Marilyn Howell

I was born and raised on Madison’s east side and was the oldest of three with two younger brothers. I graduated from LaFollette High School where I made great friends who I continue to get together with to this day.

After graduation, I joined those friends at Madison Area Technical College (now Madison College) where I met and became friends with my soon-to-be coworker Jerilyn (Jeri) Dahmen.

We both began our careers in the summer of 1969 and started within a month of each other with the Department at the Hill Farms State Office building.

My first position was as a Stenographer with the Bureau of Water Regulation & Zoning with Elly Lawry as my supervisor. Once the Department moved to Pyare Square, I was assigned to the Bureau of Information and Education with co-workers Margaret Gaffney and Mary Blasdel. I learned so much from these three great ladies. I then was promoted to a supervisor position and our clerical team worked with the Bureaus of Environmental Impact, Aid Programs, Research, and Planning. When the existing Bureau of Office Services was disbanded, we were all then assigned to specific bureaus and I went with Buzz Besadny and the Bureau of Environmental Impact and remained with the bureau until 1981 when our son was born.

I loved being a Mom and was fortunate enough to be able to work a half-time position. But the downside was leaving my position with Environmental Impact. I was lucky enough to find a half-time position job-sharing first with Gail Fry in the Bureau of Aid Programs and then with Ruth Ann Burns in the Youth Conservation Camp Program with Ray Hendrikse. When the YCC Program was disbanded in 1995 and positions were being cut throughout the Department, I was able to continue with the Bureau of Aid Programs working with Tom Niebauer and Larry Freidig until something permanent came along. And it did! Conservation Warden and Section Chief Patrick Harkins hired me in 1997 to be a part of his Recruitment & Training Section in the Bureau of Law Enforcement, where I stayed until my retirement in December, 2008.

Ali and Matt's Wedding
David, Jessica, Alison,Matt, Marilyn & Neil

My time with Recruitment & Training was a great experience and it allowed me to travel to college campuses around the state and the WI State Fair and talk to students about a career as a Conservation Warden. The applications process, interviews, testing and training for warden positions is extensive and I was a part of the process which I thoroughly enjoyed. I met and worked with wardens from all around the state who helped with the process at its various steps and also when the entire warden service came together for their yearly in-service training at Fort McCoy. I even got to be an actor several times in the training scenarios the new warden recruits went through. One of the scenarios took place at a Columbia County lake and a Milwaukee newspaper reporter and her photographer were there to do a story on the training the recruits received. They were out on the lake following the warden recruits as they went through various scenarios they might encounter on the job. Warden Supervisor Barb Wolf and I were in a boat on the lake pretending to be boaters “under the influence”. The recruit’s job was to approach us in their boat and interview us to determine if we were in fact inebriated - so we had to pretend we were! The story the reporter wrote was great, but it was accompanied by a couple of very unflattering photographs of me going through a breathalyzer test and acting as if I was in fact under the influence. My family really enjoyed those photos and my brothers still bring them out periodically to this day!

I met my husband, Neil, at DNR when he was working in the Bureau of Air and Solid Waste Management. We were married in April 1980 and we just celebrated 41 years. While I stayed at DNR, he went on to work at UW System Administration and then the Department of Administration. We have two children – Alison and her husband, Matt, live in Chicago and our son, David, and his partner, Jessica, live in Madison.

Pre-COVID Neil and I volunteered with RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) and drove seniors to medical appointments. We also do periodic volunteer activities through that Program as needed. Neil does volunteer tax preparation with AARP and I have been involved in various positions on the Board of our Neighborhood Association, just retiring from my last position after 10 years. I enjoy my yoga class, reading, gardening, walking the Madison and Dane County trails and parks with Neil and the year-round weekly visits to our peaceful Marquette County lake house with a western view with some amazing sunsets.

Great sunsets from the front yard of our cabin.

We love to travel and try to take several trips a year. Our travels have taken us to almost of the states. A few years ago, we discovered Avalon River Cruises and love the two cruises we did through Europe. We enjoy traveling with our good friends, DNR retiree Paul Koziar and his wife, Nory.

Paul & Nory Koziar with us in Switzerland

Swiss Alps

Our first major trip together was to Europe on an organized tour where we visited several European countries with a guide on a tour bus (quite the whirlwind experience).

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

We’ve also done trips with them to Oregon, Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, an Alaskan cruise and a trip to Switzerland and then onto Rome. We can’t wait for this COVID business to be over and we’re back on a plane. We hope to visit Portugal, which was a trip that was cancelled at the beginning of COVID. Meanwhile we’ll be content with our yearly winter vacation to the Gulf side of Florida and travel here in the U.S.

Enjoying time in Florida

When I began with the Department in 1969, I didn’t know too much about what the Department’s mission was other than hunting, fishing and parks. But I did know that preserving our natural resources was important to me and I was proud to be a part of that. I hope I was able to offer a bit towards the mission. I am most grateful for the friends I’ve made over my 39 years with the Department.