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Donald H. Kolsrud - 85

8/21/1934 - 4/9/2020

Iowa City, Iowa

     Donald H. Kolsrud, age 85 of Iowa City, formerly of Clinton, passed away April 9, 2020 at the University of Iowa Hospitals.  A private graveside service was held at  Oakland Cemetery' a celebration of life will be held at a later date.  The Pape Funeral Home assisted the family.


     Donald was born in Davenport, Iowa on August 21, 1934, the son of Harris and Lucille (Greiser) Kolsrud.  Don's parents struggled, and eventually he moved to LeClaire, Iowa, to live on a farm. Don had an amazing work ethic that he credits to his experiences working on the farm.  He graduated from DeWitt High School while living with Ray and Helen Cole, where he furthered his work ethic at Ray's gas station. He excelled at football and track, and continued his athletic achievements at the Iowa Teachers College, (now University of Northern Iowa) where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Business Education.  Donald served with the U.S. Army from 1957 to 1959 as a radio operator. He earned awards for his good conduct and his excellent marksmanship.  After leaving the Army and completing his Master's Degree, Don moved to Clinton Iowa and began teaching, eventually moving into the role of assistant principal. He married the love and light of his life Judith Reter on June 6, 1963 in Clinton.  Judith passed away on December 5, 2016

   Don and his family later moved to Dubuque in 1972 where he served as principal at Dubuque Senior High (Go Rams!).  A school board member who helped hire Don described him as possessing the qualities of "kindness, humility, tact, intelligence, compassion, charisma, and above all honesty." In 1977, Don convinced Sylvester Stallone who was filming a movie in Dubuque, to attend the Senior Prom one of many acts that earned him a spot as a student favorite.  Don ended his career in Brooking, South Dakota, "teaching those kids how to be principals because apparently they think I'm pretty good at it".  


The walls in Don's apartment were covered in awards he received as teacher and principal, and he never hesitated to express his love of education and students to anyone who listen. "There were no bad kids, only bad parents" was a favorite saying.  Don and Judy returned to Clinton in 1993, taking up residence in their century old brick home on Garfield Avenue.   In 2015, they moved to Iowa City to be closer to their daughter, the author Alex Brooklyn Bright.  


  He had been a member of the First Presbyterian Church.  He enjoyed teaching in Sunday School, singing, and he was active in the Masonic Lodge. In his later years, Don had some health issues.  Through it all, he exhibited his unique brand of "struggle and rise", a trait he passed on to his daughter.  


     Donald is survived by a daughter, Alex Brooklyn Bright (Bill Nitschke)  of Iowa City; a brother, Charles (Danelda) Kolsrud of Tucson, AZ and a step-brother, Reed Kolsrud of Camanche,  step-brother Roger Kolsrud , step-sister Darlene Diaz, sister in law Ann Johnstone, and several nieces and nephews.   He was preceded in death by his parents, a step sister Dolores Vozella and his wife.  Online condolences may be left at and memorials may be made to Foundation for Dubuque Public Schools or the UNI Foundation.  



Graveside Service:

A private graveside service was held at Oakland Cemetery, a Celebration of Life service will be held at a later date. The Pape Funeral Home assisted the family.


  • Gary Montgomery

    on 04/10/20

    Mr. Kolsrud was an amazing influence on me when I moved to Clinton in 1969.  He constantly encouraged me to be a part of the River King athletic programs.  His carrying made all the difference.  It does not surprise me at all of all of his success. My thoughts and prayers are with is entire family at this difficult time.

  • Charlie Becker

    on 04/11/20

    Don Kolsrud was an exceptional Principal at DBQ Senior High (class of 1973)...and it looks like he stayed loyal to the Rams his entire life.  Don had a genuine passion for education and his students.  He was a great leader, during some turbulent years in our school systems.  He lead by example and was greatly admired.  I am a better person today, because of Mr. Kolsrud.  His legacy will live on in the thousands of students he inspired...  My sympathy to Don's family and friends...

