Cover photo for Valerie Anne Martin's Obituary
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1958 Valerie 2023

Valerie Anne Martin

April 6, 1958 — November 13, 2023


VERONA-Valerie Anne Martin, 65, of Verona, passed away on Monday, November 13, surrounded by family at Agrace Hospice Care in Fitchburg. Born on April 6, 1958, in Madison, she was the daughter of David N. and Patricia A. (Whalen) Johnson. Valerie graduated from James Madison Memorial High School, where she joined DECA. It was the "B-winger's" first investment in her professional future. As a teenager, Valerie began a life-long career in fashion retail, working part-time at the storied Madison institution, Manchester's. During her decades of success in retail, she served with distinction as a salesperson, general manager, district manager, visual merchandiser, luxury brand specialist, and owner of her beloved store, Dazzle.

Valerie keenly understood fashion retail from working in popular women's apparel chain stores, including Brooks Fashion, Casual Corner, Ann Taylor, Talbots, and Nordstrom Rack. She considered working at legendary luxury department store chains Saks Fifth Avenue (Minneapolis & Portland, Oregon) and Neiman Marcus (Minneapolis & North Park Dallas) to be her postgraduate education. Winner of too many sales contests to mention, she developed a sterling reputation, constantly shortlisted by recruiters.

Valerie was born to be a merchant, a natural. She was an awe-inspiring advocate of memorable customer service. She lived the counsel of icon Marshall Field: "Give the lady what she wants." Mentor to many young women, her intention was always to bring out the best in others. Her work ethic was exemplary; she led by example. She was gifted with an impeccable fashion sense and an innate elegance. Valerie loved helping women look well put together. She built relationships with customers, collaborating to make them look and feel good. She preached her fashion trifecta – shoes, handbags, and jewelry – as foundations for creating one's style.

She was a beautiful, kind, and generous lady. Valerie's vibrant personality and inexhaustible joie de vivre were parts of her rare charm. She loved being a sister, cherished being an aunt, and was determined to be an independent woman while a devoted wife. Family was a big deal for Valerie, as were birthdays and holidays. The Johnson and Whalen families had a special place in her heart. An unabashed girly girl, she often arrived dressed to the nines—Valerie's consistently glamourous coiffure created by Margaret, her longtime ANiU Salon Artist.

Valerie preferred the scenic route on her journey and lived in the Chicago area, Provo, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Portland, Oregon. Ever proud to be from Wisconsin, she returned, joining another renowned Madison fashion house – Woldenberg's. With the ability to see others deeply, she enjoyed conversations, was a loud listener, and was an engaging social presence. Her sparkling blue eyes and gorgeous smile were eclipsed only by her celebrated sense of humor. More than just another pretty face, she was a savvy entrepreneur and a class act. A woman of grace, endowed with uncommon common sense, she understood the power of those magic words - please and thank you.

Valerie's favorite things: shopping (often in her closet), Friday fish at a Wisconsin supper club, red lipstick, her soaps (The Young & the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful), jewelry, a brat on The Terrace at the Memorial Union, T.J. Maxx, animal videos, hats, a good love story, McDonald's double cheeseburger, an extra spicy Bloody Mary, Sebastian Maniscalco, Ballet Slippers (a pale pink nail polish), Starbuck's Caramel Macchiato, voting, pasta carbonara, boat rides with big brother Mike and his lovely wife Lisa, films from Hollywood's golden era, shoes, a scratch tableside Caesar with a flute of prosecco, David Yurman, her kitty cats, Green Bay Packers, clubbing and staying at home, Michael McDonald, Prince and the Beatles.


Valerie loved to travel. Paris has always been her favorite destination. On her first trip there, she said yes to David's marriage proposal over dinner at the Ritz Paris. The famous hotel held special meaning for Valerie as it was once the home of her fashion idol, couturier Coco Chanel. Other travel favorites included Barcelona, Rome, Cote d'Azur, Amsterdam, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Lake Tahoe.

Always one to appreciate the excellent work of others, Valerie asked that this writing recognize her outstanding U.W. Health care team: oncologist Noelle LoConte and her nurses Angie Baker and Meredith Winkelhake, hospitalist Kyle Schmidt, the nurses, and staff of U.W. Hospital Carbone Cancer Center B6/6.

Valerie is survived by stepmother Anita Johnson, her husband of 29 years, John David Martin, sister Dianne Francis, and brothers Michael (Lisa) Johnson. Patrick "Pappy" Johnson, Jeffrey (Robyn) Johnson, Bradford (Michele) Johnson, Andrew Johnson, and David Johnson; and nieces and nephews: Jeremy, Katy, Alec, Skylar, Nick, Hannah, Paxton, Jessica, Haley, Brandon, Brooke, Delaney, Adelyn and Everly. Valerie is also survived by Aunts Arlene McGee, Barbara Johnson, Joanne Ryan, and Uncle Tom (JoLynne) Whalen. Still among us are her lifelong friends, Amy Davis, Lesa Reisdorf, Sherry Watson Orr, and Tom Ryan. Valerie was preceded in death by her parents, David and Patricia, as well as her best friend, brother Daniel Austin Johnson.

You are encouraged to donate to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (


Please share your memories here on Valerie's Tribute Wall.


Cress Center

6021 University Ave. Madison

(608) 238-8406


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