Debra Wilcox Johnson, 1975

DEBRA WILCOX JOHNSON, age 59, passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, at Agrace HospiceCare in Fitchburg, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, after a two-year struggle with lymphoma. She was born July 4, 1953, in Milwaukee, one of two children of Robert and Marie (Belke) Wilcox. Debra was a graduate of Madison East High School and Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, which she attended on a full scholarship and where she received the President’s Most Outstanding Graduate Award for 1975. That year she married her husband of 37 years, Donald. After they moved to Cleveland, she earned her master’s degree in library science at Case Western Reserve University in 1977. Eleven years later, she received her doctorate in library and information studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Between 1987 and 1993, Debra served on the faculties of the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana, and of the School of Library and Information Studies at the UW-Madison. Afterward she launched a successful business, Johnson & Johnson Consulting, as a nonprofit management consultant. During the nearly two decades that followed, her client list included state, county, and municipal libraries and systems as well as nonprofits across the country. She continued to teach online as an adjunct professor for the University of Illinois library school as well. Recognized as an expert in public library management, she was asked to step in as acting director for Monona Public Library and for Janesville Public Library during transition periods. The capstone of her career, however, was serving as the founding director (2007-2010) for the creation of Fitchburg’s (Wis.) first public library, a $14 million project designed to serve 25,000 people on opening day. Her social and business success came from her deep content knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge with humor and grace, winning allies and defusing opposition. She loved to live vicariously as an inveterate reader and classic movie aficionado, but she was also an untiring traveler, relishing the opportunity to plan adventurous trips. On the home front she would turn the same practiced eye to holidays and social events. Debra is survived by her husband, Donald; her son, Jared (Kristy) of Denver; and her sister, Sandra (Dennis) Herfel of Monona. She was preceded in death by an infant daughter and by her parents. A visitation and memorial service were held at WINN-CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 5785 Highway Q, Waunakee, on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: Friends of the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Road, Fitchburg, WI 53711; University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (LEEP Program), 501 E. Daniel St., MC-493, Champaign, IL 61820-6211; or to Agrace HospiceCare, 5395 E. Cheryl Parkway, Madison, WI 53711. Read more: