Victoria Zuleger Straughn
MADISON-Victoria Zuleger Straughn passed away Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, 19 days shy of her 69th birthday, surrounded by her loving family. She survived a severe brain aneurysm on Oct. 11, 2017, and after three weeks at UW Hospital in Madison, she succumbed to strokes resulting from the injury.
Victoria was born on Nov. 20, 1948, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Edith (Neumann) and Victor Zuleger. Her early family vacations sparked a love of travel, and several of her childhood friends would remain close all her life. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire in 1971 and earned a Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1977. She was a lifelong learner, and never stopped taking classes and teaching herself new ideas and skills.
From an early age, Victoria knew she would be a teacher. Over a 34-year career and into retirement, she made teaching her life’s work. She began her career teaching French and reading skills at Sherman Middle School, but her passion was for history, which she taught for 30 years at La Follette High School until retiring in 2008. She was a proud feminist and at La Follette in the 1980s she developed the first high school Women’s History curriculum in the state. In 1990, she was awarded the Madison Metropolitan School District sabbatical to study women’s history and African history at UW-Madison and expand the district’s history curriculum into those areas. She also created and maintained the La Follette High School History Archives, to which she remained devoted throughout her retirement. Through her work, she touched many lives. Her students remember her as a world-class educator, she mentored young teachers, and her colleagues say they grew as teachers from watching her work.
Victoria was a dedicated activist, passionate about social, economic and environmental justice. She grew up in a strong union family, was an active member of her union, Madison Teachers Incorporated, and imparted the values of cooperation for the greater good of her students and children. She was a neighborhood organizer, always engaged with her community. She loved her local community radio station, WORT; she volunteered there regularly from its inception in 1975, and served on their Community Advisory Board for two decades.
While teaching at Sherman Middle School, Victoria met the love of her life, Dean Morse, with whom she spent 41 years and raised two children. Dean introduced her to bird watching and cross-country skiing, which became two of her favorite hobbies. They travelled together throughout North America and Europe, including frequent trips to Washington State in recent years to visit their children, to Germany and Idaho to visit her sisters, and a trip to Cuba, fulfilling a longtime dream of hers. She loved camping, hiking, and exploring historic sites and National Parks, as well as relaxing in coffeehouses, reading and sketching.
In retirement, Victoria honed her skills as a watercolor painter and mixed-media artist. She loved taking art classes and trying new techniques, and she was extremely gifted. Her family and friends cherish the hand-made cards she sent at every birthday and holiday.
Victoria was a devoted daughter, sister, partner, mother and friend. She loved to host dinner parties and never missed a loved-one’s birthday. In recent years, she traveled frequently to Eau Claire to visit and look after her mother.
She is survived by her family, who will always miss her: her loving partner, Dean; her mother, Edith; her two children, Matthew and Sidonie Straughn-Morse; and son-in-law, Ben Tansey; her two sisters, Renee Mellino and Gail Eckwright; and her many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her father, Victor. With her love and dedication, her remarkable intellect and passion for ideas, she shaped our lives and we are forever grateful to her.
In accordance with her wishes, Victoria will be buried amongst the trees at the Natural Path Sanctuary at the Farley Center in Verona. A celebration of her life is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. at OLBRICH BOTANICAL GARDENS, 3330 Atwood Ave., Madison, WI 53704.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations in Victoria’s honor to one of her favorite local organizations, WORT 88.9FM or Olbrich Botanical Gardens.
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