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Donald Bruce Thayer, 68, passed away on Friday, June 1, 2018 at home. Born on September 24, 1949 in Watertown, Wisconsin, the son of Robert Freeman and Barbara Jane (Wright) Thayer. Don grew up in Madison, Wisconsin where he attended West High School, received his BA and MBA from the University of Wisconsin, and met his wife Jane E. "Jamie" Runft. Don and Jamie were married on July 31, 1971 in Mequon, Wisconsin, and had their two girls in Madison before moving to Rockford in 1982. Don worked in banking and business development and retired from his career as President of Rockford Area Economic Development Council.

Don was best known for living a full and well-rounded life and having an unforgettable sense of humor. His personality and bright blue eyes lit up a room.

As a boy, Don was active in baseball, football, and speed skating. At the University of Wisconsin, Don was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, the Glee Club, acted as Bucky Badger for football, basketball, and hockey games, and served in the U.S. Army Reserves. Don spent 15 years as a Big Ten Football Official, and in fact on two separate occasions, was John Madden's "Hit of the Week" on Monday Night Football. An avid outdoorsman and golfer, Don shot six holes-in-one and often played a round on Sunday evenings in the summer with his daughters. He played golf with friends the day before he died.

Don's community involvement included being a Board Member of New American Theater, Rockford Country Club, Rockford Memorial Hospital, Rockford ProAm, Rockford Public Library, and the Y.M.C.A. He was also active in the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Rockford Rotary Club, and longtime member of Second Congregational Church serving on the Board of Trustees and as Moderator of the church. Most recently he was a member of Christ United Methodist Church and served as a Director of the Chicago District Golf Association.

He was a dear friend to many. He greeted most with a smirk and a funny story. A dedicated family man, Don alongside his wife and girls, travelled frequently and enjoyed dinners together at their house with good food, good conversation, and great music.

Survived by his wife, Jamie; daughters, Abigail (Michael) Croll of Johnston, IA and Jennifer D. Thayer of Boulder, CO; three grandchildren, Molly, Lydia, and Robert; three sisters, Sandra (Larry) Stover, Sally (Scott) Plummer, and Rebecca Mohs all of Hartland, Wisconsin; and eleven nieces and nephews. Predeceased by his parents.

Visitation will be held at Rockford Country Club on Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 from 3:00-6:00pm. Memorial Services will be held at SecondFirst Church, 318 N. Church St., Rockford on Thursday, June 7th, 2018 at 11:00am. Memorials may be made to the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. A Thayer Family Fund has been established for a yet-to-be-determined cause.

Condolences & Shared Memories (29)

  1. Dennis Goettel

    What a shock! I still think about Don and his always hilarious antics often. He was a great person and a good friend who included me in his golf outings to University Ridge. We always looked forward to his annual invitation and its great humor. My condolences to Jamie and family.

  2. The Corbett family.

    Becky, We are sorry for you loss. Our prayers are with you and your family.

  3. Steve Newman

    Jamie, Very sad to hear of Don's passing. I was always appreciative of Don's work and support as a crewmate and the advice he shared to a young Referee. His sense of humor and respect for fellow officials will always stand out in my memory. We will be sure to pay tribute to him at next weekends Big Ten Football Official's Summer Outing. Please accept our deepest sympathy and prayers. Steve and Lisa Newman

  4. Betsy Dietz Mollway

    My heart goes out to a very special woman. Your kindness, patience, and love to students is extraordinary. May your exceptional loving character bring you extra inner strength at this time. I recommend a great little $4 book, "Experiencing Grief" by H. Norman Wright. Peace.

  5. Tom & Sara McKevitt

    Our words cannot fully express the sorrow we feel after learning about the death of Don. May the Thayer family ever treasure the wonderful times you all had and our thoughts are with the whole family.”

  6. Marilyn Johnson

    My heartfelt sympathy for you and your family from a former classmate. He was a unbelievable addition to the universe.

  7. Joellen Ring

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  8. Jim Krogstad

    Jaimie- I was saddened to hear of the passing of a dear friend. From our days in high school and college-to our too few golfing dates-to our many years of sharing our avocation-officiating small college and Big Ten Football-dull moments were few while fun and laughter plentiful. He will be missed. Krog

  9. Dave and Marie Mattison

    We will miss Don terribly! After retiring to Madison, WI were we able to see Jamie and Don more often. We will miss his sense of humor and his wonderful Christmas letters! Our love and prayers go out to Jamie and the girls!

