Cover photo for Michael F. Bemis's Obituary
Michael F. Bemis Profile Photo
1938 Michael 2023

Michael F. Bemis

June 22, 1938 — June 3, 2023


Michael Bemis died peacefully at home on Saturday June 3rd under Hospice care following a brief illness.

Michael lived a passionate life full to capacity with experiences, love and friendships. Born in Beloit WI to Reginald and Jane (Thayer) Bemis.  He grew up in the Andes of Peru where his father managed a mining operation.  He spoke Spanish fluently and learned Quechua from the indigenous workers. Throughout his life, he cherished his cultural connections to South America,  returning to Peru and later Argentina many times.

As a teenager, he continued his primary education in the U.S. and at Dover College in the U.K. He received his undergraduate degree from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. 

Michael’s active opposition to the Vietnam war led him to join the Peace Corps as alternate service. He  returned to Peru and operated a medical clinic in a rural community 1962-64. 

He moved to Madison and earned his Master of Library Science degree from UW Madison.  Later becoming the lead law librarian for the Wisconsin Department of Justice 1970-2000.  One of his special projects was to compile, edit and publish the Index Digest to Opinions of the Attorney General of the State of Wisconsin 1845-1972. An important legal reference work.

Michael was a member of a 12-step recovery community where he sponsored and inspired many people for over 50 years. His loss will be felt especially in that community.

Michael was also a joyous gay man deeply affected and motivated by the AIDS crisis which cut short the lives of so many of his friends.  He volunteered and propvided emotional support for many as part of the Madison AIDS Support Network in the 1980’s and 90’s.

He was an avid reader and collector of poetry, dedicating the Bemis-Flaherty gay poetry collection to the UW Memorial library Department of Special Collections for permanent preservation and study.

He was a proud father and grandfather and remained connected with all his family members.  

He often shared his home with people on a temporary basis and provided a stable and welcoming environment.

Michael did not fear death. He spent his life pursuing what he called “The Mystery” thru his Episcopal and Buddhist faiths and his deep, rigorously maintained friendships with hundreds of people.

Following cremation, Michael's remains will be intered at Grace Cathedral San Francisco.

Michael is survived by his husband Duane Hansen. Daughter Ilana Seidman (Andrew Eggert), granddaughter Maayan and grandson Tal. Brothers Richard (Norma) Bemis, Jim (Sherrie) Bemis. Sister Barbara (Ruth Robards) Bemis. Nieces Jane Bemis, Jean (Kurt) Kozma and Georgia (Mike) Vogt. Lisa Seidman and Percy Mather. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of Michael's favorite charities: Smile Train.


A Celebration of Life is currently pending.


Cress East Washington


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Michael F. Bemis, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service for Michael Bemis

Saturday, August 19, 2023

3:00 - 4:00 pm (Central time)

A Celebration of Life will immediately follow the service at the following address: 1021 Sherman Avenue, Madison, WI 53703

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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