Percy Mather

I grew up in Central Wisconsin on a small dairy farm a few miles from Mosinee. I rode the bus ride to get to high school which was located in town.

Mosinee had the distinction of having the stinkiest paper mill in the state due to running a sulfite process to create the humble brown paper towel (Mosinee Turn Towels). I remember how we closed the windows on the bus as we approached the mill to keep the stench out. As the bus crossed the bridge, you could see at least a dozen pipes poking out from the base of the plant, each discharging a different color of wastewater. That was then.

I remember giving a speech on Rachel Carson about the dangers of non-specific pesticides such as DDT. I graduated from high school in 1963.

I attended the UW-Madison, earning a BS in Biochemistry and worked in hospital laboratories for about a dozen years, then earned an MS in Civil & Environmental Engineering and switched careers to environmental work. All these interests came together when I got my dream job. I was hired by DNR in 1987 by Mike Witt, may he rest in peace.

The years seemed to fly by. I worked in several programs, starting with the Industrial Wastewater program. I also worked in Water Resources where we first began using computers. I recall that GEF 2 was remodeled a few times. I changed programs and worked in remediation and redevelopment and finally, solid waste and recycling at the South Central regional office. I have many happy memories of projects, co-workers and of course, potlucks and lunches.

As I look back over my DNR career, I feel proud of the improvements in environmental quality that have been made. I'm proud to report that there are no multi-colored wastewater streams entering the Wisconsin River from the paper mill anymore. Fish live in the Wisconsin River again and the air is much cleaner, although you can still detect a "fragrance".


Since retiring in 2010, I spend my time gardening, biking, traveling, hiking, volunteering, and spending time with the next generation. I do a lot of reading and indulge myself with YouTube and DVDs. I became a Master Gardener Volunteer in 2012. I spend many hours helping at a community garden in Madison and removing invasive species from prairie plantings.

Percy and Maayan

I'm looking forward to the monthly gatherings of ARC to keep in touch with some of the finest people that I know, my DNR co-workers.