This week marks the 30th anniversary of Ivan Clontz’s murder in downtown Madison on February 22, 1989. Ivan was a classmate at Trans American Broadcasting in Wausau from 1981-82. The morning after the mayoral primary I came to my office in the State Capitol, looked out the window, and saw the yellow police tape around the business owned by Clontz.
I wrote of Clontz in my book, Walking Up The Ramp.
There was also Ivan who while I would never know very well as a student at school stood out for me as someone who was living authentically, and proud of it. Ivan came from Upper Michigan, was my age, and gay. No one had to ask or wonder. He was, and that was it. No one sat in judgment of him, or excluded him. In fact, he was loved for his campy and spirited way, along with his sharp wit. I would often wonder where he obtained all his self-assurance and how he came to be so self-aware. I never had more than fleeting conversations with him, but always sensed someone who was a bit wiser than his years.
After moving to Madison I again ran into Ivan, and discovered that he was operating a business, Madison’s Tea Room, a restaurant situated directly across the Capitol Square from my ground floor office window. It was therefore shocking to look out the window upon getting to work in February 1989, the morning following the mayoral primary election, and finding his store front taped off with yellow crime tape.
Ivan had been murdered in his business during the night; he had been stabbed more than 30 times according to the police report. His killer would be sentenced to life in prison for first-degree intentional homicide. It was a horrible and chilling event for Madison. On a personal level, Ivan’s passing made me very sad since I knew him to be rather remarkable.