UPDATED Sunday, February 16, 2014 --- 9:00 p.m.
The James Madison Memorial community remembers one of its own Sunday afternoon.
Principal Bruce Dahmen died Tuesday of a heart attack.
Speaking to a gymnasium full of thousands of Memorial students, alumni, parents, and staff, those closest to Dahmen shared memories of the man whose big presence was only rivaled by his big heart.
"If it is true that the measure of success is judged by how many people are better off because you have lived, then Mr. Dahmen received a level of success unparalleled to anyone else I know," said 2001 JMM graduate Joel Nellis.
"Not only did he coach and play sports, he was Memorial's biggest cheerleader," said longtime friend Matt Gray.
"Bruce understood that students who are valued, hugged, fed, encouraged, challenged, and truly educated, have a real shot at becoming whatever they wish to be," said former JMM principal Pam Nash.
Dahmen began his career at Memorial in 1974. But it was a basketball game four years earlier that marked his first experience as a Spartan. A senior at Middleton at the time, the Cardinals were playing JMM when Dahmen got the ball and made an infamous shot.
"He went the wrong way," said Gary Kolpin, JMM's athletic director at the time. "He scored at our basket."
More than 40 years later, Dahmen's impact as a coach, teacher and administrator has extended far beyond the court and the hallways.
"My brother worked at Dahmen's [Pizza Place]. Mr. Dahmen helped him get that job. That's how I got introduced to Mr. Dahmen," said JMM sophomore Jayna Cooley. "And he helped my brother graduate from high school."
Dahmen leaves behind two sons of his own and his wife Peggi. Tearfully they thanked the community for its support Sunday, and repeated the 61-year-old's motto.
"Keep making good decisions," Peggi Dahmen said. "Because we are Spartans. And we're Spartans for life."
"Mr. Dahmen is an angel," Cooley said. "The only place better for him than Memorial is heaven."
UPDATED Friday, February 14, 2014 --- 2:53 p.m.
School officials say Memorial High School staff and family will hold a celebration to honor Principal Bruce Dahmen on Sunday.
Dahmen died Tuesday night.
The memorial will be Sunday, February 16th at Memorial High School. It will begin at 2:00 p.m., with doors opening and seating to begin at 1:00 p.m.
Attendees should enter the Memorial parking lot from Mineral Point Road. There will be additional parking available at Madison College, which is across the street (Gammon Rd.).
The district is asking people to carpool with friends and family if possible to make sure there is enough parking for as many guests as possible.
The school will provide overflow spaces at the school where the celebration will be broadcast. The celebration will also be live streamed at www.mmsd.org/dahmen.
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 --- 8:30pm
His death sent shock waves through the Madison community on Wednesday. Many are taking to Twitter and Facebook to express their overwhelming emotions about the unexpected death of Madison Memorial High School Principal Bruce Dahmen.
"It's been a hard day, for all of us” says Madison Metro School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
Tuesday night, while in Tennessee cheering on a former local athlete, Dahmen died. According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Dahmen collapsed in the stands before a basketball game between the University of Tennessee and University of Florida.
"His impact is enormous” says Cheatham.
Dahmen was a key part of Memorial High School for several decades. Before becoming principal, he served as a teacher, coach, and assistant principal. For so many, he was the cornerstone of the school and a rock to the entire school district, always urging faculty, staff and students to make good decisions.
"Bruce is the kind of leader that you dream about. He had a heart of gold” Cheatham says.
He'll likely be remembered for many great things, but one of the biggest was his connection to and love by all his students.
"He's going to be remembered for a lot of positive ways for a long time to come” says Cheatham.
The school district has yet to decide who will replace Dahmen.
Stay tuned to NBC 15. As soon as we have information about memorial services, we'll share that information with you.
Posted Wednesday, February 12, 2014 --- 10:36 a.m.
James Madison Memorial High School officials say that Principal Bruce Dahmen passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, February 11th.
Extra staff will be available Wednesday to provide support to students, staff and family.
Below is a letter to the community that was posted on the school's website.
Dear Memorial Community,
It is with deep sadness that we share with you that Memorial Principal Bruce Dahmen passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, February 11th. Bruce has been a tremendous leader in this community who has touched all of our lives, and this is an incredible loss for our community.
Both Memorial and additional district staff have been available today, and will continue to be here to provide support to students, staff and families. We also hope that you will take a moment to check in with your son or daughter. We know that our students will respond to this loss in different ways.
We also know that bringing our school community together and providing as normal of a routine for students as possible will be beneficial. Mr. Dahmen would want the school to continue to do the great work and learning that takes place here every day. All regularly scheduled events will continue to take place.
We encourage you to reach out for support, and to let us know if you have questions. If your son or daughter needs additional support, please do not hesitate to contact your school counselor, social worker, nurse or psychologist.
We will continue to use the school web-site, Twitter and Memorial’s facebook page to share updates with all of you. As soon as we have information about memorial services, we will share that information with you as well. If you have additional questions, please call the school at 663-5990.
We know that you will join us as we keep Bruce, his family and our entire Memorial family in your thoughts.