Steve Seyfert


Steve Seyfert died Saturday, 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 54.

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 preserved.

“His fingerprints are over a lot of the protected properties,” Shawn Graff, who succeeded Mr. Seyfert as executive director of the Land Trust, said. “He built the foundation for the organization. The Land Trust really soared and began to have a presence in Ozaukee County under his guidance.

“Steve really had a big vision. He told us we shouldn’t just be thinking of parcels in our backyard. We should be thinking in terms of watersheds, of areas of regional influence. These concepts were the big vision Steve brought to the table.”

Mr. Seyfert was key to preserving such areas as Lions Den Gorge Nature Preserve in the Town of Grafton, the Mequon Nature Preserve, Huiras Lake in the Town of Fredonia and Fellenz Woods in the Town of Trenton, as well as 18 other preserves and conservation easements.

He had a special affinity for the Milwaukee River, and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust recently named the longest stretch of the Milwaukee River trail at Fellenz Woods “Steve Seyfert Trail.”

Mr. Seyfert turned the Land Trust from a volunteer-run effort to a professional organization, building a board and raising funds while also increasing awareness of the need to preserve natural areas.    

“He was both our visionary and our get-it-done guy,” said Kine Torinus, former president of the Land Trust board.

His farm roots helped him connect with land owners who wanted to preserve their properties. That connection was key to Mr. Seyfert’s success, Mr. Graff said, even if it sometimes took a decade or so before a deal was consummated.

“I can’t tell you how often it happened that a property owner would approach us and say, ‘Steve Seyfert came and sat at our kitchen table and talked to us about this,’” Mr. Graff said.

That was the case when the Bratt family came to the Land Trust to establish Bratt Preserve, bearing a letter Mr. Seyfert had written them a decade earlier, and when Ed and Janet Beimborn closed a deal in 2017 to preserve their property bringing a similar missive.

“I’ve seen the amount of care and conservation thoughtfulness Steve brought to the position,” Tom Stolp, the current Land Trust director, said. “I’ve seen the preserves he’s brought to fruition. That kind of legacy is what lasts.”

Mr. Seyfert died at Kathy Hospice in West Bend, where he had been for four weeks.

Mr. Seyfert 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 his life to its protection and preservation. His family farmed the same land in Washington County for generations. He lived with five sisters in the Allenton home in which his father had been born. His parents and five sisters and their families still live close to the family dairy farm. His sister Mary and her husband Tom currently own and farm it.

As a young boy, Mr. Seyfert was drawn to nature and the outdoors. When there were a few free hours from farm chores, he often spent this time walking through fields and wooded areas with one of the many farm dogs at his side. Walking in nature,  allowing himself to be stopped often by plants and creatures that caught his eye, remained a love of his life.

Mr. Seyfert graduated from Slinger High School in 1982. He was awarded a college scholarship from the Daniel Boone Conservation League and attended the University of Wisconsin-Washington County and UW-Steven’s 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 led to his passion for protecting and preserving the environment through his work with the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.  

Mr. Seyfert was a spiritual seeker. After his time with the Land Trust, he traveled to Berkley, Calif., to attended the Franciscan School of Theology. Next, he took on the challenge of raising funds for Catholic Nativity schools that served the most needy, De Marillac in San Francisco and San Miguel in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Seyfert met Alexandra Torinus in 2001 with a casual coffee date. The attraction took 10 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 and yoga practitioner.

Mr. Seyfert is survived by his wife Alexandra of Wauwatosa; his parents Harold and Marjorie Seyfert of Allenton and his sisters Suzanne (Douglas Spaeth) Milkus of West Bend, Cindy (Mike) Kuepper of Allenton and Mary (Tom) Dwyer, Patti (Brian) Loomans and Kim (Tim) Pfeifer, all also of West Bend.

He is further survived by his father and mother-in-law Tom and Mary Torinus of Egg Harbor and sister-in-law Elizabeth Torinus of Delafield.

Mr. Seyfert was preceded in death by his sisters Jacqueline and Jean, paternal grandparents Walter and Ilma Seyfert and maternal grandparents John and Isabelle Lofy.

Funeral arrangements are pending through Phillip Funeral Home, West Bend.




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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