Dawn Mortimer’s Memorial Page

Dawn Mortimer’s Memorial Page


[reposted from the old Wilson Station site… some errors in links and comments may have occurred as a result.]

March 27, 2014 at approximately 6 pm, Ida Dawn Mortimer slipped silently from her husband, family and others of us at Jesus People USA to be with Christ. Dawn was the person many of us viewed as the heart of our community, who through her life exemplified the word “disciple.”

This is Dawn’s Wilson Station memorial page. Please feel free to add your loving reminisces via the comments section. (Text on this page itself may be updated as well.)

NEWEST POSTS WILL APPEAR FURTHER DOWN on page…. More photos to be added as well, including a few “vintage” ones just added.

List of contributors so far (new will be added!):

(Jon Trott – 1st post)

(Lyda Jackson)

(Glenn Kaiser)

(Wendi Kaiser)

Curt Mortimer’s beautiful poetry in memory of Dawn, his wife, much of it romantic rather than mournful: For Dawn – Poems by Curtiss Mortimer.


Jon Trott:

I’ve posted my initial reaction to Dawn’s death and life: Dawn Mortimer, Mentor and Friend.

So here let me offer a few snippets about Dawn herself:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


According to her husband Curt, Dawn Mortimer called Romans 8:38, 39 (above) her life verse.

Dawn’s favorite section of Scripture, it is universally agreed upon by those of us who knew her, was the Sermon on the Mount (found mainly in Matthew 5).

Dawn edited Cornerstone Magazine from its first issue in 1972 for decades, handing the reins over only to help pioneer (along with Sandra Ramsey) a massive expansion of Jesus People USA’s outreach to Uptown’s homeless via Cornerstone Community Outreach (ccolife.org).

Dawn, who was allergic to gluten, loved rice crispy bars. A Mounds bar also caused her eyes to light up.

Books. Always. Simon Tugwell’s The Beatitudes. A very well-worn collection (complete) of William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible commentaries. Jean Vanier’s Community and Growth. Every novel written by Francois Mauriac. Various mystery books, including everything from Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey to Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Dawn was deeply proud of our President, Barack Obama, and was known to talk back at the TV if he was being maligned there by political opponents.


One of Dawn’s most-expressed-to-others burdens, which she repeatedly urged others to learn more about and get involved in, was for prisoners. Specifically, prisoners in the United States. Many of us are intent upon taking her burden as our own. Stay tuned.

Dawn was an inward, private person, most comfortable with a small circle of close friends. Yet she intentionally pushed against her own preference by opening her room to all sorts of visitors, tiny children, and anyone else who happened to knock. Her time was not hers, but ours.

Music one associated with Dawn (and Curt)? Perhaps the single piece of music I personally can’t hear without thinking of her is Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

And to end my own segment of comments, here is a word from Dawn herself, recorded by Nathan Cameron just a little over a year ago:


Lyda Jackson, long-time JPUSA member, reminisces:

The intentional community that I have been a part of for over 40 years, Jesus People USA (JPUSA), has lost its founder. Early yesterday evening, Dawn Herrin Mortimer, passed away at the age of 80 after a long and courageous battle with emphysema.

To say that Dawn was simply JPUSA’s founder would be an understatement. She was a driving force and the heart of the community. She was a visionary, without whose influence, there would never have been a community, a magazine, a music festival, or a homeless shelter, all of which have so profoundly touched the lives of countless individuals.

How do I express what Dawn has meant to me…. I could write volumes.


Dawn (second from left), Wendi Herrin Kaiser, Janet Wheeler Cameron. Early 1970s.

To me, personally, Dawn was a pastor, a mentor and a friend. I met her at the tender age of 16 when I visited the JPUSA community. She always had a listening ear and would challenge me to do things for God that I never thought possible. Soon after I joined the community, I worked along side Dawn for many years on the Cornerstone Magazine. What a precious time to sit under her mentorship.

When I married my husband, Ron, Dawn served as a bridesmaid in our wedding. I remember when Dawn fell in love with Curt and rejoiced since she thought she was too old for someone to love her. But love her, he did…..

