Member Profiles

Dave Gjestson

David Gjestson retired from the Department of Natural Resources on Martin Luther King Day, 1999 . . . free at last after 30 years of service!

Most of his career was in Game/Wildlife Management starting in Jefferson and Walworth counties in 1967, moving to Grant and Richland counties in 1970, then Dane, Rock, and Green counties as the area game manager in 1972.

He was promoted to the Bureau of Wildlife staff as a land acquisition rules special -ist in 1976, and ended his career as a policy and planning analyst including coordinating the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway from 1989 to 1996.

Career highlights include appraising, negotiating, and optioning more than 10,000 acres of public land, developing several administrative rule procedures still in use today, and introducing Project WILD as a permanent DNR program. He takes great pride in getting the 80,000-acre Lower Wisconsin State Riverway operational, and assisting in establishing the Riverway Board's performance standards. Purchasing and restoring the Wisconsin Heights Black Hawk War battle site, and successfully nominating the site for listing in the National Registry of Historic Places along with 15 historic markers across southern Wisconsin were especially significant while coordinating State Riverway activities.

After retirement and stimulated by his mentor and department historian, Walter Scott, David assembled several years of historical game management material and spent two years in various archives hoping to discover the roots of the wildlife management profession and stimulate a professional writer to write a book on the profession's history. When DNR funding failed, he spent five years writing the story himself, and sold the 500-page manuscript to the DNT in 2008. The book entitled, "The Gamekeepers - Wisconsin Wildlife Conservation History from WCD to CWD" is expected to be published soon.

David is a Stoughton native, graduating from high school there in 1957. After three years at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater in engineering, he discovered a fish and wildlife curriculum at the University of Minnesota, and transferred to the Minneapolis campus where he graduated with a B.S. in wildlife management in 1963.

With the Viet Nam War on, David enlisted in the U. S. Navy after graduation, attending Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island in June 1964. He received his commission as an ensign that September, and received special training in nuclear weapons before joining the U.S.S. Hancock (CVA-19) on station in the Gulf of Tonkin in January 1964. He served three tours in the Gulf off the coast of Viet Nam, and was discharged from active duty in 1967.

While serving in the Navy, David met and married Laura DeGioia on December 22, 1966. They returned to Wisconsin in 1967 when David was hired as a game manager for the Wisconsin Conservation Department. While living in Ft. Atkinson at his first workstation, Laura gave birth to two sons: Scott and Christopher. Laura graduated with honors from the UW-Madison in 1978, and taught high school sociology for several years. She obtained her master's degree from the UW-Madison in 1995, and is currently a clinical therapist in Dodgeville. After serving as an adoption specialist for Lutheran Social Services, Laura accepted a position as a clinical therapist, and continues part-time in that capacity.

Utah backpacking with Chuck Pils

Kayaking in Baja, Mexico

David and Laura enjoy international travel on a regular basis, and have enjoyed trips to Mexico, Costa Rico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, St. Martin, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, and Peru. Laura's adoption travels took her to Russia, China, and Korea. A late-in-life introduction to horses led both to purchase their own, and embark on trail riding all over the country as far east as Indiana, south to Tennessee and Missouri, and west including Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, and both Dakotas.

Trail riding at Fort Robinson, Nebraska

Moving became a fun hobby during 45 years of marriage starting in Fort Atkinson, then Boscobel, Oregon, Spring Green, and Mazomanie before settling in on a 35-acre ranch located between Mineral Point and Darlington in 2004. Enjoying three horses, two burros, two sheep, three cats, two dogs, four ducks, and 35 chickens, they thought moving days were over. However, Wisconsin's miserable winters forced another move in March 2011. This time, to Oakley, California (an hour NE of San Francisco).

Buying a house "sight unseen" off the Internet was a bit risky, but a trustworthy real estate agent and son's inspection got it done! Closing was completed at a Seven Eleven store in Utah the day before Dave and Laura arrived in Oakley!

Oakley is one of California's newest communities and was incorporated in 1999. Containing a population of 30,000, it is bordered by the San Joaquin River on the north and east, the City of Brentwood (pop. 50,000) on the south, and the City of Antioch (pop. 100,000) on its west. The Sierra Nevada mountains are visible to the east, and the Pacific Ocean is an hour's drive west. Since the San Joaquin River joins the Sacramento River a short distance west of Oakley and both water sources flow into the East Bay of San Francisco.

The Gjestsons love hiking and camping and take advantage of Yosemite National Park as often as they can.

David and Laura spend a lot of their recreational time on the coast enjoying fresh air and warm breezes.

International travel is high on the Gjestson bucket list. Here Laura dances with a Maasai student in Tanzania. Ecuador, the Amazon, and the Galapagos are on the list for 2015 along with Alaska. A 50th wedding anniversary will be spent in Belise. 2017 has them rafting on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. Wanna come along?

The family picture was taken by Laura and includes (left to right): Granddaughter Isabel, son Chris, David, grandson Miles, son Scott, his wife Anne Marie, Chis' domestic partner Peggy, and granddaughter Lillia.

Grandpa and grandma were surprised beyond belief when Chris and Peggy produced a third granddaughter named Lucy Rose in October 2013! Sisters Lillia (left) and Isabela look pleased!