John Dlabal passed peacefully at home Thursday morning, May 19, 2022 surrounded by family.
The first of eight children, John Jr. was born to his parents Philomena and John Sr. on a remote farm situated a few miles north of Wilson, Kan. Over the next couple decades, John would grow a lifelong passion and deepening love for the serene Hell Creek family property and all that it represented and furnished. The Dlabal family survived and thrived on their homestead, blessed with all that Hell Creek bestowed with its ample natural resources.
Working as one on the foundation of their Catholic faith, the eldest child became the product of obedience and sound practical education steered and driven by college educated parents. At a pretty young age, having attained a diverse skill set for farming, hunting, fishing, trapping and schooling, John was equipped with many essentials to be enjoyed and used in the future.
His upbringing showed him that learning began and ended in the home. Having developed a profound love and respect for God, family and nature; John pursued his first of three teaching degrees. The next 70 years were catapulted forward.
Young John launched his 40-year formal teaching career in one room schoolhouses and elementary schools. He met Martha Belle Myers, a gifted teacher from nearby Barnard, Kan. Easily besting all competitors for her love, John won her hand in marriage. The two were wed for life in 1953. Marti and John shared countless similarities and stark uniquenesses in their rural upbringing. This would come in quite handy in the rearing of their seven children. First daughter Anita was born.
The Korean War came. John enlisted for a two year term and was stationed in France. John and Marti proudly taught GED classes to fellow vets. As a prison guard, John demonstrated prowess in keeping notorious lowlifes in line. There the couple welcomed their second daughter, Theresa.
Returning to Kansas after Army service, John continued to teach while earning his MS in Education out of Kansas State and his doctorate degree in educational administration at Kansas University. Sons John III and Ed were born. Then daughter Cecelia.
Universities beckoned for John’s skills. John chose NIU in DeKalb, Ill. where the family would settle into their final home in 1965. The arrival of sons Dan and Dave completed the family of nine. That home, “1208”, was precious to John; a family gathering place to celebrate and give thanks for all the blessings bestowed upon the Dlabals.
Mirroring his upbringing, Professor John’s teachings supplanted countless real life lessons from childhood, chock full of reality and wisdom, to throngs of young influential minds desiring to become teachers. His teaching style gained huge popularity amongst students. John eagerly taught with staunch belief and conviction backed by empirical educational research gleaned from his vast professional studies and publications. He taught right from wrong while acknowledging and entertaining debate on areas of gray in the makeup of society.
John partnered with colleagues in the integration of local school systems. He published and reminded often “We are ALL children of God”. He profoundly impacted education and DeKalb’s community beyond NIU. His family was raised in the Catholic faith at beloved Newman Center where John and Marti would worship for over 50 years; the fitting venue for his funeral Mass and celebration.
Giving back to community, John loved his role with Knights of Columbus, his long time service on the DeKalb County Board, his commodity brokerage, his construction business, his beloved charter fishing captaincy on Lake Michigan and his editorials on needed educational change; to mention a few. He relished parades and large gatherings. Engaging people in conversation was a gift.
Innately focused on essentials, John pursued anything of great interest with passion and vigor. He had little time to waste. After all, there was family to entertain and spoil. Seemingly inexhaustible, John and wife loaded up the kids whenever possible for Kansas farm trips to visit family and heritage. They magically interwove destinations all over our beautiful country to celebrate its countless splendors and offerings. Staple destinations beyond Kansas included annual fishing trips to Wabaskang Camp in Canada and national parks throughout the U.S. Their family adventures included boating, fishing, camping, hiking, exploring, hunting, and farming.
Wife and family remained top priority. Their safety and happiness was John’s pride and joy.
From birth forward, John spent an inordinate amount of time outdoors and in nature. His childhood home was, and will continue to be nature’s playground. Hell Creek forged John’s deep understanding of the fragility and interconnectivity of all living things. That most special place to John formed and steered his beliefs and convictions of the necessary nurturance and protection of any and all life.
Never lonely, surrounded by the pureness and majesty only God could create, John came to know the acceptance of imperfection and the constant unending love and forgiveness of our Lord. An ever-growing disciple of God, John lovingly spread His Word.
Devoted husband to Marti for over 68 years, loving father to seven children and spouses, fascinating teacher and storyteller to 19 grandkids and 10 great-grandkids(with two more on the way), John Jerome certainly accomplished PLENTY.
His talents were many; his love and devotion unwavering. He left his LEGACY to be utilized and passed on. John J. Dlabal Jr. will be sorely missed by so many, but never forgotten.
John is survived by his wife, Marti; his seven children, Anita Turner(Rick), Theresa Strawn (Rick), John III (Peggy), Ed (Elaine), Cecelia Marston (Chris), Dan, and Dave (Gayle). Also, his sisters, Eloise, Cleo, Patsy and Doni; and brothers, Norbert and Denny. His 19 beloved grandchildren include Joe (Christina), Genevieve, Will, Keenan (Ann), Anastasia (Ben), Aubrey, Amanda (Ryan), Chas (Kaitlin), Johnnie IV, Danielle, Gabrielle, Isabelle, Josh, Jeremy (Dannie), Dylan, Savannah (Mitch), Miranda, Maddie (Dawson) and Connor (Miley). Lastly, his 10 precious great-grandchildren are Ainsley, Maggie, Ellie, Gracie, Janie, Jack, Olivia, Layton, Kace and Jay.
He is preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Bernadette.
Visitation will be at Anderson Funeral Home in DeKalb from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, May 26.
A funeral Mass will be held at Newman Catholic Christ the Teacher University Parish at 10 a.m. Friday, May 27. Interment is at Fairview Cemetery following the Mass.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Newman Catholic Student Center or the DeKalb County Forest Preserve.