Joel Towne Deweese

Date of Birth

October 14, 1942

Date of Death

September 12, 2021

The world has lost a true Renaissance man.

Joel Towne Deweese was born in Brooklyn, NY, on October 14, 1942. His parents were both native Nebraskans. His mother, Rowena Merle Beadle Deweese, from Kearny, was the first woman to graduate from the University of Nebraska with a degree in journalism and drama. His father, Wilford Joel Deweese, from Lincoln, was a surgery resident at King’s County Hospital in Brooklyn at the time of Joel’s birth. His father’s residency was interrupted by service in a mobile field surgical hospital in Italy during WWII. In January 1947, the family moved to Bemidji, MN, where Joel’s mother founded the Paul Bunyan Playhouse and his father started a long and successful career as a general surgeon.

Joel graduated from Bemidji High School in 1960 as a National Merit Scholar Finalist; Dartmouth College in 1964 Phi Beta Kappa with a major in biology; and the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1968 with an M.D. degree. Following a year’s internship at Weld County General Hospital in Greeley, CO, Joel returned to Bemidji, where he wore the many hats of a small-town general medical practitioner. An auto accident in November 1977 caused permanent quadriplegia. In 1979, he moved to Santa Barbara where he taught medical terminology to court reporting students and the lecture portion of California EMT certification at Santa Barbara City College.

In 1981, he married Mary Liebl of Sheboygan, WI, in a beautiful lake-side ceremony at his parents’ home in Bemidji. Their life together in Santa Barbara was full of fun, laughter, family, and friends. They also shared and loved numerous wonderful cats throughout the years.

Early in his life, Joel enjoyed being an ultra-active outdoorsman – cross country, downhill, and water skilling, tennis, golf, bird-hunting and canoeing were some of his passions. In the summers, he guided campers on trips to the Quetico Canoe country of Ontario and Minnesota. In the spring of 1961, sitting number four, he helped power the Dartmouth freshman lightweight 8-man crew to victory after victory, culminating in the setting of the course record at the National Rowing Championships in Worcester, MA.

A voracious reader, Joel’s vast knowledge extended to science, nature, medicine, sports, his beloved classical music, poetry, literature, fine wine, and Irish Whiskey. He was an avid devotee of the study of WWII; indeed, his knowledge on the subject rivaled the best scholars in the field. His wry sense of humor and quick wit were always a source of entertainment and amusement. Joel was a loving and devoted husband, son, and brother to five younger siblings. A fiercely loyal and devoted friend, he cultivated and cherished lifelong friendships, some for more than seventy years.

An intellectual until the end, two weeks before his death, Joel was still winning his favorite board game of Trivial Pursuit against family and dear friend, Marty McKenzie. Mary will really miss her “Mr. Google.”

Joel’s siblings would like to acknowledge his amazing wife, Mary, for her devotion and loving care for him during their life together. Joel’s mother often referred to Mary as “Joel’s Angel”. While all of the siblings treasured their many visits to Santa Barbara with Joel and Mary over the years, a special acknowledgement to his brother Mac, who resides in Massachusetts, for his numerous and varied home improvement projects as well as the many instances of respite care he provided for Joel.

Joel passed away at home on September 12, 2021, surrounded by friends and family. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Mary Liebl Deweese; his siblings – Mac Deweese (Robin Fies), Sarah Lewandowski (Doug), Wilf Deweese (Chris), Dr. Sam Deweese (Dr. Janet Bergeron), Jennifer Deweese (Clem Czerniak), numerous nieces and nephews, and his first wife, Dr. Natalie Roholt. His survivors also include in-laws Mardi Kemp (John), Jack Liebl (Pam), Tom Liebl (Lisa) and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. W.J. (Bill) and Rowena Deweese and in-laws Robert and Helen Liebl formerly of Sheboygan, WI.

The family is deeply grateful for Joel’s wonderful doctors including Dr. Stanley McLain at Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, the visiting nurses and hospice of Santa Barbara and all of the other care givers throughout the years.

Memorials can be sent to:
Easy Lift of Santa Barbara, 53 Cass Place, Suite D, Santa Barbara, CA 93117
Arbor Day Foundation, 2611 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410
Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care (VNA Health), 512 E. Gutierrez Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Friends of Dartmouth Rowing, 6083 Alumni Gym, Hanover, NH 03755


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