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West District Blotter

The Memorial Way

February 14, 2014 11:19 AM

This week the Madison community suffered a tremendous loss, as Memorial High School principal Bruce Dahmen passed away.  MPD's Educational Resource Officer assigned to Memorial is Officer Greg Hanson, who graduated from Memorial.  Officer Hanson shared these thoughts after hearing the news this week:

On February 11th, after working a Memorial High School hockey game I received a call from one of the Assistant Principals letting me know that our Principal, leader and most importantly, friend, Bruce Dahmen had passed away. 

There are no words that could possibly convey the thoughts and feelings that would follow--thoughts and feelings that were not mine alone, but those of the thousands of people who were impacted in a positive way by this great man.  The next day at school a staff meeting was held to honor Mr. Dahmen, led by Assistant Principals Matt Hendrickson and Jay Affeldt.  It was an emotional setting, but was handled in an unbelievably sensitive way, a way that would make Mr. Dahmen proud.  There is no doubt that his presence was felt there and that his legacy was visible in those in whom he invested so much of himself.  The recurring theme of the meeting was the idea that Mr. Dahmen would want the school to continue with the great work and learning that takes place at Memorial every day.  And this is what happened today at school.  It was awesome!   

Two years ago, I interviewed for the Educational Resource Officer for the school.  As a police officer, I love my job.  There are many opportunities within the department to pursue, but this was the only position I truly desired.  You see, I AM James Madison Memorial!  I graduated from the high school in 1985 and Mr. Dahmen was my teacher.  In my interview, I spoke about my wonderful experiences at Memorial, and the ownership that I felt and promised to bring to the position if hired.  Although I am not technically a staff member, I was always treated as such.  I felt confident in my ability and in what I was doing each day, because Mr. Dahmen told me as much. 

After receiving this terrible news, I phoned a co-worker, friend and former teacher at Memorial to relay what I had learned of Mr. Dahmen's passing.  He answered and before I could say anything, asked if my call was about Mr. Dahmen?  He informed me he was already on the other line with another former Memorial student who had called from Colorado to let him know what had happened.  Obviously, it didn't take long for this news to reach all the way to Colorado.  I know we are in the age of technology/social media and that news travels fast.  However, we all know that even so, people stay on top of such information and "in touch" so quickly because they remain emotionally connected to something.  People seek out news about Memorial because they were strongly impacted by Mr. Dahmen.  Mr. Dahmen created an environment that produces genuine pride in having been, or in being a Spartan.   

I took a look around today at the students, teachers and administrative staff and all I could see is Mr. Dahmen's "fingerprints."  I walked about the school and found evidence of him everywhere: in the eyes and hearts of students, current and former alike, as well as in their many accomplishments and achievements.  I noticed the signs posted around school explaining "The Memorial Way," which is about being RESPECTFUL, respectful of yourself, respectful of others and respectful of the school.  The Memorial way is further about being READY, ready to work together, ready to engage and ready to learn.  It is finally about being RESPONSIBLE, responsible for your learning, responsible for your actions and responsible for your attitude.  The Memorial Way is, in short, Bruce Dahmen.     

As I pulled up to school in my car this morning, my attention was drawn to the marquee at the front which reads, "Make Good Decisions."  Seeing this, I immediately broke down.  I couldn't possibly tell you how many times I heard Mr. Dahmen say this very phrase to students in the hallway.  Mr. Dahmen truly cared for those in his charge and he meant these words!  He was deeply invested in the lives of staff and students--again, current and former--and indeed, anyone who entered the doors of Memorial High School.  It is the Memorial Way.

I recently read the most recent copy of the Memorial newspaper, "The Sword and Shield."  There is a section in the paper in which students are interviewed, and among the statements they were asked to respond to in this issue was, "Why I love being a Spartan."  One of the students answered, "I'm part of a community where people try to be good."  Yes, I thought, that is what being a Spartan is all about ... again, the Memorial Way! 

I couldn't end this remembrance without mentioning Peggi Dahmen, Bruce's wife.  Peggi planned all of the dances at the school and would regularly save the last dance for herself and Bruce. She planted flowers and cleaned up the school grounds with volunteers.  All of this was done on her own time.  This past Friday, I worked the Memorial Basketball game.  I had just missed two weeks of work after having surgery.  Mr. Dahmen and Peggi both asked me how I was doing and said that they were happy to see me back.  I watched Mr. Dahmen walk the basketball court with pride, as he did at each and every game.  I observed Peggi welcome and interact with students and visitors alike.  When the national anthem was played--and this is not the first time I have seen this--Peggi grabbed Mr. Dahmen's arm, and held his hand.  As a couple, they led by example and modeled the Memorial Way!

I will be forever grateful for Mr. Dahmen's involvement in my life and for the opportunity he gave me to serve the students and staff of Memorial High School as Educational Resource Officer.  I will continue to do everything I can to live and demonstrate by my words and actions, the Memorial Way.      

I proudly say, I AM JMM!  Go Spartans!

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