ALLOUEZ — Fr. David Zimmerman, pastor of Holy Family Parish, Elcho, and St. Mary Parish, Pickerel, died Feb. 24 at age 65, following a short battle with cancer.
Fr. Zimmerman was born in Antigo to Irwin and Eleanor (Hart) Zimmerman. He credited the value of family prayer instilled by his parents as inspirations for his vocation.
“That early formation is really vital. We talk about the domestic church a lot,” said Fr. Zimmerman in a 2020 interview with The Compass. “The Eucharist is really the beginning and the end of every week, but it leads to the domestic church which is really next in line. If you don’t have that at home, it’s going to be very difficult to grow in faith.”
Following high school, Fr. Zimmerman attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he earned a degree in psychology. After college, he worked with adults and children with disabilities and as a factory laborer, all while the call to priesthood lingered. He eventually found his way to St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.
“I always felt that religion and prayer were at the center of my life. I pictured myself as a priest, but didn’t take it that seriously,” he said about his journey to priesthood.
Fr. Zimmerman was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Robert Banks on June 3, 1995, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. His first priestly appointment was as associate pastor (parochial vicar) of Holy Innocents Parish, Manitowoc. In 1997, he was appointed associate pastor at Holy Family Parish, Marinette. Three years later, Fr. Zimmerman was named temporary administrator of St. Mary Parish, Peshtigo, and a year later, he also was named temporary administrator of St. Edward Parish, Wagner.
In 2004, Fr. Zimmerman was appointed associate pastor of St. John-Sacred Heart Parish, Sherwood/Saint John; St. Mary Parish, Stockbridge; and St. Mary Parish, Hilbert. He became pastor of the three parishes a year later. In 2007, Fr. Zimmerman was appointed pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, Clarks Mills, and St. Michael Parish, Whitelaw. In 2013, he was named pastor for the parishes in Elcho and Pickerel where he has served for the last nine years.
Fr. Zimmerman also served the Diocese of Green Bay on the College of Consultors for a five-year term and on the Presbyteral Council for a three-year term.
Fr. Zimmerman was happy to return to the Northwoods (Elcho and Pickerel) to be closer to Antigo, his hometown, to “reconnect with relatives,” he said.
Throughout his priesthood, Fr. Zimmerman said that he learned to “expect the unexpected.”
“The unexpected things are more challenging, but they are part of the way we grow as priest. … The cross is with you out there and you have to expect that as well, along with the joy. It’s a growth process and I am grateful for the experiences.”
Fr. Zimmerman was a musician. He played the trumpet, French horn, piano, organ, guitar and banjo. He enjoyed travel, including a sabbatical to Italy during his anniversary year in 2020. He was also a hunter and had been taking Tae Kwon Do lessons, achieving the rank of red belt.
He is survived by three brothers, Robert (Kathy) Zimmerman of De Pere, Richard (Rose) Zimmerman of Tucson, Ariz., and Thomas (Janet) Zimmerman of Aniwa; nieces, nephews and friends.
The funeral Mass was celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday, March 4, at St. John the Evangelist Church in Antigo. Bishop David Ricken will preside. Fr. Matthew Settle served as the homilist. Burial followed in Queen of Peace Cemetery in Antigo.
(Patricia Kasten contributed to this story.)