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James M. Horsfall

January 20, 1924 ~ February 20, 2021 (age 97)


 James Mansell Horsfall died February 20, 2021. He was born in Patch Grove, Wisconsin on January 20, 1924.  Jim graduated from Bloomington High School before attending the University of Wisconsin in Madison for a semester.  He was drafted into the Army and served in France repairing railroads.  After WWII, he finished his college degree in the School of Education at UW and played on the basketball team.  He met his wife, Joan Mae Helmke, in School of Education classes.  They were married February 4, 1948 between semesters and had their first son between semesters in 1949.  They graduated in 1949. 

Jim and Joan taught in small rural schools in southwest Wisconsin.  His first school was Bagley High School where he taught science and math, was the Principal and the Coach for all sports.  There was a graduating class of four.  He went on to teach at Lancaster and Green Lake.  Jim worked summers for the Highway Commission which lead to their move back to Madison with the advent of the Interstate Highway System.   Jim earned his Professional Engineer status after studying at night.  He retired from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in 1986.

Jim was active in many Clubs and Civic organizations; Madison Masonic Lodge No. 5, F&AM, York Rite, Scottish Rite, Zor Shrine. He was President and Secretary of Rotary Club of Madison West and became a Paul Harris Fellow.  In retirement he became interested in family genealogy and painting watercolors.

His wife, Joan, died in 2018 after 70 years of marriage. His parents were Roy and Mary Pearl (Ball) Horsfall.  He was preceded in death by siblings Harold, David, Ralph, Robert, Grace Martin, Marion Manion, Margaret Taft, Lela Johnson.  He is survived by brothers Calvin and Paul (Maxine). The brothers were a 29-year basketball dynasty at Bloomington High School.

  He is survived by his children John (Martha), Joseph (Joan), Jaclyn (Mike) Lawton, James (Debbie), Jan (Pam Rood), Jeffrey (Debby), and Jinette (Scott) Lau.  They have 17 grandchildren and more than 25 great-grandchildren.

 Like his mother before him he was always ready for a game of cards and never “let” his children win.  He designed and built the family home in the Orchard Ridge Neighborhood, where he planted fruit trees to make an orchard. The pear tree didn’t survive because it was third base.

Jim had many philanthropies, including a UW School of Education Scholarship for a person with a rural background and a scholarship for a student from River Ridge High School.  He donated funds to restore the Blake Fork Oak Savannah near Bloomington and inspected the tree growth on visiting Bloomington for the Horsfall Family Reunions, held annually since 1922.

 The family thanks Oakwood and Agrace for their help in these last days.  Memorials may be made in James’ name to Agrace Hospice (www.agrace.org/donate) or Oakwood Foundation (https://www.oakwoodfoundationinc.org).  Cards for the family may be sent to the funeral home.

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