Dr. Dennis G. Norem

September 28, 1953 - July 26, 2022

Dr. Dennis  G. Norem


On December 28, 2021, recently retired Dr. Dennis Norem, 68, was living his best life, skiing with family in the mountains of northern Arizona. A cerulean sky, the sparkle of laughter and sun on snow, and suddenly a fluke tumble.

Dennis, who had gone thirty years without a sick day, was faced with a spinal cord injury that resulted in quadriplegia. Months of difficult rehabilitation at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix supported by his wife, five adult children, and grandchildren followed. Tragically, after his release and return to Rockford, negative health consequences persisted until his death at home on July 26, 2022.

Born on September 28, 1953 at Rockford Memorial Hospital to Otto and Carol (Lenox) Norem, Dennis was the second son of a farming family in Caledonia, IL. He worked alongside his dad throughout childhood and remarked often that his childhood was all he could have asked for: loving, stable parents, playing on beautiful land peppered with animals. Those parents and fondly remembered church and 4-H camps impressed upon him the value of education, hard work, honesty, and being a man of his word. Dennis attended Belvidere schools and credited that solid education with his successes in college and medical school. While at Belvidere High School, he was a Varsity athlete in football, basketball and baseball. For the remainder of his life he could be found on a court, the slopes or behind a boat.

In 1978 at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center unit 4-East, while he was a medical student and she a nursing student, Dennis met the love of his life, Julia (Burwell) Norem. They were married in the summer of 1979 just after medical school graduation. A nightly ritual of saying, “I’m glad I have you,” sustained them through nearly 43 wonderful years of marriage. They built a home on 8 beautiful acres in Boone County and enjoyed a full life there raising five of the best children parents could dream of having the honor to raise.

Dennis joined the Rockford Clinic (now Mercy Health) in 1982 and practiced there until he retired in 2020. He was on staff at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center and Wound Clinic where he cared for his inpatients over those years. He had a special place in his heart for the dedicated staff at OSF. He served as a consulting doctor at VanMatre HealthSouth for nearly 20 years, and deeply appreciated the staff and the patients there. Commitment to family and his profession were cornerstones of Dennis’s character. Without complaint, he arose and went to work every day for more than four decades to put five kids through college, to provide a comfortable retirement for himself and Julia, and to serve his community. Such commitment carried into his dedication to his patients. He was well known throughout the Rockford community having served thousands of patients practicing office medicine and inpatient hospital care. He would see any patient, any time he was needed. There was no “schedule is full” for Dennis. Staff working with him marveled at what a loving boss and doctor he was. When he retired, he received hundreds of heartfelt notes from patients, patient family members, and colleagues from the medical community which, since his accident, have been frequent visitors.

Dennis was a graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford campus. He completed his Internal Medicine Residency at Illinois Masonic Hospital, Chicago, where he was Chief Resident. Dennis’s community service extended to many boards, as a volunteer coach for his children’s sports teams, and for 30 years as a team doctor for Belvidere High School football. Serving as team doctor for the Rockford Ice Hogs also brought him great joy. He valued teaching the next generation of doctors and volunteered with the Rockford Health Council until his death to improve the health of the community and address health disparities. Over the years he held many leadership positions at Rockford Health (now Mercy Health). Highly important to him was his 40 years of service on the boards of the Winnebago County Medical Society (WCMS) and the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) where he rose to Speaker of the House. He always said he hoped he left medical practice a better place for his colleagues and patients. Some of his most treasured recognition includes: Community Leader Impact Award (Rockford Health Council), Distinguished Alumni (University of Illinois), Physician Leadership Award (WCMS), and Senior Student Leadership Award (University of Illinois).

Life wasn’t all seriousness and service, though. Dennis was really funny! Especially when together with his friends and family he could keep people laughing until their sides hurt. He and Julia loved to dance. In medical school he was known as Disco Dennis! He was Julia’s biggest support; encouraging her through undergraduate and graduate school, and as she rose in her own career.

