Gerald “Jerry” T. Dabson, age 79, of Janesville, died unexpectedly and peacefully on Thursday, March 12, 2020, at UW Hospital, Madison after a lengthy battle with chronic health issues . He was born on November 8, 1940, in Janesville, Wisconsin, the son of Cleon M. and Marieta P. (Setzer) Dabson. Jerry married his childhood sweetheart, Phyllis E. Paul in 1958. They had three children and remained lifelong friends despite divorcing and both remarrying. Jerry stated numerous times that he had nothing but respect for Phyllis and her husband John Neeson and was grateful to be welcomed by them at all family functions. When Jerry married “the love of his life" Donna M. (Taylor) Carrel in 1971, he added the role of step-dad to Donna’s five children. They later divorced but shared a lasting bond.
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Jerry’s first job was at Krause’s Town & Country Restaurant where he worked for many years and thought of his employers as extended family. Although he never graduated high school, Jerry studied and became a licensed insurance sales man. He was proud of his accomplishments as an agent for Rockford Life Insurance Company and had a special relationship with all of his clients. Although he worked traditional jobs, country music was his passion and his lifelong career. He is a musical legend in the area, after sharing his talents throughout the upper mid-west for more than 60 years, since his first appearance at the Afton Town Hall in 1953. Jerry loved to write, sing and play, but also shared his craft by mentoring many musicians throughout the years. He recorded with fellow musicians on vinyl, cassette, and CD. Jerry appeared numerous times at the Rock County 4H Fair, opening shows for many Nashville recording artists. He performed on television and radio. He was a member of many bands, most notably, “Willow Wind”, “Southbound”, and “Jerry Dabson and Friends”. He was a meticulous bandleader and required regular group practices. He retired several times from his music career, but his passion and his fans kept pulling him back. He donated his time and talent coordinating regular performances at Rock Haven for several years, entertaining and lifting the spirits of those who could no longer go out to enjoy his music. He had a smile, story, or joke for everyone, even if you had heard it from him many times before. He earned several musical awards for song writing and performance in competitions and was the first inductee into The Rock County Wisconsin Musician’s Hall of Fame in 2017. In addition to spending time with friends making music, Jerry also enjoyed bowling, golfing, and fishing, especially with his dear friend Doug Peck.
He is survived by his 3 children: Anna (Donald) Fuller of Edgerton, Cheryl (Marty) Hjerstedt of Stoughton, and Gerald “Bud” Dabson of Janesville; step-children: Michael (Nola) Carrel, Steven (Brenda) Carrel, Lori Church, and Kristi (Jim) Mansur all of Janesville; multiple grandkids and great grandkids; sister, Jeanette Harris of Madison; nieces, nephew, and many special friends. He was preceded in death by his parents; his infant son, Bradley Dabson; step-daughter, Joy (Steve) Reilly; his former spouses, Phyllis and Donna; two step-grandchildren; special friends, Dave “Wichita” Wilson and Doug Peck.
The family wants to say a special thank you to Sue Conroy for giving dad the gift of “home”, and thanks to Gary McAdams, Shawna Moore-Schultz, Steve Peck and others who reached out to call and visit dad these past few years. Thank you to the SSM Health Dean Medical Group doctors who cared for dad’s medical needs. Sincere appreciation to the staff at Inclusa and Home Town Pharmacy for helping with dad’s in-home care needs. The attentiveness, compassion, and care provided by Emergency Room staff at SSM Health Dean Hospital-Janesville and the ICU/Palliative Care staff at UW Hospital-Madison was exceptional.
There will be a private family burial. A gathering for family, friends, and fans to honor and celebrate Jerry’s life will take place in the near future. WHITCOMB-LYNCH FUNERAL HOME & CREMATION SERVICE is assisting the family.