MADISON - Jerry Ambelang, The Capital Times newspaper reporter known for his "Ambling with Ambelang" column that chronicled the life, growth and progress of Dane County, has died of respiratory failure. He died Friday at Meriter Hospital at the age of 83 after a brief illness that began with pneumonia.
Ambelang retired from The Capital Times in 1998 after 39 years with the paper. He started on the wire desk under the paper's managing editor, and served as its state editor in the late 1970s and early 80s. He worked under each of only four editors--William T Evjue, Miles McMillin, Elliott Maraniss and Dave Zweifel.
Ambelang spent most of his career on the road, covering everything from murders--three women in separate attacks in the summer of '87; to natural disasters--the tornadoes that killed nine residents and leveled 90 percent of Barneveld in June 1984; to elections, protests, school issues; and of course the people stories.
And it was the people stories, lots of people stories--farmers, mayors, firefighters, artists, kids and dogs --that made Ambelang so popular with the paper's readers displaying a common touch with uncommon flair.
Growing up in Cascade, Wisconsin (population 680) the youngest of five children of George and Lucinda Ambelang --barber and teacher respectively. God, family, country was hard wired in his DNA from his German, French and Dutch parents--who demanded hard work and encouraged education. Ambelang became a standout high school athlete and scholar--and turned to the Navy to make his college education a reality.
Upon graduation from Plymouth High School in June 1946, Ambelang entered the Navy V-5 Program completing an Engineering curriculum, Pre-Flight training and Naval Air Basic Training at the US Naval School, Pensacola, FL. Midshipman Ambelang completed Advanced Training in combat type aircraft and final aircraft carrier qualifications in fighter style planes--earning him the Navy wings of gold as a Naval Aviator. Ambelang was assigned to the USS Midway --fighter squadron 61 which was deployed in the Mediterranean.
After his Navy service, Ambelang earned a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison class of 1956.
While in the Navy Ambelang courted and wed Mary Carol Schaller. Their wedding date June 16 was shared by both Mary's parents --Arthur and Ann--and her daughter Jane Gilbertson. Their four children Jay Arthur, Joy Ann, Jonathan Jerome and Jane Adele were raised on Regent Street in the shadow of Camp Randall, educated by the Dominicans of Blessed Sacrament and Edgewood High School, and “national school of excellence” Madison West and home schooled on the progressive politics of their parents. Like their father-- the children graduated from UW-Madison. Both were parental role models and very active in church activities. They nurtured and took care of each other until Mary passed in 2002 watching Badger Basketball.
It was Jerry's deep faith that helped him deal with the loss of his beloved Mary. And it was through his involvement at Blessed Sacrament that he would be blessed with a late life loving relationship with Barbara Gene Cahill, who shared his deep faith and family values.
Jerry's real legacy is his extended family. His kids: Jay and Mary Jo (Quinn), Joy and David Amundson, Jon and Kathryn (Taylor), Jane Gilbertson; Their kids: Kyle Gilbertson, JD and Taylor Ambelang, Sean and Joy (McCoy) Amundson, Stef and Michael Soifer; And their kids: Alexis, Kylie, Sydney, Hunter and Mackenzie Amundson; Rylee and Ava Soifer.
The family sends a big thank you to the professional staff of All Saints Assisted Living and Meriter Hospital for the kindness, patience and Christian values afforded Jerry while in their care. We are truly grateful and feel privileged to have had you in our lives.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11AM on Wednesday, January 16, 2013, at BLESSED SACRAMENT CATHOLIC CHURCH, 2131 Rowley Ave, Madison, with Father Deporres Durham presiding. Visitation will be held from 5PM to 7PM on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at JOYCE-RYAN FUNERAL HOME, 5701 Odana Road, and also from 10AM until time of Mass on Wednesday at the church. Burial will take place at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to Blessed Sacrament or to the University of Wisconsin Foundation-Jerry Ambelang Undergraduate Scholarship Fund-Journalism School. To view and sign this guestbook, please visit: www.ryanfuneralservice.com
Joyce-Ryan Funeral Home & Cremation Services 5701 Odana Road 608-274-1000