David Dibbell
1934 - 2020

Dibbell, David G., Sr.

MADISON - (Ret. Col.) David G. Dibbell Sr., M.D., Professor Emeritus and past Division Chair, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Wisconsin Department of Surgery, passed away peacefully at home and on his terms on Nov. 19, 2020, in Madison, Wis., with his loving wife, Susan, daughter, Cherie, and future son-in-law, Paul, by his side.

He was a devoted husband to Susan (nee Vande Hei); father to his children, Cherie Dibbell Durand (Paul Hulsey) and David (Stacy) Dibbell; beloved grandfather to Augusta (Mike) Crumrine and David Samuel Dibbell; great-grandfather to David Charles Crumrine; and was adored by his four-legged canine companion, Star.

David was born in Evanston, Ill., on March 2, 1934, to Emily and David Dibbell. He was a Golden Gloves boxer at Culver Military Academy, and his academic excellence led him to study at Yale University where he was a varsity wrestler and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Headed for flight school with the U.S. Air Force, he was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine where he graduated Alpha Omega Alpha.

David served in the U.S. Air Force for fifteen years, during a time of great change and turbulence in U.S. history (1959-1974). Col. Dibbell was deployed in the Adriatic and flew cover in both the Cuban Missile Crisis and Berlin Crisis.

In 1968, Dr. Dibbell arrived in Vietnam in the wake of the Tet Offensive. In Hu?, he was appointed the sole faculty member of the medical school, in charge of a 1000-bed hospital and an 800-bed leprosarium. Despite a lack of resources, Dibbell excelled in teaching the Vietnamese medical students and treated patients from both sides of the conflict.

Dr. Dibbell completed residencies in both general and plastic surgery at Yale, Stanford, and Roswell Park Memorial Institute. Upon returning from Vietnam and discovering the U.S. Air Force did not have its own reconstructive surgery program, Dibbell started one at Wilford Hall Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Dibbell received a Bronze Star and Combat Air Medal for his military service and retired as a full colonel.

One of his greatest accomplishments and the legacy he leaves is building the first program in reconstructive surgery at the UW Department of Surgery, where he created international outreach programs, providing plastic surgery and care in Central and South America. Virtually unknown when the program first began, Dr. Dibbell's program became one of the top ten programs in North America within his first five years as its Division Chief, and then the program rose to top three over the next three years. UW's Plastic Surgery's global health program has now become recognized as the foremost program in global health education in the United States. While this program is something Dr. Dibbell is most known for, he believed the strength of the program lies in the people and students. A gifted educator, he had a true love of teaching and was proud of every resident he trained. Dr. Dibbell was recognized for his international teaching by being appointed professor at the Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil in Ecuador and professor at the University of Nicaragua-Leon.

Beyond his teaching, Dr. Dibbell was a master surgical technician and innovative plastic surgeon, having had a profound impact in the field of plastic surgery. Many of his techniques, principles and surgeries are taught and applied currently including the cleft nasal repair and the myocutaneous flaps. Dr. Dibbell was the recipient of the James Barrett Brown Prize in Plastic Surgery.

A musician, artist and sportsman. David loved sailing, horses and fly fishing. While retirement was not in his nature, he continued to mentor and teach, paint, and with his wife, Susan, visit some of his favorite fishing spots and trout streams in the Florida Keys and Montana.

The family would like to thank the staff at Agrace HospiceCare for the compassionate care they provided David and the family.

There is a graveyard in Clinton, Conn., with twelve David Dibbells. Dr. Dibbell is the 13th first son of the first son to be named David. Dr. Dibbell will be buried in Clinton and the family will celebrate his life post COVID.

Memorial gifts in honor of Dr. Dibbell may be directed to UW Foundation, Endowed Chair of Plastic Surgery Education, and mailed to UW Foundation, U.S. Bank Lockbox, Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807, or online at: https://www.supportuw.org/. Please list Dr. David Dibbell in the memo line.