However, by far, his greatest accomplishment in life was being a great father to the five wonderful children he so fiercely loved and a devoted Papa/Grandpa to the seven grandchildren he adored. Nothing in this world brought him more joy than family time; holidays, outdoor parties at home, attending the children’s events and the many graduations. As the patriarch, he was the voice of wisdom and reason. Always lending a listening ear, needed advice, calm presence, and lots of hugs. The loss of his calm, loving presence seems too much to bear. We know he is forever with us, and we promised him to carry on his legacy of living a life of being kind to one another and serving our communities.

The family does not know how they would have gotten through these past seven months without the love, support and meals, so many friends and family have showered upon them. Special thanks to Dr. Link and the staff at Barrow Neurological institute to Rockford Compassionate Care Service caregivers, and Mercy Health Hospice staff. In addition, very special thanks to Dr. Fred Sweet for his love and for getting us home from Arizona; friends, Dr. Philip and Mary Seeber, Dr. Jon Monkemeyer, Dr. John Dorsey, Dr. Tom Dahlberg, Dr. Ken Korchek, Jeff Carlisle, Dr. John and Eileen Holtan, and Barbara D’Souza; best neighbors ever, Dennis and Diane Roop; brother-in-law, David Burwell; and sister-in-law, Mary Burwell.

Dennis is survived by his devoted and loving wife of 43 years, Julia (Burwell) Norem; his wonderful children, Chris (Nancy) Norem, Sarah (Michael) Chomiak, Natalie Norem, Dr. Nathan (Margaux) Norem, and Naomi (Henry Cook) Norem; his adored grandchildren, Megan Norem, Kaitlyn Norem, Colin Norem, Elizabeth Chomiak, Amelia Chomiak, Otto Olendorf, and Colette Olendorf; his loving mother, Carol (Lenox) Norem; brother, Gary (Joan) Norem; sister, Julie (Rob) Hawley; his in-laws, Gordon and Dorothy Burwell; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by his father, the great Otto Norem. Someone once said “You can cry that it’s over or smile that it happened.” The family are trying their hardest to smile.

Services are as follows: visitation, funeral services and a luncheon will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2821 N. Bell School Road, Rockford, IL, 61107. Family will receive friends on Friday August 12th, from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Funeral services will be held the following morning, Saturday August 13th, at 10:00 a.m., followed by a luncheon.

In lieu of flowers, Dennis requested donations be made in his honor: c/o Miranda Swanson, University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford, 1601 Parkview Ave., Rockford, IL, 61107. He has asked the school to establish a scholarship in his name to support medical students working on social determinants of health or health disparity projects. Please visit this link  if able to donate to his memorial scholarship fund. After opening the link, go to the bottom and add “Dennis G. Norem, MD” to the recipient box. 

Service Schedule

Friday, August 12, 2022
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Westminster Presbyterian Church

Family will receive friends on Friday, August 12, from 5:00pm-7:00pm at  Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2821 N. Bell School Road, Rockford, IL 61107.

Saturday, August 13, 2022
10:00 am

Westminster Presbyterian Church

Funeral services will be held the following morning, Saturday August 13, at 10:00am, followed by a luncheon.

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We have been good friends of the Norem family since our children were quite young growing up in Caledonia. Dennis became our physician when he came to Rockford to practice. Best Dr. ever, knowledgable, kind and caring. Know he will be missed not only by his beautiful family but by an entire community.

Dr. John and Gretchen Spickerman 2022-08-07T15:03:04

Dennis will be missed by so many. He was a most caring and diligent physician. Before graduation, he was one of the pioneer Rockford medical students.

Loyd Wollstadt, MD 2022-08-07T08:13:32

We are so sorry for your loss and pray for support during this difficult time. Dennis was one of those special, extraordinary physicians. He will be missed by so many.

Kendall and Diane Boone 2022-08-06T08:24:51

My deepest condolences to Dr. Norem’s family.
Dr. Norem was my primary doctor up until his retirement. Truly a wonderful doctor and person all around.

