David W. Jacobsen

Friday, November 20, 2015 5:23 pm

David W. Jacobsen, 67, of Decorah, passed away peacefully after breakfast Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, at Wellington Place in Decorah. Memorial services are at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at First Lutheran Church in Decorah, with Rev. Chad Huebner and Rev. Richard Simon Hanson officiating. Friends may visit with the family one hour before the service, beginning at 10 a.m., at the church.

David’s wish was to donate his body to the Mayo Clinic Department of Anatomy in Rochester, Minn., for medical education and research. Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah is serving the family.  Online condolences may be made at fjelstul.com.

David William Jacobsen, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, and a friend to all …

David was born Aug. 1, 1948, in Decorah, the firstborn son of Robert and E. Lois (Moe) Jacobsen. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1964. He was a boy scout, sang in the Decorah High School choir and was valedictorian of his DHS class of 1966. He attended Luther College in Decorah, majoring in biology. He sang in Nordic Choir, and graduated from Luther in 1970. He went on to post-graduate study at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., where he received a six-year doctoral scholarship in marine biology and entomology. That is where the first signs of mental illness appeared. The diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia, a debilitating disease portrayed in the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” From 1970 until around 1977, David lived with his parents at the family home in Decorah. His sister Anne was the youngest and last to leave home. She helped intervene with her parents to move David to the next phase. He was institutionalized through Iowa’s mental health system. David was in and out of various facilities between 1977 and 1984. By the early 1980s, he was living in a group home in Jewell. In 1984, David got a job with Tom Walz at the University of Iowa editing books. He moved into the home of Mae Driscoll on Yewell Street. Both Mae and Tom had worked with Bill Sackter, a disabled man, who had a movie made about him. The movie “Bill” starred Mickey Rooney. With their great big hearts for disabled people, Tom and Mae were both more than willing to help David, and they did. It was one of the best years of David’s life. After about one year, David fell off of his meds and needed to return to a higher level of care. By 1987, he landed at the county home in rural Decorah. It is now known as Wellington Place, and it is where he lived the last 28 years of his life. This move reunited David with his parents back in his hometown. He played golf with his dad the week that Bob died in 1992. For more than a decade now, David’s brother Karl has cared for him at a high level, living nearby, attending to his needs, right to the very last day. There is no way to thank Karl enough for his caretaking. David was an important member of the community at Wellington Place. He carried and shared a special kind of creativity and love during his time on this planet. Despite his health care issues, the caring communities in Decorah have sustained David through fifty years with insulin dependent diabetes and periods of psychotic episodes. He’s been an active member in relationships with care givers, roommates and families, fellow residents, lifelong friends, and passersby.

David is survived by his mother Lois of Decorah; two brothers, Karl (Jerrine) Jacobsen of Decorah, and Ted Jacobsen of McKinney, Texas, and his children: Emily (Shamus) Freeman and Eric Jacobsen of North Liberty; and his sister Anne (Lars) Clausen of Chelan, Wash., and her children Kari Anna and Kai Clausen.

Mental illness, diabetes, and brilliance made a brutal combination for David, but he still radiated faith, humor, song, and humility while caring for others. Soli Deo Gloria! To God alone the glory!

Memorials may be directed to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), c/o Northeast Iowa Peace and Justice Center, 119 Winnebago Street, Decorah, IA 52101; Luther College, c/o Development Office, 700 College Drive, Decorah, IA 52101; American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 11454, Alexandria, VA 22312; or to the donor’s choice.

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