Cress Funeral Home



Richard J. Thurrell
February 25, 1929 - March 24, 2012

Richard  J.  Thurrell

Richard J. Thurrell
Feb 25, 1929 - Mar 24, 2012

Richard  J.  Thurrell
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Madison - Dr. Richard J. Thurrell, age 83, passed away on Saturday, March 24, 2012. He was born in Wauwatosa, WI on Feb 25, 1929, to teachers Edith Bergstrom and George Thurrell. Through his father, he was brought into the Unitarian Universalist faith, which remained a source of spiritual inspiration and humanist engagement throughout Richard's life.

His father's Yankee family hailed from Stockbridge and North Adams, MA; with roots in Nova Scotia. His mother was the child of Swedish immigrants. His Bergstrom cousins were always very important to him, especially after his father's death when he was 12. He and his brother Roger lived with them as siblings. His family spent many summers with the Bergstroms, Olsons, and Keithleys on Lake Enterprise in Langlade County, WI. Dick enjoyed the nature and serenity of the North Woods throughout his life.

In high school, Dick was swim team captain and state champion, physics club member, and sports writer for the Washington Scroll. His future spouse, Mary Demeter, was his editor. He Graduated in 1947 from Washington High School in Milwaukee.

Richard attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and later, UW-Madison. He worked briefly at the Wiltwyck School for Boys in Esopus, NY. He served in the US Public Health Service (1955-58) and did his medical residencies and USPHS duty all over the United States including: Hawaii, New York, Texas, California and Kentucky. On his return to Madison, he was happily reacquainted with Mary and they were married on November 22, 1958.

Dick returned to Madison and in time, became full professor in the UW Medical School. He served patients there and at Mendota State Hospital, The Veterans Administration Hospital, Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, School for the Deaf, and Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

During his career as a psychiatrist he was involved in the treatment of the mentally ill and incarcerated. As a Wisconsin Psychiatric Association delegate, he was active in various offices and committees of both the WPA and the American Psychiatric Association for 54 years; he was honored as a Distinguished Life Member in 2003. Dick enjoyed traveling as an American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology examiner, and attended various APA, WPA, and Residency Directors meetings. Richard deeply appreciated his time as head of the UW Psychiatric Department Residency program both as a teacher and colleague; he had great respect for his many students and professional partners.

Dick liked to spend his free time with his three daughters: Mali, Lisa, and Ede. He was an avid reader, tree planter and gardener, and artist/painter. He collected dumb jokes, cartoons, and humorous writing and especially terrible greeting cards.

Later in his life Dick won many national awards for the publication he edited: "The Wisconsin Psychiatrist." Many remember his reviews of classic movies. From his Psychiatry department days until recently, he continued to exercise at the UW Cardiac Rehab Center. Early in his retirement, he extended his many years at the VA hospital by counseling a group of WWII veterans. Richard remained a supporter of many charitable, artistic, and liberal causes. He enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren Zoe, Sofi and Max LaLonde, and gently ribbing his sons-in-law John LaLonde and Robert Cleary.

Friends and family will gather informally to remember and celebrate Richard's life at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, on Saturday, April 21, 12:30 - 3:30 PM. In lieu of flowers, if you wish to make a donation in Richard's memory, please consider supporting the following:
Macular Degeneration Research Fund # 12654644, University of Wisconsin Foundation
or mail to: University of Wisconsin Foundation US Bank Lockbox PO Box 78807 Milwaukee WI 53278-0807
UW Carbone Cancer Center Lung Cancer Research: or
or mail to: UW Carbone Cancer Center c/0 Katie Arendt 600 Highland Ave K4/646 Madison, WI 53792
Kanopy Dance Company at or
or mail to: Kanopy Dance Company 341 State Street Madison WI 53703

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First Unitarian Society Meeting House
900 University Bay Drive
Madison, Wisconsin 53705
12:30 AM - 3:30 PM

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