Sarah R Jones 2022-08-04T21:46:15

Julia:My heart goes out to you losing your cherished soulmate.Words cannot adequately express the heartache and pain you are expieriencing.I earnestly pray for our Lord’s comfort at this time of deepest sorrow.With Christ’s love,Ric Kullberg

Ric Kullberg 2022-08-03T14:26:02

Dr Norem was a doctor to us over 30 years, such a kind, helpful, compassionate, dependable, loving man. May the Lord give his family love and peace that surpasses all understanding at this time. Luv

Bobby and Karen Taylor 2022-08-03T11:45:58

Dr. Norem has been my doctor for 38 years. He was such a great doctor and man. My sympathy to his wife and family. He will be truly missed by so many people.

Stephanie B. 2022-08-02T09:07:22

So sad to learn of this tragedy. Condolences and prayers are offered for the family.

The Norem family was a cornerstone in the neighborhood when I was growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s. I left for college and an Air Force stint and settling in Utah. Thanks to my sister for forwarding Dennis’ obituary as I have lost track of many who were a part of those Boone County/Argyle connections.

Bruce Cummings 2022-08-02T08:49:06

I had the pleasure of meeting and becoming a patient of Dr. Norem back in 1985 and he servred as my PCP for the next 35 years. He was always patient, understanding and would not hesitate to perform further testings and referals as needed. He helped me through a cancer scare in 2000 and I owe my life to him because he was so proactive and helped diagnose my condition before it had time to become much worse. My wife Rosemary and I were devastated to see the news of his accident and death in the paper this sunday.
Our heartfelt condolenses go out to his wife anf family during this difficult period. Dr. Norem leaves a great legacy, a well lived life and a great family. Paul and Rosemary Prewett

paul prewett 2022-08-01T21:46:46

My condolences to Dennis’s family. I grew up in Belvidere and attended schools with Dennis. I am so very sorry for your loss and I pray you will all be able to “smile because it happened”.

Linda Mason Dutton 2022-08-01T20:32:42

Julia and Family,

I am heartily sorry for your loss. I enjoyed growing up with your family in my life, and coming to know Dennis as the good man, outstanding physician, and irreplaceable staple of our community we all loved. He truly was a gifted father and physician. Additionally, I am grateful for having experienced his level of professional care in my times of need. There isn’t much he wouldn’t do for a patient. It was a privilege knowing him for the time he was here, and I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed a life so well lived. God be with you in this difficult time.

Nik Van Evera 2022-08-01T14:58:45

“In Loving Memory”
If I ever wondered if God loved me, I thought of you!
for 28 years you cared for us and touched our life.
When my husband’s life was nearing the end, you moved heaven and earth
to make it bearable. When my world collapsed, you were the first person
there to help me try to get the pieces back together.
Our world will never be the same, we’ve lost the finest doctor and the
most caring human being.
God must have been there with open arms to welcome you home,
in gratitude for how you took care of his people.

With a grateful heart your patient,
Mrs. Marilyn Van Deusen

Mrs. Marilyn Van Deusen 2022-08-01T12:35:37

My thoughts & prayers are with you Julia & your family during this time.

Julie Chandler 2022-08-01T09:36:45

My thoughts and prayers are with you Julia & your family during this time.

Julie Chandler 2022-08-01T09:35:42

Julia I am so very sorry for your loss! What a wonderful person he was! God bless you all!

Bridget penwell 2022-07-31T19:46:52

Julie, I am so very sorry! You and your family will remain in my prayers, I feel blessed to have met you both through RWJ! Love to you all!!!

Pat Dobbins 2022-07-31T14:05:07

Julia and family, deepest condolences for your loss of a fantastic Doctor, honor to have worked with and also to have had him as my PCP. He had touched so many lives. Will be greatly missed💞

Suzan Carr 2022-07-31T10:52:30

Dear Julia and family,

Our deepest condolence and sympathy at this time of great sorrow..

Ranay & Bob Ivan

Ranay Ivan 2022-07-31T08:25:08

Dr Norem was my primary care physician for just over 20 years until his retirement and I felt so lucky to have him as my doctor. He was such a kind and compassionate person and, though only knowing him in his professional capacity, I could also tell he had a keen sense of humor and he occasionally shared a family anecdote. My deepest sympathy to his family in their great loss.

