Owen Fennema

Owen Fennema

Middleton – Owen Fennema, age 83, of Middleton, passed away due to complications from bladder cancer, surrounded by family on August 1, 2012 at Agrace HospiceCare.

Owen was born on January 23, 1929, in Hinsdale, IL, the son of Nicolas and Fern (First) Fennema. He moved to Winfield, Kansas, and graduated from high school in 1946. He met his beloved wife Elizabeth (nee Hammer) in high school, and they were married on August 22, 1948.

Owen served from 1951 – 1953 in the U.S. Army, stationed in Fort Hood, TX. He and Elizabeth moved to Minneapolis, MN in 1953, where Owen worked for Pillsbury in the Research Department. In 1957 they moved to Madison, WI, where Owen went to graduate school and received his Ph.D. in Food Science. Owen was a Professor of Food Science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, from 1960 until his retirement in 1996. During that time, he served on numerous professional boards and committees, including the American Chemical Society, the Council for Agriculture Science and Technology, and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), for which he served in multiple capacities, including as President from 1982 – 1983.

In a lifetime of stellar achievements, Owen was recognized world-wide for the publication of a seminal book for food science scholars, Fennema’s Food Chemistry, published in four editions and multiple languages, and which is still in wide use today throughout the world. He considered one of his greatest achievements to be his teaching of food science students over the many years of his career. He has received many accolades from colleagues and students, including “phenomenal teacher”, a “titan in his field”, and a “father of food science” who influenced and taught some of the prestigious leaders in the food science world.

Owen has touched the lives of many people, including students, colleagues, friends and family. In the last weeks of his life, many people wrote comments and letters to him about what a great teacher and mentor he was, and the enormous impact he made on their lives. “As a distinguished scholar, world renowned professor, and kind and caring friend, he was an inspiration to us all.”

He was the recipient of multiple honorary degrees and awards, including an Honorary Degree as a Doctor of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, from the Wangeningen Agricultural University in The Netherlands, as a Fulbright distinguished lecturer, Madrid, Spain (1992); the Nicholas Appert Award, IFT’s highest award for pre-eminence in and contributions to the field of food technology, 1988; elected a Fellow to the American Chemical Society, 1990; an excellence in teaching award at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1977; and the U.S. FDA Director’s special citation award, 2000.

Owen was also an artist, creating many stained glass windows for the University and for friends and family. He was also a poet. Owen’s sense of humor was active until the end. In the past few years, he endured with good humor the request that because he was such a distinguished food scientist, he judge his daughter’s Easter art project using marshmallow Peeps. He wanted to be remembered with humor and fun, rather than tears. To the end, he expressed caring and concern for family, in particular for Elizabeth, his “dear, dear wife”, who provided loving care for him during his illnesses at the end of his life.

He and Elizabeth lived half of their year in Middleton, and the other half in their home in Green Valley, AZ.
Owen is survived by his loving wife A. Elizabeth Fennema; sister Barbara Howell of Melbourne, FL; children Linda Langin of Minneapolis, MN, Karen (M. Bruce King) Fennema of Madison, and Peter Fennema of Los Angeles, CA; grandchildren Joe (Kristi) Ruekert, Graham King, Connor Fennema; and great-granddaughter Aubrey Ruekert.

A memorial service will be held at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave. in Madison on Saturday, August 11, 2012, at 4:00 p.m. A reception will be held at the church immediately after the service. There will be a private interment for the family at Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Owen’s name to Agrace HospiceCare at 5395 E. Cheryl Parkway, Madison, WI 53711, (608) 276-4660, www.agracehospicecare.org.