James William Dunn


MADISON-James William Dunn, age 88, of Madison, passed away on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, at Oak Park Place Skilled Nursing facility in Madison.

He was born June 29, 1933, in Portage, the son of Walter and Laura (Lipke) Dunn.

Jim graduated from Portage High School in 1953. He married Corinne (Bisbee) Dunn on July 2, 1960, and together they raised three sons, Michael (Jane), Thomas (Jane) and Steven (Rebecca).

Jim grew up during the Great Depression and his family, like most others, was poor. Yet Jim always remembered that his home was warm, they had food to eat and clothes to wear – although he wasn’t always sure how his parents did it. Jim suffered from asthma as a young man, forcing him to miss a year of school. During this time, his mother took dutiful and loving care of him, nursing him back to health. He was forever grateful to her.

After high school, Jim worked a number of different jobs, including as a cook on the Milwaukee Road railroad. He always said his specialty was peanut butter sandwiches. He was also a completely unqualified steamfitter at Badger Ordinance, a job his father got for him. He also took a turn as an insurance salesman. He finally settled in to becoming a trained steamfitter, going through his four-year apprenticeship and then going to work for Pharo Heating in Madison. For most of his life after, Jim was a proud member of Steamfitters Local 601 in Madison.

In 1963, he took a job in the Physical Plant of UW-Madison, eventually becoming the expert on heating and air conditioning mechanicals, first at UW Hospital on University Avenue, then at the Medical Sciences building on Charter Street, as well as the Bardeen and McArdle Laboratories. He retired from UW in 1993.

Jim enjoyed being with family, whether summer picnics at his aunts’, abuzz with multiple generations of family; or a simple cookout with his boys by the lake in Pardeeville. He especially enjoyed playing with and entertaining his nieces, nephews and grandchildren, particularly when they were little ones. He loved bowling, spending several decades on Thursday nights at the Portage Sport Bowl, leading the mighty Joe’s Standard team in the Knights of Columbus league. He was an avid investor, studying the Wall Street Journal and Barrons, taking notes, watching for tips, looking for the big one, whether that was a down and out Disney in the 1970s, or a new invention called “Chill Can” that just didn’t quite catch on.

Jim loved Las Vegas, visiting many times over the years, and often lamenting in later years the takeover of perks and comps by corporations rather than the more generous gangsters. His game was blackjack. His system was his gut. And he often won more than he lost. (“Nothing better than won money,” he would say.) And if there was such a thing as a euchre hustler, Jim would have been it.

Jim often said that he was a very lucky man because he always had a strong woman in his life to take care of him, from his mother, Laura, to his sister, Janet, to his first wife, Corinne, and finally his second wife, Joanne. He was always and forever grateful to each of them for the love, patience and companionship they gave him. Jim was a devoted Christian and Catholic, baptized and confirmed from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Portage, then a long-time member of St. Dennis Catholic Church in Madison, as well as a member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 1637, Portage.

Jim was preceded in death by Corinne, who passed away in June 2000. He later married Joanne (Kearns) Dunn in 2002. Joanne preceded him in death, passing away in 2020. Jim’s parents, brother, Jack, and sister, Janet, also preceded him in death.

He is survived by his children; grandchildren, Erin, Anna, Brad and Ryan; brother, Richard; and sister-in-law, Marty; brother-in-law, Daniel Bisbee; and sister-in-law, Donna; sister-in-law, Joyce Bisbee; and numerous nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at ST. DENNIS CATHOLIC CHURCH, 505 Dempsey Road, Madison, at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Visitation will be held at the church from 9 a.m. until the time of the Mass on Thursday. Burial will be at Highland Memory Gardens.

The Dunn family wishes to thank the nurses and staff at Oak Park Place Skilled Nursing facility, as well as the nurses and staff from Agrace HospiceCare, for the warm, personal care they provided Jim over the last months of his life, particularly as COVID protocols often prevented him from getting visitors.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks you consider a donation to American Players Theatre, Agrace HospiceCare or American Diabetes Association.

Online condolences may be made at www.gundersonfh.com.

Gunderson East
Funeral & Cremation Care
5203 Monona Drive
(608) 221-5420