Later, Dawn and I would work together at Cornerstone Community Outreach, where she and Curt took their vision so seriously that they moved into the shelter with the residents.

There is a lot that I will miss about Dawn. Her words of wisdom and encouragement, her funny stories, her infectious laugh, her lessons on the Beatitudes, and her presence.

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.”Matthew 25:21


Glenn Kaiser has commented on his own blog, and gave Wilson Station permission to post those comments here as well:


What a perfect name for an incredible woman of God.

This past Thursday evening we bid goodbye for now… to a Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, mentor, pastor and dear friend.

I have publicly stated for some 35 years or more that Dawn Mortimer was the most godly person I’ve ever known. I’ve actually known quite a few, but none as consistently gracious, wise, loving, kind at heart and typically concerned with justice for the underdog. She was my mother-in-law but more a mother to me than my own Mom.

She loved Jesus and the larger as well as local church her entire life.

When hard-nosed church folk treated us with less than love, respect or at times even sense, she was the peace-maker, the kind one, but also the one who stuck up for the misfits and vagabond, scruffy ones.

She was not without her flaws but they were few.

This amazing daughter of God routinely spoke with compassion and mercy about some of the most taxing, selfish people we’ve ever worked with in ministry.

Back in my Rez Band days, when nobody else in the room seemed to understand my musical and especially lyrical ideas she “got it”, again and again, helping to explain and interpret what I was trying to convey.

If she decided I was being stubborn, ignorant or both (on more than a few occasions over the years) the hardest words she ever had for me were: “Well, just think it over, really pray about it and do what the Lord tells you”.

In such moments we both knew her assessment of the issues were biblical, loving and sound… and that I needed to take them to heart and act accordingly.

As the years passed her emphysema became more pronounced and at 80 years of age, her mind sharp but body failing, it was clear her graduation to heaven was at hand.

I had prayed for several months that the Lord would take her gently in her sleep. By His grace, that’s exactly what He did appx. 5:30 Thursday afternoon, March 27, 2014.

I could not be more certain that I’ll see her again in the presence of God. Well done dear Mother and Friend!

We and this needful world have lost an incredible gift.

Thanks to all for prayers for her wonderful husband Curt, family, extended family and church.

With Love and Deep Affection,



Wendi Kaiser offered this, written about the family grieving and being with one another:

Curt shared this poem with us they had written together as we sat with so many friends and family around her body. Even the “great-grands” grieved with us comforting and hugging each other with their small arms and teary eyes.

Curt said, ” I wrote my parts in honor of her staying above the discouragement and depression that so often accompanies suffering.”

We have become acquainted

With the night

As with an enemy, familiar,

An everyday visitor

Who opens up his coat

To share his wares

He is an exhibitionist

In ecstasy over what he has to sell.

Hell has no goods for us.

We will not buy.

Though the shadow try and try and try,

For we have lived and loved and laughed,

In glorious day.

On Thursday night we all had at least 4 hours with her at home before the funeral home folks came to take her body. We all cried, shared stories, laughed and sat together. I, along with Curt, my sister and sister-in-law stayed while the funeral folks wrapped her body gently, placed her in a bag on a stretcher, and rolled her to the hearse. We stayed with Curt. I do not have any more tears tonight.

She lived an amazing life and I loved her dearly. I also knew she needed to leave this world. She was down to 90 lbs or less and every breathe was work. She could not really talk or walk but her smile was great. We were “talking” today about life and perhaps the near future. She wanted to see Noah and attend my sister’s graduation. She lived with hope, love and faith.

I was so blessed to have been raised and have worked with my mother as an adult for over 40 years. Many children never have the opportunity to be close to their mothers after reaching adulthood. I am blessed. As I was trying to organize my thoughts and emotions it came to me,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and loving-kindness (mercy) will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23: 4-6

That was my mother’s life and I want it to be mine also.

Wendi Kaiser




    1. When looking back at my life, it is like reviewing someone else’s life. Yet there are memories & experiences of people who I have unintentionally carried through history. And all the while are fondly thought of, yet more than anything, I have had deep respect & admiration-one of those rare, rare individuals who stand out more than any.