  • Dawn Jumbeck

    on 04/11/20

    Rest in peace, Mr. Kolsrud. Everyone at Senior loved you. Your enthusiasm and attitude were so inspiring Godspeed
  • Fred Frick

    on 04/11/20

    Don had a great heart, always attempting to assist whenever and where ever possible. He loved being in education and positively impacting the lives of so many. Any decision was made with the best intentions possible. He certainly impacted many careers in education.

    Our prayers and condolences to the family. 

  • Monica Ryan-Rausch

    on 04/11/20

    He was an amazing person and principal at Dubuque Senior-Go Rams!! Thank-you for your service and may you rest in peace.
  • Russ Pfab

    on 04/11/20

    Mr. Kolsrud was a great man. He influenced me greatly as a student and as a person. He touched many lives and the world is definitely a far greater place for his being here. Godspeed Mr. Kolsrud

  • Rob Gomoll

    on 04/11/20

    Don Kolsrud personified

    "Ram Pride!"

    He showed toughness, but was loving on the inside.

    The Risen Lord opens the Door to Eternal Life

    Where Don is now reunited with Judy, his wife.

  • Jeff McCarron, Class of '81'

    on 04/11/20

    I am truly honored to have known Mr. Kolsrud when I attended Dubuque Senior High School. With his education, experiences and career he glowed with enthusiasm at pep rallies when he initiated cheering waves around Nora Gym! For The Class of '81' and other classes under his wing, he is the Number 1 RAM!

  • Mike Fleming

    on 04/11/20

    I was saddened to hear of Don's passing. I retired from teaching after the 2018 school year. They were 42 wonderful years with the last 32 years at Dubuque Senior High School. I am so thankful for Don hiring me to be a part of the "Ram Family!" He was inspiring and always very supportive! My condolences to the family. Rest In Peace Don!

  • Dubuque Senior Ram Grad

    on 04/11/20

    The school board member got it right when s/he said Mr. Kolsrud was kind, had tact, and was honest. I still remember when I was in a Home Economics/Foods class and we were tasked with preparing a Halloween treat the Senior staff were invited to sample. Of course, Mr. Kolsrud showed up. As our group anxiously awaited for SOMEONE to try our cake, Mr. Kolsrud was keenly aware and took the lone slice. He took a bite, tried to conceal his facial expression, and graciously took another bite. Then all he did was smile and say, "I think I got the trick-or-treat cake." Here I had accidentally added salt instead of sugar! Even this small experience exemplified the qualities he possessed and reminded me of the impact Mr. Kolsrud has had on all who were honored and blessed to have known him.

    May your memories of Mr. Kolsrud bring you peace, comfort, and laughter. :)

    GO RAMS!

  • Tina PierAgostini

    on 04/11/20

    May you Rest In Peace.  You were an exceptional principal and role model to all who knew you.   It was a privilege to have known you.   My condolences to his family.  

  • Don Lawson

    on 04/11/20

    My condolences to Don's family. Don was instrumental in hiring me as a teacher/coach at Dubuque Senior in 1974. I will always be thankful to him for my 33 years at DSHS.
  • Gerald A. Edgar

    on 04/11/20

    My late mother, Irene Edgar, taught @ Senior during Don's term as Principal (I had graduated in "66 so did not know him personally)  She respected him as indeed a very friendly professional.  My Dad knew him very well thru Masonic connections which is where I first met him.  A very fine man indeed!

  • Diane Saeugling LaPier

    on 04/11/20

    My condolences and prayers go out to the entire family of Mr. Kolsrud. 
    He was such a wonderful person, very humble in so many ways.  Mr. Kolsrud was very compassionate and always wanted the best for people. 
    I have a wonderful story and memory of him.

  • Teresa Ruzicka

    on 04/11/20

    Me.  Kolsrud was principal for only a few of our children.  I just texted them of his passing. He was an amazing, kind, caring man.  In our thirty or more relationship with Senior he is the star.  I am sure he was one of the most influential people in making Senior the family it has always been.  Our sympathy for your loss.

