JEFFERSON — Marilyn Jane (Williams) Danforth, 91, formerly of Jefferson, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, April 11, 2020, at Oakwood Village University Woods in Madison.
Born in 1929 to Merritt M. and Dorothy L. (Hershey) Williams, Marilyn was raised in Chestnut, Ill., along with her sister, Jean, and brothers, John and James. They all worked in the Williams General Store alongside their father and grandfather while growing up.
Marilyn attended Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill. While on spring break she met the love of her life, John Danforth, on a blind date to a Millikin University dance in Decatur, Ill. Both were graduates of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Marilyn from the School of Nursing.
Marilyn and John were married Sept. 14, 1952, in Chestnut, Ill. They moved to Madison, where she worked as a registered nurse at University Hospital while John attended law school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Marilyn and John raised their family in their Jefferson home along the Crawfish River, remaining there together until John’s passing in 2008. Marilyn volunteered often in the community and helped launch the very first production at the Jefferson PAC, “Hansel and Gretel.”
The family attended the United Methodist Church in Fort Atkinson where Marilyn was active in various groups including the choir. Marilyn returned to nursing for a time at Countryside Home while John worked as a lawyer and later as a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge.
Marilyn was smart and inquisitive and didn’t hesitate to say what she thought. She was talented in art and music, and encouraged her kids to have an appreciation for both.
She enjoyed sewing, trying out new recipes, and working in her extensive vegetable and flower gardens. Marilyn loved immersing herself in nature; camping Up North with the family, taking walks, canoeing, swimming and biking.
Marilyn was a big fan of the Badgers and Packers, and liked finding bargains at thrift stores, and fruit and vegetable stands. Marilyn made friends easily and could talk at length with someone she just met. She had a calm, patient, gentle and graceful demeanor, a strong compassion for others and a philanthropic nature.
Marilyn was an avid reader and letter writer as well as a life-long learner. She laughed easily, had a great capacity to love and was loved by many. Marilyn moved back to Madison in 2012 to be closer to her children.
While Marilyn had many passions, her greatest joy of all was her family. She is survived by her eight children, Bob (Pauline) of Roseville, Minn., David of Madison, Mark of Mazomanie, Jon (Lorraine) of Middleton, Sue (Russell) of Madison, Jenny (Jeff) Funk of Middleton, Carrie (Tom) Cutler of Mountain View, Calif., and Sarah (Greg) of Madison. She also is survived by 14 grandchildren, Nathaniel, David, Isaac (Miranda), Ariana, Chani, Katie, Hallie, Johannah, Will, Lucy, Ty, Drew, Violet and Augi; great-grandchildren, Kyla and Braxton plus one on the way; brothers, John (Diana) of Newton, Pa., and Jim (Claudia) of Decatur, Ill.; former daughter-in-law, Ruth Haima; many other relatives and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents; husband of 55 years, Hon. John B. Danforth; sister, Jean (Stan) Phillips; and brother-in-law, Dr. R. Clarke (Phyllis) Danforth.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date.