Madison Memorial High School students honored their principal, Bruce Dahmen, during a basketball game Saturday night.
Dahmen has been hailed a leader who changed the lives of many people. He passed away suddenly earlier in the week from a heart attack. Dahmen worked at Memorial High School for 40 years.
The school's varsity basketball team started the night with a spirited chant in the halls, but the night was not all about winning the game against Joseph A. Craig High School, it was about Bruce Dahmen.
"After 40 years of knowing someone it was the most fantastic thing in the world. My kids were very fortunate to be able to be touched and blessed by him," said Chris Houden, a Memorial parent and former student of Dahmen in 1974.
Houden described Dahmen's death as a sad time, but said it was heartwarming to see a community come together.
The Spartan gym was packed, but the chair where Memorial's biggest cheerleader usually sat was empty. One senior student said it was hard to look at.
"He was a role model for all of us. We'd look over there, if he was clapping we'd clap, if he wasn't, you know, he'd look over at us, tell us not to do a cheer then we wouldn't do a cheer," senior Ryan Bruesewitz said.
School leaders and team seniors filled Dahmen's signature chair with jerseys, flowers and a basketball. Then they all offered their condolences to the Dahmen family.
When the game got started there were no cheers from Spartan fans. The usually spirited group stood in silence for the first 10 points.
Fifteen minutes later the silence broke as the Spartans sunk the 10th point.
Cheers erupted from the student section of fans. A "Thank you Dahmen" chant filled the room.
While Dahmen's chair will stay empty, students said when they see it they will think of him cheering them on.
"He just wants us to be respectful and be the best we could be. It's all he ever wanted for us and he always let us know that," senior Mitchell Maier said.
Dahmen is survived by his wife, Peggi, and two sons. He was 61 years old.
Madison Metropolitan School District will celebrate Dahmen's life and legacy Sunday, Feb. 16, at Memorial High School. The celebration will be live streamed online.
Doors will open at 1:00 p.m. The celebration will start at 2 p.m.