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Published by Madison.com on Dec. 20, 2020.
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12 Entries
To Susan, Cherie and David, It has been many years since we have seen each other. I always think of Dave with the fondest memories. He was an extremely fun guy. I remember pulling up to the house in San Antonio and Creedence Clear Water Revival would be playing. I can't even imagine how much you will miss him. He was larger than life, XO, Christine
Christine Mitchell Van De Mark
January 25, 2021
Dr Dibbell introduced me to my wife. I was an orthopedic resident. She was a student at UW working in the plastic surgery office. I can´t thank him enough
Judson Ott
January 1, 2021
To Dave Jr., Stacey and Cherie: It´s been a long since those days when we were neighbors, good friends and fishing buddies when growing up in Hill Country Village in San Antonio. I have many fond memories of those days . Your dad was arguably the most intelligent , capable and amazingly dynamic person I´ve ever had the pleasure knowing ( my own mother Mardith being a close second ) :) There is a special note that I´d like to make a point of addressing . I will forever be in debt to to your dad , because he was the the one person who planted the idea in my mind of going into the field of Anesthesiology, just prior to his retirement from the Air Force . It was a perfect fit for me as a career , as I´m still in that practice after some 40 years to date . On behalf of my family , ( Mardith, Stuart and Cynthia) please accept our condolences for your loss , and as my Dad used to say , " Keep the faith " !! Andre´
Andre C. Schuetz LTC. USA , Retd., 3030 Swan Court , Cottonwood CA. 9602
December 31, 2020
A life well lived! What great, real stories. Loved his sharing the marquesas, Geiger Key, Boca Chica, etc. with us. Loved hearing him shout, "the sound of freedom" as the F18's zoomed overhead. Hope to share a hunt together on the other side. Thank you Susan for sharing him, God bless you.
Bud and Jean Hauser
December 23, 2020
Dave Dibbell was an outstanding man. He was a gifted Surgeon, a dedicated teacher, and a wonderful friend. He loved life and changed the lives of more people than we will ever know. He changed my life forever. I will miss him always. Sue, David, Cherie Thank you for sharing him with all of us. My heartfelt condolences to each of you.
Brad Manning
December 23, 2020
Melinda Monroe
December 22, 2020
He was a wonderful man. It was my privilege to call him friend.
Kris Hauser
December 22, 2020
Thank you doctor for your services back in 1974 and was a success.
Greg McMahon from Baraboo, WI 53913
December 21, 2020
Dr. Dibbell was the surgeon for 2 of my daughters born with VanderWoude Syndrome/Cleft lip and palate. As a new mother, he was so supportive and helpful to me. His warm bedside manor helped me cope with the fear of having a newborn undergo surgery. I send my sympathy to the whole family at his passing. I knew he was a special person, but reading his obituary solidified my perceptions. I am so thankful for what he has done for my family.
Diana Kalscheur Murphy
December 20, 2020
Oh how we administrative/secretarial staff enjoyed Dave Dibbell! My first "state" job (after 5 years at a downtown Madison insurance agency) was in the Anesthesiology Dept. at the old UW Hospital at 1300 University Ave. We were located at the end of a long hallway occupied by the Dept. of Surgery. And the Plastics Section Office was located closest to ours. The office always had such a positive vibe that many of us stopped by more often than not just to chat. Roz Kopelberg and Dee Spiece did their best to maintain decorum but with Dave it was a losing battle. He was such a people person. I wonder if he ever met a human being that he didn´t connect with? I rather doubt it. He´s the guy that convinced me that getting my ears pierced was no big deal. And I think he pierced mine on the spot right there in his office before I had a chance to change my mind. He´s also the guy that stitched up my lip after taking a backhand playing racquetball at the Natatorium on my lunch hour. We could always count on Dave to lift us up if we were down: a trait that the world could use more of these days. Hope to see you on the other side!
Roberta Ward
December 20, 2020
Hey Sue-- so sorry to hear of David's passing! My thoughts and prayers are with you and the family. May God Bless! Deb
Deb Bitney
December 20, 2020
I remember your father and all the wonderful times we had together with him. Stoughton is still there in my memories as a time of happiness. Love to you and your family Cheri.
Ellen Veir Penshorn
December 20, 2020