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Second Chance
From the Isthmus archives, Sept. 4, 1987

Credit:Brent Nicastro

"These things are not supposed to be happening to me," Donn Eithun tells Isthmus news editor Bill Lueders. "I'm supposed to be like the guy I saw lying on the bench who really needs 10 bucks to eat for a day or two.... Instead, I've got a second chance on life." A senior account executive at Smith, Barney, Harris, Upham & Co., Eithun was elected to the Madison Common Council to fill the Dist. 19 seat vacated by Judy Bowser. His good fortune stands in contrast to the self-destructive high school dropout of 10 years earlier - a chronic alcoholic and drug abuser who hitchhiked from city to city. Eithun confronted his alcoholism when his wife walked out on him in 1980. He has since found contentment: "I can honestly say that my worst day now is better than my worst day then," he says, citing self-respect, a fulfilling career and the fact that "I've got a couple of kids who think I'm just the neatest person to fill two shoes.... What can I possibly want at 29 that I don't already have?" Eithun's life is cut short on June 10, 1997: During a rafting trip on Nevada's Truckee River, he is thrown from a capsizing boat and drowns.

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