Accolades Pour in for Comal County Conservationist Jensie Madden, Who Died Sept. 24 in Fischer
Longtime Fischer resident and San Antonio native Jensie Simms Madden, 74, a “founding sister” of the Comal County Conservation Alliance whose fierce advocacy extended to many other prominent environmental organizations in Comal County, died unexpectedly on Sept. 24 alongside husband Daniel Robert Madden, 75.
The Maddens passed away in the straw-bale stucco home they built for themselves after retiring to Fischer in 2001. No cause of death has been reported.
“The world is simply less, since the passing of my mother- and father-in-law Dan and Jensie Madden last Friday,” Marina Madden posted on Facebook alongside an image of the Maddens on a family vacation in 2015. “I hope all those who loved them or were privileged enough to work, volunteer, play or travel with them will always remember them this way, with their only child and son, my beloved husband and partner of 22 years, Sean Madden.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to Comal County Habitat for Humanity, 1269 Industrial Dr., New Braunfels, 78130. Due to COVID-19, there are no immediate funeral arrangements pending. Both Maddens will be interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio at a later date.
“Jensie and Dan lived their lives with great integrity, tirelessly putting into practice their core beliefs of justice for all persons, walking with a light foot on earth, and working to make sure that the least among us had a voice,” said Jan Estes with the Unitarian Universalists of New Braunfels, where the Maddens were charter members.
“Jensie and Dan had a deep faith in the basic goodness of their fellow human beings and, it seems to me, believed that if given enough information, people could arrive at a conclusion that was good for everyone involved,” she said. “…Treat others as you would be treated. I never heard either Dan or Jensie say an unkind word about anybody. Ever.”
Lifelong friend Carol King, who attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas, with Jensie Madden, said the Maddens enjoyed many deep friendships and had a “big extended family that they were dedicated to.”
Jensie Madden earned a M.A.T. in elementary education in 1969 and spent 30 years working in early childhood education in San Antonio.
King said Jensie would help friends with anything they needed when not enjoying foreign travel and hiking trips.
“She was kind, and soft, and tireless with her energy, and helping, an extremely helpful person,” King said. Husband Dan was a Vietnam war veteran who enjoyed a 30-year career with AT&T, where he worked as an electronics technician in San Antonio.
King said Madden spent many hours volunteering with the League of Women Voters of the Comal Area (LWV-CA)
“She was an environmentalist and she loved nature in all ways but the League of Women Voters was her start into advocacy and public service,” she said. “She put in so many hours, at times the League was more than a full-time job to her.”
Nature was so much her thing that although the Maddens were not technically “off-grid,” they collected rainwater to use in their home.
“They lived as small as an environmental footprint as anyone could, I think,” King said. “They lived their belief.”
Elizabeth Bowerman, president of the CCCA, described Jensie as a “force of nature” and “the heart and soul of CCA.”
“She was one of the visionaries who organized the 2017 community meetings in New Braunfels that planted the seed that grew into CCCA,” she said. “She gathered together people in the community who wanted to work to preserve the critical natural areas and rural character of the county, and then led our ‘small group of thoughtful committed citizens,’ as Margaret Mead might have called us, through the organizational process to establish a registered conservation nonprofit.”
In July, the group honored Madden with the unveiling of a commemorative brick in Tye Preston Memorial Library’s ‘Pathway of Friends’ courtyard and thanked her with a framed image of the Guadalupe River.
The brick says simply, “Honoring Jensie Madden, Conservationist.”
“Jensie, along with two others, organized the first public meetings to discuss conservation concerns related to rapid population growth in Comal County,” CCCA said in a statement. “She fostered meetings with government officials and served on the founding board of the organization.”
Roxanna Deane, former director of Canyon Lake’s Tye Preston Memorial Library and past president of LWV-CA, said Madden worked tirelessly with other League members to gather information and develop a report used to form a Land Use Planning position. Positions are the basis for League advocacy efforts.
LWV-CA members used these documents to speak at Commissioners Court meetings, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality hearings, and anywhere important land-use and conservation issues were on the line.
In the report, Madden wrote: “LWV-CA hopes this updated report will inspire further dialogue about planning for growth in Comal County and in the region.”
Deane said this “epitomizes for me the gift Jensie had of being clear-eyed about issues and working to bring people together to find common ground.”
Working with LWV-CA, Madden pushed for creating the Comal Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (CTGCD), where she later served as a board member for six years.
“It is Jensie that worked to bring stakeholders together to hammer out the framework for the legislation that the Texas legislature had to pass to create the district,” Deane said.
CTGCD President Larry Hull said Madden was one of the initial seven directors who established and organized the district.
“Jensie’s commitment to conservation, the environment, and education was a valuable asset to the protection and quality of the groundwater in Comal County,” he said. “She will be missed, but her contribution will live on.”
The district’s mission is helping Comal County residents conserve, preserve, recharge, protect and prevent waste of groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer, which underlies all of Comal County. It was created during the 2015 84th Texas legislature with the enrollment of HB 2407.
Annalisa Peace, executive director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, worked with Madden on stakeholders’ groups during the development of the CTGCD.
“During the many years we worked together, I learned so much from this extremely intelligent woman,” she said. “Her expertise in topics of mutual interest was formidable and much appreciated. It was always a pleasure and a privilege and just pure fun to work with Jensie. I will greatly miss her quiet wit and strength of purpose. Her commitment to the well-being of her community was something we should all be grateful for.”
Peace and Madden collaborated on informational forums, conferences, and town hall meetings on many topics, most recently “Local Control Options for Hill Country Counties” in 2018.
“Jensie was a brilliant partner in planning and hosting all of these events,” she said.
Peace said Madden’s efforts will have a lasting impact on Comal County and its water resources.
LWV-CA President Jerrie Champlin said Madden’s commitment to empowering and informing voters, defending democracy, and protecting the environment will continue to inspire many, but her biggest legacy remains her ability to bring people together.
“Her skills at communicating with those of opposing views and helping the community come together in consensus will continue to be an example to all,” she said.
Both Maddens were members of the Lindheimer Master Naturalists. Susan Bogle — who graduated with them in the Class of 2004 — described Dan, a past president of the Lindheimer chapter, as the “quiet force” always ready to do whatever it took to bring a volunteer project to a successful conclusion.
“I always wanted to team up with Dan as he just made things easier, whether you are talking about the project or the situation,” she said. “Reliable, kind, steady, innovative, upbeat, strong, trustworthy, persistent, and gently sarcastic are the words that come to mind when thinking of him.
“But ‘friend’ is the most important word and my most precious memory.”
Madden also volunteered to work on master-naturalist projects at the Guadalupe River Trail South, Canyon Lake Gorge, Mesquite Pollinator Garden, Landa Park, and the Canyon Lake library.
He was a Vietnam veteran who received a Purple Heart for his service as a ground surveillance radar repairman.
The Maddens are survived by son Sean Madden, daughter-in-law Marina Madden, and granddaughter Averi Madden.
Jensie Madden was the daughter of Jack Finley Simms, president of Simms Fire Equipment Company, which built fire trucks for many small communities in Texas.