Don Severson, one of our most distinguished local government political activist, passed away last evening at a hospital in Missoula, Montana. Don had been in Missoula at a nursing home for several years after leaving Madison follow a stroke and several years of medical treatment here.
The stroke left Don with an impaired speaking ability and with some motor skills lost that prevented him from creating email communications. Don’s mind and ability to keep up on the world remained sharp thanks for his quick discovery after the stroke by his good friend Dave Glomp, who had sensed something wrong and investigated. Don’s son Tom and his family lived in Missoula and involved him in their life. Don also had a married daughter, Diane, in Paris.
Don understood conversations accurately, communicated as best he could, and never lost his sense of humor. Tell Don a joke and he laughed right away. Talk about events from the past, he always remembered. Don was always Don even with his impairments. He continued to value his friendships here. And always enjoyed news of home.
Dave Glomp said today: “It is truly a sad day for all of us who knew Don Severson, as a friend, a confidant, and colleague. His passing at age 82 will leave a giant hole in all of our hearts. Don Severson was a giant in the world of Madison School Board knowledge.”
Don is remembered by most of us as a warrior on educational issues in Madison. He attended Madison School Board meeting continually, making most every session. Don was more knowledgeable on school policy and data that anyone except the Superintendent of School and the head of the Teachers Union. During interviews Don talked with specificity about school issues, policies and operations. In all the years, no one remembers Don ever being called out for being misinformed or wrong. Don bent the track of school policy to a more moderate outcome.
Glomp remember Don’s efforts: “He made it his job to know and understand just how and why things were being done or not. He stood up for the many parents and taxpayers along with the students. In today’s world of CRT, sexual identity issues, and need to return to the teaching of the basics we need another Don Severson. He will be remembered as a disciplined fighter for sound educational principles.’
Don’s school group was called ACE and consisted of about 100 members. ACE was a successor by few years from CARE, a group ably led by Sarah and Virgil Kidd. These two groups kept the School Board in check for two decades.
Don was one of the most important principals in the Moderate-Conservative Coalition and one of the few to focus on education. He was awarded the “Recognition of Your Distinguished Service to Our Democracy” award by the private activist group, also known as the Eagle Award. Sarah Kidd also received an Eagle Award. Only 11 have ever been awarded.
Don was active in state government and effective in his work. Later in his career he developed an internal government problem solving leadership function that worked with both state administration and state employee groups to find solutions to knotty problems. He was very skillful and got great results. Both labor and management sought his help.
Don was born and raised in Iowa, played sports and later coached sports. He was a Madison “coach” with our local staff of coaches for the Badgers and Packers games.
Don was a shining example of leadership and patriotism. The greatest tribute came from opponents who had sincere respect for Don’s intellect, abilities, caring, knowledge, and motives. The issues Don worried about then are now front and center in every school district in America. He did what had to be done in his time. How the torch passes to the rest of us.
Glomp closes: “I will personally miss him, his smile, wit and friendship. Even after his stroke, I remained close to Don, cared for him, and ultimately helped move him to his son’s town of Missoula, Montana!
“If you wish to send condolences or sympathy cards to his son, Tom, his contact info is: Tom Severson, 5912 Helena Drive, Missoula, Montana, 59803. Don’s daughter Diane Severson Mori has an email of: firstname.lastname@example.org and she lives in Europe. God Bless Don now and forever.”