  10. Mark Brackett

    I only knew Don a few months as he and I began our "Blue Coat" journey at the same time. I only had three opportunities to interact with Don. Every time made me anxious for the next opportunity. I'm extremely sadened at his passing and will deeply miss those future opportunities. You have my most sincere sympathy. He was obviously very special.

  11. Bob Vig

    Jamie, my deepest sympathy and condolences for Don's passing. I have many fond memories about his love of life and great sense of humor. He was a great friend and Beta brother. It's only fitting that he spent the day before his passing playing golf with friends.

  12. Meg Gillespie Cook

    Oh, such sad news. Jamie, you and your girls are in my thoughts and prayers.

  13. Laura Jernigan

    I am so very sorry for loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. May God bless you and keep you.

  14. Bj & Jim Knez

    He made an impression not to ever be forgotten with his large smile and great sense of humor. He now lives within us, and within all of you. A great legacy.

  15. Christy & Greg Moore

    What a beautiful tribute to an amazing man. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family during this difficult time.

  16. John and Anne Oros

    Our sympathy to the Thayer and the Stover families. Don was a great friend and fraternity brother. Our love, John & Anne

  17. Harriet Ivey

    Dear Jamie, I am devastated and shocked by this sad, sad news. I have so many fond college memories of Don and you, and you have lost him way too soon. I am sorry that I cannot attend the funeral because we will be in Winston-Salem at our granddaughter's high school graduation. My deepest condolences to you and your girls.

  18. Joan Welsh

    Jamie and family, thoughts & prayers and my deepest sympathy.

  19. Sandra Radick-Roman

    Dear Jamie, Abigail, Jennifer and all your extended family, My most sincere condolences to all of you. I knew Don from my UW days, and I can still see and hear his smile and laugh. He was good, kind, talented and fun, and his personality definitely lit up any room. He lived a wonderful life with a wonderful family. Although he's gone too soon, he will always be in our fondest memories. God Bless. In sympathy and friendship, Sandra

  20. Paul Vallina

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Thayer family. Don was a great guy and I enjoyed being on Don's crew in the Big Ten in past years. He always had a smile on his face and was a great crewmate and fine official.

  21. Jody Rechtin Hoffmann

    I am very sorry to learn of your loss. MY heartfelt prayers are with you. I called you mother to see if she needed someone to drive her to Rockford, but she said she is not strong enough to do any traveling. I never meet your husband but he sure seems to have well liked and loved. My blessing to you and your family.

  22. Reenie Murley

    So sorry for your loss, Jamie.

  23. Ann Morgan

    Jamie, Abbey, and Jenny, Our prayers are with all of you. I appreciated Don, and his recent kind helpfulness. I know he was a wonderful man, and you will cherish all those special times you had together.

  24. Debby Fosdick

    Dear Jamie and family, I am out of the country and so very sad to get this news. I have such fond memories of Don, both in high school and college. The memory that stands out is when we drove together to Barb and Wayne Thomas's wedding and Don ate lemons in the car to prep his lovely voice to sing the Lord's Prayer. I will make a point to say the Lord's Prayer here in an Italian church in memory of a great guy.

  25. Carlene Hinds

    What a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and business man Donald was. He will be missed deeply by his family, friends, and the community

  26. Gary A. Engberg

    I knew Don since my college days at the University of Wisconsin. I met Don when I was playing either hockey or football. I'd run into him now and then usually at a UW function or a game he was working. He was a happy person who loved people and helping them. You have my sympathy and I know he's in a good place. God Bless and R.I.P. Sincerely, Gary A. Engberg

  27. Linda Gillespie

    Jamie and family, I am so saddened by your loss. You are all in my thoughts. Loyally, Linda

  28. Babs and Wayne Thomas

    Dearest Jamie and girls, We send you our deepest sympathy and pray for you all. A very special place in our hearts for the soloist at our wedding. Love and loyally, Babs

  29. Bob Lucas

    Deeply saddened to hear of Don's passing. Smart, funny, athletic, and engaging . . . Don was a class act. Haven't seen him since he and his family moved to Rockford, but knew him well as a Madison West Regent, Wisconsin Badger, and Beta Brother in the 60's & 70's. The good lord took this ‘pillar of the community' way too soon. My sincerest condolences to Jamie and the rest of your family. - KAI - -Bob Lucas

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