  • Keith Miller

    on 04/11/20

    My sympathy to the family of Mr. Kolsrud. He was a good man and great principal.  I'm proud to have known him. Go Rams! 

  • Annette Heald Walter

    on 04/11/20

    My sympathy goes out to the family.  He was an inspiration to so many at Dubuque Senior.   Go Rams.  He would explain things as they truly were.    He was a true Leader to so many Youth.   May he rest in Pease with our Lord Jesus Christ.  
    Annette Heald Walter

  • Diane Cabalka Albert

    on 04/12/20

    Mr. Kolsrud was my principal at Dubuque Senior High (1980 grad). Go Rams! He showed us discipline, caring and truth. A truly great man. May he rest in peace.

  • Waynette Hohman

    on 04/12/20

    I met Mr. Kolsrud when I attended junior high school.  Cut to the chase, we got off on a rocky start.   Funny, I see that his birthdate was one day before mine!   Probably a couple of stubborn Leo's.    And truth be told, I was not the best student back then.  I was fortunate to meet and work with Judy at Jane Lamb Hospital, while I was on a hiatus from junior high.  She and I liked each other, and I always feel that she was my saving grace when I returned to school and had to interact with Mr. K.   That was at the time when she was preggers with daughter.   Anyway, I look back at those times in my life and smile.  These were folks who wanted me to do the right thing.  Happy to have known Mr & Mrs Kolsrud.  They were good to me and good for me.  May they both be reunited and RIP.     Waynette Sanders

  • Jill Erickson Wiebusch

    on 04/13/20

    Mr. Kolsrud was the MOST enthusiastic educator/leader I've ever known (GO RAMS!)  I remember when he would run out onto the track during our pep rallies and the student body would go wild.  Rest in eternal peace, Mr. K.

  • Valda Johnson

    on 04/14/20

    Deepest Sympathy.  Don was always an inspiration and blessed many lives!

    May peace surround and comfort you, keeping you in prayer.

  • Jolene (Thein) Rettenberger

    on 04/14/20

    My deepest sympathies to the Don Kolsrud family.  What a wonderful man, friend, "father figure" and boss Mr. Don Kolsrud was.  He will always be known as my favorite boss...

    I remember interviewing for the Receptionist position at Dubuque Senior High School back in July of 1984.  At the age of 18, I was hired per Mr. Kolsrud to be a member of the "Ram Family".  And to this day, I am so proud of being not only a member of the "Ram Family", but a "Proud Ram Parent" of two sons who graduated in 2006 and 2011.

    I have many fond memories of working with/for Mr. Don Kolsrud.  We had the best staff of administrators, teachers, secretaries, guidance counselors, school nurse, associates, custodial staff, food service workers and coaches.

    After leaving the Dubuque Community School District back in March of 1994, my husband (Mike) and I stayed in contact with Don & Judy Kolsrud.  We drove to Clinton, Iowa and Bettendorf, Iowa for visits and meals together.  After all the years of knowing the Kolsrud family, they were so loving, kind and down to earth.  

    In closing, I feel very privileged and honored to have had Don Kolsrud in my life.  I am sure he is happy to be in heaven with his beautiful wife and that they are both looking down on their daughter.

    The Rettenberger Family will continue to keep Don Kolsrud and his family in our hearts and prayers during this most difficult time.

    Go Rams!!

  • Ann Wilcox Edleman

    on 04/17/20

    I was from Maquoketa in my growing up life and as such attended Univ. of Northern Iowa, formerly Iowa State Teacher's College to be a K-6 grade teacher. I only knew Don because he drove from Cedar Falls to DeWitt on some weekends and I managed to ride home to Maquoketa several times. I remember him as a very pleasant and kind person.

    I  have  lived in Illinois/Iowa  down thru the years and Dubuque for the past 35, however did not know that he had been the Principal at Senior here until I read his obit in the TH. I can imagine that he had great experiences with students here and felt I needed to share this with his family. I knew right away upon seeing his photo that I had known him. My blessings to you all and am sorry you will be without him now. 

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