      In moments of spiritual thoughts, wonder or inventory I review who I deem to be a truly spiritual person, a Godly person. And only one person comes immediately & consistently to mind, Dawn.

      I will always remember her humility, generosity, compassion, empathy, and her deep love to God.

      Dawn, You are finally where you always wanted to be. I am so happy for you.

    1. I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dawn! She was a woman whose faith was always evident and deep whenever I was with her! She was the inspiration of Jesus People and always of those who were privileged to know her. Peace be to her family and to her memory!

        • Thank you so much, Herb. I know your strong support meant so much to her. Much more could be said, but I know you remember. I don’t know that you were aware how much it meant to her. Thank you.

    1. Dawn was part of the Covenant ministers. She was a sister in Christ as we served hurting families in Chicago. Peace be to her memory!

        • Thank you so much, Carol. I personally find profound comfort in being part of a larger church body (the Covenant Church) that so strongly affirms women in leadership. Dawn’s role as both JPUSA and Covenant pastor underscores that affirmation.

    1. When I heard Dawn passed I gasped in sorrow but then felt as though tons of balloons had been released into the sky. Whew! Free at last, perhaps sharing a spot of tea with Denny and Lou and Bob Williams and all the gang. What a lovely Jesus-woman I got to know all those years at Cornerstone. She embodies the idea, ” Some, through loving, have had their own wounds healed.”

    1. Every been in the presence of someone who causes you to want to become a better Christian? Not because of anything they say, but how they say everything? That was DAWN MORTIMER. Every time I’ve had a meeting at JPUSA or spoke at Cornerstone, I hoped I would see her. Her life was a continual witness to Jesus. Her humility caused me to search my own heart in the hopes that one day, I too might have the same abandon before the LORD that she did. Psalm 116:15 ‘Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.’

    1. Dawn believed in me for years before I could believe in myself. She and Curt mentored me and encouraged me and taught me not to give up nomatter what. I used to think the smallest things were emergencies and that everything was a crisis. They patiently taught me that panic is a needless waste of energy. That God is in control. It’s still a lesson I relearn. But they started me on the path. I miss u Dawn. I’m praying for you all at this time. Through every season God can be trusted. I’m so grateful and love u all.

    1. Dawn had an amazing gift of speaking into other people’s lives, full of wisdom, but mixed with much grace, humility and kindness. Dawn spoke into Jon & my life, as in many individuals, and we are better people because of it, and with a blessed relationship. Dawn had so many gifts and talents that are admirable, and even enviable, but her greatest gift of all, which we can all and should have, is to love. Dawn was able to see others as Jesus sees them, seeing how precious each person is, seeing beyond prejudice, seeing beyond class or status. Loving the underdog, the invisible, those that many don’t seem to notice, going beyond her own insecurities, and lifting others up before herself. This is the gift and talent of Dawn’s that I would like to emulate, to copy. To love and see others as Jesus did. Thank you Dawn for your example, and for finishing the race so well!!

    1. New year’s message was great. I thought she looked good & sounded great. Love one another. I was always blessed to hear Ms. Dawn speak. My Tommy said of her, she was a “very wise woman”. She is truely well now. I know her family & community greatly miss her. Remember we will one day be reunited with our loved ones.

    1. James Edward Banks writes,

      Thoughts and prayers are with you Curt. A true4*general in the lord’s army!!! She went home to the joys of the Lord!

    1. Paul Jones offered this…

      Jon, I saw this text today and thought of you. I hope you find it comforting…

      9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

      10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

      11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

      12 *For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.*

      13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

      My thought was, that even with those dearest to us, we only know in part: but when we enter perfection, then we shall truly know perfectly…

    1. Gary Zanow writes:

      I am so sorry for your loss. Dawn was (still is!) a great woman of God. My deepest sympathies to the entire JPUSA community.

    1. Former JPUSA member and close co-worker with Dawn on Cornerstone magazine, Eric Pement writes:

      Thanks for letting us know about Dawn’s passing into the presence of the Lord. Her testimony and compassion was a powerful witness, and I was encouraged and blessed by her many times. She always pointed people to the Lord Jesus Christ. My prayers are with you.

