John Gulson Barsness died peacefully, surrounded by family, on January 13th, 2018 at the age of ninety-four. He was an avid down-hill skier who loved the Colorado Mountains, an accomplished tinkerer and "do-it-yourselfer" who held several patents, and a lifelong Badger and Packer football fan who always enjoyed a good pun. He deeply loved his family, music, Christmas, and having a good philosophical discussion.
John was born in the Village of Black Earth, WI on December 21, 1923 to Edwin and Thora (Gulson) Barsness. He attended grade and high school there, graduating in 1941. He attended one year at St. Olaf's College in Northfield, MN before transferring to the University of Wisconsin in 1942. He joined the Navy in the fall of 1942 and was trained as a Naval Aviator. After the war, he returned to the University of Wisconsin in 1946, where he played football and was active in forensics. He received the Vilas Award in 1947, having won the Frankenberger Oratorical contest, and was that year the UW's representative in the Northern Oratorical League contest.
He graduated with a BA degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1948 and with a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1951. He practiced general law in Black Earth and Madison from 1951 to 2013, doing a little bit of everything from family and farm law to litigation. He retired from the practice of law a few days before his 90th birthday. He also served in the U.S. Naval Reserve as an aviator for 35 years, retiring in 1981 with the rank of Commander. After his retirement from the Naval Reserve, he continued to serve as a recruiter for the Naval Academy and for some time as President of the local chapter of the Naval Reserve Association.
John married Nancy Warnecke in 1955 and together they had four children. He was active in Boy Scouts from 1969 through 1999, serving as committee chairman of Madison's Troop 2 for many years. In 1996, in honor of a quarter century of "cheerful service", he received an Honorary Eagle Award. He was also a long-time member of the Ygdrasil Literary Society of Madison, the Optimists Service Club, and was a founding and long-time member of the Torske Klubben.
Throughout his life, John was active in church affairs, serving several terms as a vestryman at Grace and St. Andrews Episcopal Churches. He loved singing and was a member of the Grace Church Choir for many years. During the 1950s and 1960s he was a member of the Madison Theatre Guild and performed in several local theatre and opera productions. He enjoyed a lifelong interest in psychology, philosophy, and mystic literature.
John is survived by his two sons John Gregory of Seattle and Christopher (Denice) of San Francisco and two daughters, Zoe (Greg Lindhorst) of Seattle and Amy Pasche (Joern) of San Francisco; his grandchildren Greer Barsness, Booth Barsness, Jackson Barsness, Thor Barsness, Annika Lindhorst, and Rhys Lindhorst; Nancy Barsness, the mother of his children; and nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was predeceased by his parents, Edwin and Thora Barsness, and brother Edwin Barsness, Jr. He was much loved and is greatly missed.
His body was cremated and his ashes are to be dispersed in the Colorado Mountains where he and his family spent many wonderful vacations and he loved to ski. Special thanks to the staff at Agrace Hospice and Oregon Manor for their kind and thoughtful care during his final days. The family requests that any memorials in his name be given to the Boy Scouts of America (https://aplacetogive.scouting.org/magento/index.php/give-to-national-scouting.html