Charles R Bylsma, 87, a longtime resident of Madison, died at home on September 22, 2022, after a short illness.
Charlie, Chuck or Chas, depending on when you knew him, was born in Delavan, WI on April 8, 1935, the son of Clarence and Helen (Behrend) Bylsma.
Charlie was raised in Racine and graduated from Horlick High School in 1953. He started his work years at age 15 in a gas station and worked throughout his high school years. After graduation and a summer job in a Racine factory, he enrolled at the UW Racine extension. Two years later in 1955 he was drafted and served in the US Army in Korea as a medic. Returning home, he enrolled at UW Madison in 1957. He worked his way through college at the local A&P grocery store and graduated with a BBA in 1959.
His first career was as a Field Representative with the American Cancer Society in WI. He then spent 25 years as Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in WI. After retiring from the non-profit sector, he turned to the business world and was finally a stockbroker for several years, which was his original intent. (Life happens when you’re making plans.)
Charlie was most proud of his years working to improve the care and treatment of the mentally ill in Wisconsin. As an advocate and lobbyist, he was instrumental in the creation of community-based mental health services, modernization of commitment procedures, and the care and treatment of children. Wisconsin became a national leader in those areas during his tenure leading the mental health association. The organization received many awards for outstanding and innovative programs in prevention, education and the development of community services. This included mandated mental health services for children in school rather than excluding children entirely as often happened before.
Charlie’s work led to the creation of halfway houses, Big Brother programs in several communities around the state, and training of law enforcement handling the mentally ill. He served on numerous boards and committees over the years including the WI Health Planning Council, Dane County Big Brothers, UW Department of Psychiatry, WI Public Health Association, WI Department of Health and Social Services, Indochinese Refugee Mental Health Program, Association for Retarded Citizens, Exchange Club Center on Child Abuse, State Medical Society and FOCCUS.
After retiring, again, Charlie became involved in the Midvale Community Gardens as Committee Chair for the past seven years, helped raise funds for the Specialty Care Free Clinic in Madison, started a Class of 53 Scholarship Fund for graduates of Racine Horlick High School, travelled extensively with his wife, biked daily to the Sequoya Library to feed his voracious reading habit, and played chess online with others from around the world.
Charles is survived by his wife Christine (Stiles) Bylsma, (the love of his life), son Charles F of Springfield, son in law Greg Duckert of Stoughton, grandchildren Andrey and Vera Duckert, and great grandson Keagan Duckert. He was preceded in death by his parents and two older brothers- Clarence and William, and his daughter, Nadine ‘Dina’ (Bylsma) Duckert.
Thank you to Agrace Hospice, for their care, and to our wonderful neighborhood” family” for their loving support.
A memorial celebration of life will be held for friends and family on Thursday, October 13, from 5 to 7 pm at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison. Stories and laughter are encouraged. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to: Racine Horlick Class of 53 Scholarship Fund, 2119 Rapids Drive, Racine, WI 53404, or to a charity of your choice.
Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road Madison