    1. Susan Cowper, who co-founded Jesus People Milwaukee with Jim Palosaari, writes:

      Dawn’s loving kindness has touched so many over the years, more than we can ever know. She will be remembered with deep admiration and regard. Your tribute speaks for us all.

    1. Janet Schmidt writes:

      How sad – I believe she was involved with Tyler and Carolyn’s wedding and was so lovely to us, I enjoyed meeting and chatting with her. I know she had been sick. My condolences for the loss of Dawn.

    1. Lynn Nancarrow, another early Jesus People Milwaukee member, writes:

      May the Lord bless those left here grieving the loss of a dear saint. I will cherish my memories of Mamma Dawn.

    1. A comment from Mary Damrow, member of Jesus People Milwaukee (where JPUSA’s root membership started back in 1971):

      Please give our love and prayers to Kurt and Wendell and Johnny and fam n friends. Mama Dawn is dancin in heaven today. She was a great lady and I loved how she loved us in those early JP days

    1. I did not know her well, but when i was sitting in the lobby and i saw her she would always say hi to me and i would say hi back i saw her to be a very sweet lady. My prayers are with the family she is in a better place with our loving Savior Jesus Christ.

    1. I never met her, but through her influence on members of JPUSA, Rez Band and Cornerstone magazine, she indirectly touched my life in a very significant way. Crucially, what came through all these contacts was a demonstration that it is possible to be passionate disciples of Jesus, loving him and those the world does not love, especially God the Father, with all our hearts, minds and energies.

      God bless you, Dawn: I am thankful for your life. “We are members, one of another.”

    1. “I love you very much. In the name of Jesus, love one another.”

      What magnificent final words!

    1. When I was a “young” single sister at JPUSA I remember hanging out in Dawn’s room sharing my frustrations and judgements about others I was rooming with and how she always listened patiently then with great love she would ask me to pray for them knowing that in the end I would change as long as my heart was open to Jesus. When I would come back to her and share what God had done in me she would smile and gently paat my hand. She knew that God would be changing me and not neccesarily my room mates but she never judged me. We will miss you dear Dawn!!

    1. My comments re. our dear Dawn are on my blog page:


      Thanks to Jesus for the amazing gift of this true saint. Thanks to all for prayers and kind words in our time of both rejoicing at her Home-going and our loss. -Glenn

    1. Colleen Davick wrote:

      God bless Ida Dawn Mortimer who is now not only figuratively, but literally out of this world, and her family who will miss her dearly.

    1. Heidi Bayliss wrote on facebook:

      The wisest, most gental, most beautiful women I ever knew passed away tonight my Grandmother (Dawn) Ida Mortimer I know she was loved by many and will be missed. But her wisdom will go on forever in people. My Biggest regret is that I might not have soaked up as much of that wisdom as I would have liked to. I love you and will miss you! Your loving granddaughter Heidi Bayliss — feeling sad.

    1. Another face book entry from Rick Vaughn:

      Farewell to my grandmother, Ida Dawn Mortimer, 1934-2014, known affectionately to most people around us as “Mama Dawn.” Rest in peace.

  1. I’m copying a few comments from Dawn’s facebook page, starting with former JPUSA member Rebecca Lynn Groesser.


    “i moved to JPUSA in september of 2006. living on the second floor put me right across from curt and dawn’s room. there were so many times that first year there that i would stop by that room and spend time with the two people i quickly grew to love. even after i moved, our visits continued at their trailer in bushnell and whenever i would come by the house, even if it was just a quick hello.

    no matter what she was doing, dawn would always, always, pause for a hello. she’d squeeze my hand, kiss my cheek and tell me she had missed me and had been thinking of me. i always felt humbled. to have such a woman who embodied everything good pause to check in with me…

    it broke my heart seeing her vivacious nature fade as curt began to lovingly push her in her wheelchair. but she would still stop. still squeeze my hand. still kiss my cheek and tell me she missed me, had been praying for me and thinking of me.

    the earth has lost one of it’s most beautiful souls. i’m thankful for the rest she has now; free of pain and in total peace. but i will miss her gentle warmth and love she gave so freely.

    until we meet again in glory, Ida Dawn Mortimer. you are missed.