Cover photo for John Martin Hagedorn, Sr.'s Obituary
John Martin Hagedorn, Sr. Profile Photo
1947 John 2023

John Martin Hagedorn, Sr.

July 30, 1947 — October 31, 2023


John M Hagedorn, 76, of Milwaukee, WI, passed away on October 31 after a long struggle with cancer. He loved and was loved by his wife, Mary Devitt; children, Zach and Jess Devitt, Tracey and Marty Hagedorn, and Katie (Pat) Starr; stepdaughter, Bryna Goeckner (Darren Davis); as well as Kathe Raynier; and ten beloved grandchildren. John will also be grieved by a host of extended family and friends.
At an early age, John was driven by hatred of injustice to become an activist, both as a community organizer and as a politically engaged intellectual.
In the sixties he threw himself into the civil rights movement, marching with Father James Groppi; helped organize the burning of draft files for the Milwaukee 14; and went on to decades of community organizing for racial justice. His seven books and many essays on gangs, child welfare, and the criminal justice system challenged stereotyped thinking in the media and academy and called for fundamental reforms.
John had a distinguished career as an academic, teacher, and author; he was the James J. Stukel Faculty Fellow at the Great Cities Institute and Professor Emeritus of Criminology, Law, and Justice at the University of Illinois Chicago. Yet what is important to know about John is that his great heart led him to care for people more than for honors and status. He will be missed by the many people he helped, taught, and collaborated with in a life well-lived.
A Celebration of John's Life will be held on Saturday, January 6, 11:30 a.m., at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, 1342 N Astor Street,  Milwaukee. A reception will follow. Please see the church website for directions and parking suggestions.

You may RSVP for this event at our memorial website. For those who cannot attend in person, the service will be live-streamed on the church's YouTube channel, at
Justice for Palestine is something John was engaged with for decades, and he was very moved by the plight and suffering of people in Gaza in recent weeks. 

Memorial donations may be made to: 

Palestinian Red Crescent Society (, an organization which is still on the ground in Gaza and able to provide relief. 

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement (, an organization that works for longer term solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

Middle East Children's Alliance (, providing emergency assistance to families who have fled their homes to seek shelter with relatives as well as procuring emergency medical supplies for hospitals and clinics.

For more information see our memorial website, Remembering John Hagedorn at 



To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Martin Hagedorn, Sr., please visit our flower store.


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