John R. “Joel” Gorun

Joel Gorun, 77, died Sunday, March 24, 2019, at Unity Point Finley following a short illness. His heart could no longer contain all the love that flowed in and out. His family and special friends surrounded him with love, prayers, and music as he became a child of the universe.

          Joel was born in Chicago on Thanksgiving, November 27, 1941, to John and Eleanor Gorun and named John Robert. He entered the Christian Brothers after high school and took the name Brother Joel. He carried the name with him after leaving the Brothers.

          Joel was a life-long learner. His early education and all his higher education took place in Catholic institutions. He attained a BS in mathematics and a MA in religious education from St. Mary’s College, Winona, MN; an MA in religious studies from Manhattan College, New York City; and a Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary, Mundelein, IL. After retirement, Joel participated in classes on world decisions and cosmology at the Roberta Kuhn Center. His reading list was extensive and diverse.

          On August 13, 1973, Joel married Marilyn Bowers, and they moved from teaching positions in Addison, IL, to Cedar Rapids, IA, where they taught together at LaSalle High School. Three years later, Joel took a position with the Dubuque Archdiocese Religious Education Office. During their ten years in Cedar Rapids, they welcomed into their family Sarah in 1974 and David in 1980. They also opened St. Francis Center to sell religious books and gifts, a labor of love.

          In 1983, the family moved to Dubuque. By this time, the couple had written several religious education texts and teacher manuals. They were co-authors of New Creation, a Catholic sex education program. Other texts were written for the junior high and high school levels.

          While living in Dubuque, Joel worked at the Archdiocesan Religious Education Office, Loras College, Wahlert High School, and NICC. He was also an adjunct professor for the LIMEX program at Loyola University in New Orleans. He initiated the LIMEX religious education/pastoral ministry masters program in the Dubuque Archdiocese.

          Following family and passionate discussions, Joel’s great love was music, especially singing. Joel had a beautiful, clear, tenor voice that rang out with joy. Over the years, Joel belonged to church choirs, the Dubuque Chorale, Taize, and the Music Men. This past year, Joel initiated the formation of Healing Harmonies, a chorus for Alzheimer’s patients and their caretakers, which NISOM took on as their endeavor.

          Joel is survived by his wife Marilyn, his children Sarah (Christopher) MacCallum and David (Anna), his grandchildren Christian, Andrew, Emma, Raven, and Orion; exchange students/ “children” Rocío, Heiko, Jamie, and Thomas; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law Ed Kuzas, Robert Bowers, Rita and Roger West, Ken and Diana Bowers, and Pat Moore; his Aunt Mel Smutney; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Barbara Kuzas, and his mother-in-law Alice Barbera.

          There will be visitation for Joel at St. Raphael Cathedral on Friday, March 29, beginning at 3:00 until a prayer service/sharing of memories at 7:00. The funeral Mass will be at the Cathedral on Saturday, March 30, at 10:30. Since Joel has sung with so many groups, anyone who is interested is invited to come to the Cathedral Center at 10:00 to practice and then to be a musical part of the magnificent, joyful celebration of Joel’s life. To all who knew him, Joel was known as a great hugger. Let’s follow his example as we gather to celebrate his beautiful life.

          In lieu of flowers, Joel’s family asks that donations be made to the Dubuque Food Pantry, the Rescue Mission, Shalom Spirituality Center, NISOM (Healing Harmonies), and the Alzheimer’s Association.

          Online condolences may be shared with Joel’s family at



St. Raphael Cathedral
231 Bluff Street, Dubuque, Iowa 52001
March 29th, 2019 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Funeral Mass

St. Raphael Cathedral
231 Bluff Street, Dubuque, Iowa 52001
March 30th, 2019 at 10:30 AM

9 comments on “John R. “Joel” Gorun
  1. Tom and Mary Hoelscher says:

    Dear Marilyn, Sarah, David, spouses, grandchildren and family. Tom and I want to convey our sympathy and sorrow to all of you over Joel’s death. He was a remarkable person and he will be missed by all. We admired him a lot and know that he enriched many people’s lives. God bless you all. Sincerely, Mary and Tom Hoelscher

  2. Joe and Mary says:

    This tribute is beautiful and every word true. His life will continue in and through you. May God continue to bless you with love and peace.

  3. Rosemary Zitt says:

    Blessings and love to Marilyn and the Gorun family. Keeping you in thought as you celebrate Joel’s new life.

  4. Janet Grass says:

    Please accept caring thoughts and prayers for the Gorun family at this difficult time. May Joel’s legacy provide a little peace of mind and let calm fill the hearts with the love (especially HUGS) as we celebrate his new journey in life.

  5. Jane Pranke says:

    What a WONDERFUL life! My prayers are with the family, especially Marilyn!

  6. Amber and Joe Weaver says:

    We are very honoured to have known Joel, he has always been compassionate and thoughtful. He made the world better by being here. We are sorry for your loss but happy he is so beloved.

  7. Fr. Paul Otting says:

    With condolences, prayers for Joel, Marilyn and family.

  8. Vincent Meis says:

    Please accept my condolences and be assured that Joel and the entire Gorun family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  9. Frank N Koob says:

    Show all why is my best friend. Our friendship began 60 years ago. I deeply feel his loss and express these feelings to Marilyn and the children and grandchildren.

Leave a Condolence:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *