friends, and his dog,
Dixie. It was also a time when he could let himself be found and
gathered in by the divine love, which he sought after all of his life.
Steve was born on May 31, 1964, into a family deeply rooted in the land
of Wisconsin, and he became a man of the land, dedicating much of his
life to its protection and preservation. His family farmed the same land
in Washington County for generations. He was raised with five sisters in
Allenton in the home in which his father had been born. His parents,
five sisters, and their families still live close to the family dairy
farm, now owned by his sister, Mary, and her husband, Tom.
As a young boy Steve was drawn to nature and the outdoors. When there
were a few free hours from farm chores, Steve often spent this time
walking through fields and wooded areas with one of the many farm dogs
at his side. Walking in nature remained a love of his life, allowing
himself to be stopped often by plants and creatures which caught his
Steve attended Allenton Elementary, Slinger Middle School, and Slinger
High School, graduating in 1982. He was awarded a college scholarship
from the Daniel Boone Conservation League. He attended UW-Washington
County and UW-Stevens Point, earning a bachelor’s degree in natural
resources management. He earned a master’s degree from UW-Madison in
urban and regional planning.
This eventually led to his passion for protecting and preserving the
environment through his work with the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT).
As its first executive director, he moved it from a fledgling
volunteer-run effort to a professional organization. He built a board
and raised funds. His farm roots helped him to connect with land owners
who wanted to preserve their lands that contained sensitive natural
areas. He cut deals for acquisitions and protective easements. Many of
the targeted lands lay along the banks of the Milwaukee River and its
tributaries and the shores of Lake Michigan in Ozaukee County. The land
trust board recently named the longest stretch of Milwaukee River Trail
at Fellenz Woods “Steve Seyfert Trail.” “He was both our visionary and
our get-it-done guy,” said Kine Torinus, former OWLT chairperson.
Steve was a spiritual seeker. After his time with the land trust, he
traveled to Berkeley, Calif., to attend the Franciscan School of
Theology. Next, he took on the challenge of raising funds for Catholic
Nativity Miguel schools that served the most needy: De Marillac in San
Francisco and San Miguel in Washington, D.C. Steve met Alexandra Torinus
in the fullness of their lives in 2001 with a casual coffee date. The
attraction took ten years to mature into a beautiful love story. In 2011
they had a second cup of coffee, which led to their marriage in 2012. A
couplet on their wedding invitation read: “A coffee date, a decade’s
wait, another cup, and it was fate.”
Among his unfulfilled dreams was a desire to work in the wild with
wolves. He was a passionate gardener, photographer, yoga practitioner,
and volunteer for environmental organizations and the Elmbrook Humane
Steve led by example. His life and work were characterized by a quiet
grace and humility. And always a deep loyalty to a greater cause. It is
hard to know his accomplishments or, more importantly, the many lives he
touched because he did not talk about these things.
In all his doings he had a wit that was quick, silly, and fun. He
affectionately called his sisters, who watched over him closely right up
to his death, the “Witches of Eastwick.”
Steve was a strong mentor and guide to 14 nephews and nieces. Friendship
was his special gift, and he maintained a remarkable number of long-term
Several times during the year he played his favorite movie, “It’s a
Wonderful Life.” A story like the ending of that movie played out for
him and Alex during his year-anda- half ordeal with cancer, a story of
bountiful giving by family, friends, and the Oxford Place neighborhood
in Wauwatosa. They came to sit with Steve for many shifts over many
months while Alex worked, and they surprised him with daily gifts of
help and caring.
He is survived by his wife, Alexandra of Wauwatosa; his parents, Harold
and Marjorie Seyfert, of Allenton; and his sisters, Suzanne Milkus
(Douglas Spaeth) of West Bend, Cindy Kuepper (Mike) of Allenton, Mary
Dwyer (Tom) of West Bend, Patti Loomans (Brian) of West Bend, and Kim
Pfeifer (Tim) of West Bend; he has 14 nieces and nephews and 20
grandnieces and grandnephews. Also by father- and mother-in-law, Tom and
Mary Torinus of Egg Harbor; sister-in-law, Elizabeth Torinus of
Delafield, and his special canine companion Dixie. Also by lifelong
“we’ve got your back” friends, Ken Cornell, Todd Sprinkmann, June (Hefter)
Ernst, and Ron Hefter.
Steve was preceded in death by his sisters Jacqueline and Jean; paternal
grandparents, Walter and Ilma (née Rosenthal) Seyfert; and maternal
grandparents, John and Isabelle (née Schulteis) Lofy.
Friends and relatives are invited to attend a visitation from 10:00 a.m.
until 12:00 p.m. on Friday, March 15, at the West Bend Country Club,
5858 County Highway Z, West Bend. A private prayer service will follow
at 12:15 p.m.
The Phillip Funeral Home of West Bend is assisting the family. For more
information, call 262-3382050 or visit