Lynn Kereven 2022-07-30T16:15:15

My deepest condolences to the Norem family. Dr Norem was THE MOST COMPASSIONATE doctor. He will be missed so very much. God Bless

Michael Markison 2022-07-30T13:41:48

Julia and family, I am so sorry to hear of Dennis’s passing. My prayers are with you all at this time. May you feel God’s presence surround and support you in the coming days.

Beth Carson 2022-07-30T13:01:04

My heart goes out to Carol for the loss of her precious son, and Julia for her soulmate. It will be a great loss for the medical field during this time of change. Dr. Norem was a sweet, gentle man with a extremely strong soul ❤️. My God Wings wrap around the family during this time of turmoil to ease their hearts.

Tammy Hays 2022-07-30T12:11:15

So, so, sorry. A great, compassionate doctor will be missed.

Al Johnson 2022-07-30T11:43:14

Julia and your family, I am sorry for your loss of Dr. Norem I remember working with him at OSF many years nursing staff could call any time of day always kind and caring to work with. You will always hold the memories in your hearts.

Terry Heller 2022-07-30T08:40:07

My dear Julia,
I am so sorry to hear about Dennis’ death. You two had a love affair for the ages. I know this and I never had the pleasure of meeting him. It was evident in your voice and writing. I know you and your children will struggle to get through this. Please know you have my prayers and condolences. Love and hugs, Debra

Debra McKinney 2022-07-29T21:24:14

I worked for Dr. Norem, as his medical assistant in the early and mid 1980’s…at his clinic on Mulford and Springcreek. He was the best Dr. I have ever worked for in over 40 years in the medical field. He always told me, “there is no stupid question”. I learned so much from him. He was not only a great Dr., but a great teacher and also a great friend….and funny too! I am so sad to hear about his last months….for a man who helped and cared for so many….he will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family. I will always remember the years fondly, that I was able to work alongside such a caring and devoted human being, and I feel fortunate to have called him my friend. God bless you Julie and all your children and grandchildren, my you find peace at this difficult time.
Marianne Dahl Bartole

Marianne Dahl Bartole 2022-07-29T20:34:41

Julia and family I am so sorry for your loss Dennis was the greatest person and best kindness Dr in the world. It was my honor to know him and his wife Julia ,, who I worked with ,Julia was also exceptional in all she did. They are a great pair of leaders and role models.

Karen Hinde 2022-07-29T18:45:52

Denny was my coverage partner at OSF St. Anthony for many years. He was a great physician and a great teacher of medical students. I could always count on him to take excellent care of my patients. Rest in peace, Denny!

Charles Welford 2022-07-29T13:00:12

Dennis was a fantastic physician. He was my internist. I also of course knew him professionally and respected him very much. He will be missed.

Patricia Panzica MD 2022-07-29T08:18:52

So sorry for your loss! Dr Norem was my GP for many years and he was most compassionate and thorough Doctor! Dr Norem is the reason I am around today, he found an irregular heart beat 8 years ago on a yearly well visit and follow up to multiple testing they found I had a bad aorta and a ” widow maker” blockage that showed no symptoms ! If it wasnt for his expertise and concern , I would not be around to this day! RIP Dr Norem

Ron Bartz 2022-07-29T08:13:42

Julia, so sorry for your loss, Thoughts and Prayers for you and your entire family during this difficult time.

Lorrie Lee 2022-07-29T07:14:34

Julia, Our hearts are heavy with deep sadness for your and your family’s loss. Please know you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely, Dr. Clayton and Dawn Malaker

Dawn Malaker 2022-07-29T00:46:21

I was struck with sadness the day I heard of Denny’s accident. Now, I can only thank the Lord that I was able to know that young
Guy back in high school and on small visits back to Belvidere.

This is a beautiful tribute to a great guy. How he ever made the difficult seem so easy I will never know. What I do know, 50 years later is how he would smile. It seems to be a looking glass into the sole. Denny’s smile will be missed but, his memory is forever far reaching. So blessed to be able to call him a friend.

