Earl Madary 1965–2007
Viterbo Says Goodbye
A giant timber fell in the Viterbo forest Dec. 16 as the campus community first mourned the loss, then celebrated the life of Earl Madary ’88, beloved teacher, colleague, musician, brilliant theologian, environmentalist, family man, and alumnus, who died of cancer at age 42.
As the news quickly spread, the outpouring was immediate and enormous. Seating was nearly doubled in San Damiano Chapel, the site of the funeral Mass which was celebrated Dec. 19. Still, 30 minutes prior to the service, the chapel was already overflowing—even the aisles were packed with those who wished to pay their respects to this humble and gentle man who emulated the Franciscan spirit that is at the core of Viterbo’s mission. More than 450 others were able to watch the service via a closed circuit broadcast.
Nine priests concelebrated the Mass with Rev. Thomas O’Neill presiding and giving the homily. The Most Reverend Jerome Listeki, Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, also attended and gave a farewell reflection.
After Mass, the gathering moved from the chapel to the Fine Arts Center, where many alums who had traveled hundreds of miles, shared “Earl Stories” at an informal reception that lasted for more than three hours.
It was no surprise that many individuals who considered themselves to be good friends of Madary, found that they shared that distinction with the company of hundreds of others who felt the same way. He was, as one observer described in the local newspaper, “The soul of Viterbo.”
Off-campus condolences poured in to a special alumni Web site that was set up to share personal reflections. Within days, hundreds of messages were posted, revealing the deep love and admiration so many had for Earl Madary, a man who was profoundly involved and authentically interested in the lives of others.
The consensus was that despite what appeared to be an early death, Earl Madary modeled inclusivity and lived a large, and fulfilled life, joyfully in love with people and his God.
In doing so, he touched the lives of the young and the old, those with abundance as well as those living on the margins, and with the scholarly and those without a formal education. In just 15 years at Viterbo, he was awarded most of the university’s highest honors: the Leadership Award (1999), Mission Exemplar Award (2000), Alumni Spirit of St. Francis Award (2005), and Teacher of the Year (2005). At the time of his death, he was chair of the religious studies and philosophy department, director of the St. Francis Choir, former president of the Faculty Assembly, and co-founder of A Place of Grace, a Catholic Worker House. A talented vocalist, pianist and guitarist, he recorded two CDs: Gilead and Prodigals.
As those who knew him struggled to give expression to their thoughts and feelings, Fr. O’Neill issued a challenge to the bereaved to dedicate their lives to uplifting others—much like Earl had modeled during his time on Earth. “And we who remain,” he said, “we have our memories. But Earl is not merely a memory; he is part of us, of each of us. He is woven into the fabric of our lives—into each of our lives in a unique and distinct fashion. Who and what I am, Earl Joseph Madary has helped to shape. His courage and his laughter, his Christian confidence and his limitless love—these have seeped into me and I believe into each of us who knew him, loved him, and were touched in some way by him. For the way Earl lived, he is alive with God. By the way we live, let us keep Earl alive in our hearts.”
Madary is survived by Marci, his wife of 19 years, his daughter Rachel, and son, Joseph.
To learn more about the life of Earl Madary, to look over the hundreds of alumni remembrances, or to read several powerful accounts published in the local media about the effect this humble, gentle, giant of a man had on others, go to www.viterbo.edu/alumni.aspx?id=31556.