John Edward Bladholm died October 30, 2020 in St. Vincent's Hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he was being treated for heart and lung problems and then COVID-19.
John was born to Oscar Bernard and Florence Estelle (Buck) Bladholm in March 1930 in Chicago, in the midst of one of the city's three biggest snowstorms on record. He grew up in Chicago until 1946 when the family moved to Skokie, Illinois. John graduated from Von Steuben High School in Chicago in January 1948, attended Evanston Community College, served in the U.S. Navy from November 1948 to November 1949, and graduated from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin in January 1954. He then attended the Art Institute of Chicago for two years and later earned a master's in art education in 1963 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1956, he married Helen “Ann” Wallner in Skokie, Illinois and they lived in Highland Park, Illinois with their four children.
John was a well-beloved art teacher at Edgewood Middle School in Highland Park, Illinois for 33 years. His four children have run into many of his former students over the years, all of whom have expressed their admiration for John and emphasized what a lifelong influence he had had on their lives. As one exclaimed, "Mr. Bladholm painted with broad brush strokes through the breadth of this community." John was active in the Highland Park arts community and along with his wife, Ann, in the local Fair Housing Committee and subsequent civil rights organizations. He retired from teaching in 1992 and the couple moved to a new home in Door County, Wisconsin, where they had vacationed for many years at a cabin and studio that John built in the late 1960s. In retirement, John contributed generously to many local community and national nature, political, and public welfare organizations. The couple also put their forested land in Southern Door County in the local Land Trust.
A loving niece relayed that "his kind, gentle, and encouraging nature were an example for all of us to follow. We were all better off for knowing him, I know I am."
A former school colleague recalled that John was, "A quiet force for both the students and faculty at Edgewood Middle School. During the Sixties cultural war, jocks and princesses alike flocked to his art room. John was uniquely suited to teach adolescents. With a background in psychology and art and being a working artist himself, he was a role model to those who felt disenfranchised. He had an innate ability to draw out talent from each student. He nurtured them with his humor, his coolness and with encouragement that came from a position of total caring.
"The students responded, turning out, for example, toothpick sculptures that required infinite patience and skill. Often towering 4-5 feet, they were structures of elegance and stability. John had high expectations of his students, not just in their artwork, but in how they related to each other. Working on their projects they would lose themselves and then, in the pride of their accomplishments, find themselves. John made that happen. He touched their soul."
John engaged in the production of paintings and drawings and also worked in other mediums from time to time. He exhibited paintings and drawings over the years, including a group family show at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago in 2011 with his four children, who also are artists. He was producing new artwork right up until the day he was hospitalized. He enjoyed camping with his family throughout the country over the years. He enjoyed watching and playing sports, especially horseshoes and ping pong with Ann; traveling; hiking; gardening; building and fixing things, including furniture; and cooking.
John is survived by his wife, Ann; four children, twins, Glen Edward (Cheri) Bladholm of Syracuse, NY and Linda Beth Bladholm of Hollywood, FL., Sharon Ann Bladholm and Eric John Bladholm, both of Chicago; grandchildren, Courtney Bladholm (Jason) Scharf and Avery (Nikki) Bladholm; great-grandsons, Jaiden and Luke Scharf, all of Syracuse, New York; an older sister, Donna Mae Bladholm Reum of Rockford, Illinois and her four children Susan, Kathy, Jean, and Bill, and their families.
He was predeceased by his parents, half-sister, Marjorie Ann Peterson Bladholm Noyer, brothers-in-law Dewey Reum and Jack Noyer.
There will be a private graveside service with a memorial planned for the spring. In lieu of flowers, you may donate to the Door County Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, the Southern Poverty Law Center or charity of your choice.
Huehns Funeral Home, Inc. & Door County Crematory LLC of Sturgeon Bay are assisting the Bladholm family. Expressions of sympathy, memories, and photos of John may be shared with his family through his tribute page at www.huehnsfuneralhome.com.
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Door County Land Trust
P.O. Box 65, Sturgeon Bay WI 54235
The Nature Conservancy
The address for the Wisconsin Field Office is:
633 West Main Street
Madison, WI 53703
Southern Poverty Law Center
400 Washington Ave, Montgomery AL 36104