Dean Madsen


MENDOTA – Dean Madsen passed away peacefully June 24, 2022, at Heritage Health in Mendota, too soon despite his 97 years. 

Funeral services will be Friday, July 1, 2022 at 11 a.m. at Zion Lutheran Church of Clarion with Rev. Ian Griffith officiating. Burial will be in Clarion Lutheran Cemetery with military honors by Ladd American Legion. Visitation will be Thursday, June 30 from 4-7 p.m. at the Merritt Funeral Home, Mendota. 

Madsen was born May 16, 1925, to John and Edna (Henderson) Madsen in Bradgate Iowa.

Although he laughingly joked even into his 80s that he was still deciding what he wanted to be when he grew up, Dean began a steady chain of graduations from Bradgate High School, Iowa to Dana College in Blair Neb., and the University of Nebraska, focused on education and training to be a coach, teacher, principal, and district superintendent. Only World War II and almost three years as a Navy radio man and tail gunner in a dive bomber interrupted the chain of learning. 

At Dana College, Dean met his great love, Betty Schmidt and in 1947 they married in Maywood, Ill. Four children, Mike, Kathy, Janet and Gail filled their lives with joy. 

Dean’s Midwestern roots, deep in Iowa and Nebraska, reached even deeper in 1956, when he and Betty relocated to LaMoille. Work, church, and service to his community were essential parts of his active life. The prestigious Lions Foundation Melvin Jones Fellow awarded for dedicated humanitarian services gave public recognition to the values and actions that drove him personally. Whether as “Dean” or “Mr. Madsen,” joy in education permeated his career. One great hope was that every teacher and school staff member, bus driver and cafeteria worker included, would strive for excellence, and be appreciated for their efforts. Another, that every student who ever walked school halls would continue to be a lifelong learner.

Dean retired twice, first from LaMoille High School in 1985, and later from Horace Mann Insurance, a second career that continued his passion for education and educators. Even after retiring again, he worked many years as Interim Superintendent throughout northern Illinois and found still another way to serve when he was elected to the Bureau County Board from 1990-2002. Service to community continued with endless hours keeping track of finances for Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, and Wednesday night Lions Club Bingo, but really were about the time spent interacting with people. Even during seemingly solitary creek fishing, lake swimming, and sunset watching, Dean was most content to share the moment with family and friends. His relaxation—sports and gardening. A four-sport athlete, Dean was named to the Dana College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984. He played semi-pro football and baseball yet was equally delighted with a game of catch in the backyard. Family, friends, church leaders and business associates can likely recall intense conversations outdoors with Dean while he planted vegetables, roses, and trees. He nourished several more generations of gardeners with loving time spent alongside grown children and then grandchildren in their own gardens. 

Those next generations describe Grandpa Dean as kind, funny, “my wisest and oldest friend,” the man who “gave us all everything we need to succeed in life.” Knock on his door, listen for “Yo,” sports channel in the background, and walk on in to savor his “way of making you feel like the most special and most important person in the world.” He “made sure you knew that you were his No. 1 priority.” It feels unreal that even legends such as Dean have an end to their time on earth. We know that he was greeted with love and anticipation by so many we have already said our goodbyes to, including his wife Betty, his parents, brothers Gene and Don Madsen. His full and generous life is celebrated by brothers Norman (Patricia) and Roger (Shirley) Madsen, sister Joan Heiter, his four children, their spouses, many cherished and beloved grandchildren and great grandchildren, and a treasure trove of extended family and friends. Dean was many things to many people in our community. The Dean Madsen family is so grateful to everyone for all the prayers and love he has been wrapped in throughout his entire journey. A man of unshakeable faith, he is finally home and at peace. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Lions Club, LaMoille Fire and Ambulance, or a comparable cause of your choice. Online condolences may be left at www.merrittfh.com.

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