Tom Wright 2022-07-28T22:16:52

Mrs. Norem and family, so very sorry to hear of Dr. Norem’s passing. I worked at Rockford Clinic(Mercy Health) for many years and Dr. Norem was also my doctor. My thoughts and prayers are with you all as you travel this journey.

Jean Kuelling 2022-07-28T21:41:29

My heart goes out to you. You’ll be in my and Jill’s thoughts and prayers. If there is anything we can do to help relieve any of the burden please reach out. Dennis’ influence and the good he did continues on. We are all grateful to have been a part of his journey with you.

doug beardsley 2022-07-28T21:40:20

The therapists and nursing staff at Barrow Neuro-Rehabilitation Center send our deepest sympathy.

Barrow Neuro-Rehabilitation Center 2022-07-28T21:17:06

Julia and family, I am so sorry to learn of your husband’s/ dad’s tragedy and passing, yet rejoice with you at knowing what a positive impact he had on so many and the love with which he raised such a beautiful family. His legacy is great!

Melynda Mungor 2022-07-28T20:59:55

My parents and I are heartbroken to hear of Dr. Norem’s passing. Dr. Norem treated our family with such kindness and humor. What a wonderful person and doctor. Our deepest condolences. The Arvidsons

Stephanie Arvidson 2022-07-28T20:44:42

Dr. Norem was my doctor for 35 years +. He was such a pleasant and thorough doctor who knew his stuff. Was rather surprised about his accident. Now I’m heartbroken concerning Doctor NOREM’s passing. Praying for each one in the family for your loss. GOD bless you all during your bereavement period.

Janis Uhlig 2022-07-28T20:13:01

Our hearts broken because of loss of our good friend and colleague!
Please, accept our condolences !

Anatoly Rozman, MD , Dr. Tatiana Rozman 2022-07-28T20:10:26

Our sincere concerns to the family and friends of Dr norem. He was a outstanding physician and colleague. When I opened the Van Matre Rehab freestanding hospital as Medical Director the need for internal medicine consultant was immediate. The first and only choice for support was Dennis and John. Their dedication and support provided a essential piece for such an endeavor
To be successful. I am so grateful to a colleague who sacrifice with John for the disabled community. May your family be bless despite your loss. He has found him self to a very special place

Dr Paul and Diane Willis 2022-07-28T18:56:47

Julia and family-
Mary and I send our love and prayers-what a loss to your family and our world! Dennis was the best of the best, and always with that huge smile that lit up our world. Such an inspirational spirit for all. He is missed! God bless you all.
John Rudzinski MD

John Rudzinski MD 2022-07-28T18:29:51

The Mortonson Family has you all in our prayers. We are so sorry to hear about this Sarah 🙏❤️

Kristen Mortonson and family 2022-07-28T18:27:56

Julia & Family –

I was so sorry to hear of Dennis’s passing. I had the privilege of working with him for over 25 years at the ISMS. He was the kindest, most compassionate man I have had the pleasure of knowing. He always went out of his way to check in with staff no matter where our annual meeting journeys took us. I will greatly miss him. No one could ever replace him. If I can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Wishing you prayers & sympathy during this difficult time. The entire family will be in my thoughts in the days ahead.

Kris Johnson 2022-07-28T14:58:32

May you find comfort in the love of friends and family and never forget the cherished memories

Lorel and Dave Bromley 2022-07-28T14:01:45

Your family has suffered a great loss, our hearts are with you.

Peggy and Nick 2022-07-28T13:32:20

Your family is in my thoughts and prayers. May you find peace in the memories you created.

Peggy Mullins Reap 2022-07-28T11:52:11

My deepest condolences goes out to you guys & love yall always ❤

Kyle Pilcher 2022-07-28T11:26:39

Sending our heartfelt condolence to Julia & Dr. Norem’s family.
Praying for the eternal repose of his soul. He was my preceptor at OSF when I was a resident.
Esther Sy

Esther A Sy 2022-07-28T10:47:21


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