A selfless and devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, father-
figure to many, and steward of civic engagement, Wayne Strong left this world
suddenly on June 20, 2022 at age 62.
Sylvester Wayne Strong was born on September 22, 1959 at Saint Mary’s Hospital in
Racine, WI to Mavis Strong (nee: McNeal) and Eddie Jones. Yes, you read his first
name right — in grade school, Wayne took it upon himself to switch his middle and
first names, simply because he wanted to. That was Wayne. Firmly believing in his
convictions. Marching to the beat of his own drum. Tenacious and determined.
He spent his formative years in Racine playing sports and hanging out with friends.
At J.I. Case High School, Wayne played football and ran track. After graduating in
1977, he attended UW Wisconsin-Eau Claire and never let his children forget that he
arrived at his dorm room with only “one suitcase and a clock radio” and survived off
bullhead from the Chippewa River.
After graduating with his degree in Criminal Justice, Wayne and Terri moved from
Milwaukee to Minneapolis and in 1986 he was hired by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s
Department as part of the first class of civilian-hired deputies. After the births of his
children in 1987 and 1989 respectively, the foursome moved to Madison and he was
hired by the Madison Police Department in the summer of 1989.
Wayne would go on to spend the next two-plus decades dedicating his life as a
public servant with the Madison Police Department. After a few years as an
undercover police officer working to get hard drugs off the street, Wayne became a
neighborhood officer in the Baird-Fisher neighborhood where he immersed himself
in the community working day in and out to earn the trust and respect of
community members. In addition to his commitment to serve and protect, Wayne
sought out opportunities to be a voice for South Madison by advocating for the
needs of the community, calling for structural change that addressed poverty and
joblessness, and building meaningful and lasting relationships with South Madison
residents. He joined myriad associations and community and neighborhood groups,
beginning what would be a long and expansive history of civic involvement in the
Madison area by selflessly offering his expertise, resources, and time for the greater
good of this community.
Wayne continued his spiritual journey at S.S. Morris African Methodist Episcopal
Church where he and his family joined in the early ‘90s. He was a Trustee for many
years, served on various committees, and was the chairperson for several church
programs. In recent years, he became the “right-hand man” for Rev. Karla Garcia,
serving on both the Trustee and Steward Boards. Every Sunday for the last two years,
he led the church in scripture reading for worship service — an honor and task that
he held in high regard. Wayne had a deep and abiding love for S.S. Morris and was a
dedicated servant until his death.
His involvement with the Southside Raiders Youth Football and Cheerleading
Program began during his time as a neighborhood officer. What began as a
coaching job blossomed into a nearly 30-year commitment to bettering the lives of
hundreds of young men and women. As program director, Wayne fought tirelessly
to make the Raiders program better in every way.
After serving in various capacities, Wayne spent the last 13 years of his time with
MPD as a Detective Lieutenant in the East District, retiring in 2013. His “twilight
years” were anything but — he joined Globe University and eventually became the
school’s Criminal Justice Program Chair, helping dozens of students work toward
their career goals in law enforcement. His former students would frequently reach
out sharing career updates and thanking Wayne for believing in them.
In the last several years, Wayne continued on with his commitment to social justice
and deep devotion to improving our community and reducing disparities. His roles
at the Urban League of Greater Madison, Overture Center for the Arts, and Evident
Change allowed him to carry this out in exemplary fashion. He was just beginning
his legacy planning for the Raiders and was committed to building long-term
sustainability for the program.
His most recent role at UW-Madison’s Center for Law, Society & Justice was a
culmination of both his passion for career development and mentorship as well as
his deep knowledge of criminal justice and educational issues. His eyes would light
up when he talked about the students he helped obtain internships or when he
recounted his presentations on the practical applications of law enforcement and
Within the last year, Wayne made history when he joined the Wisconsin State
Journal’s Editorial Board as part of the inaugural class of local community members
asked to serve a one-year term. He was honored to “have a seat at the table,”
impart his expertise on race, education, and justice, and be a voice for the voiceless.
He took seriously the opportunity to not only broaden his influence but to help
shape media narratives that center the values of equity and community. Wayne was
no stranger to exercising his passion for writing and using the platform of journalism
to enlighten those around him; for roughly two years, Wayne was a writer for the
Capital City Hues, penning his weekly “Innervisions” columns on everything from the
dangers of global warming to the rise of road rage.
When he wasn’t zipping around Madison on his bike or running from meeting to
meeting, he enjoyed spending time with his family; making us laugh (insert lots of
bad ‘dad jokes’ here), making us think; and most of all making us feel loved. Wayne
took pride in taking care of his family. He saw to it that we had everything we
needed and a little bit of what we wanted. His pride and joy were his grandchildren.
He adored them and was very involved in their daily lives — instrumental in
everything from karate lessons to overnighting infant care necessities.
He also spent a good amount of time (believe it or not) at home in his beloved
recliner where he read, pondered the world’s problems, and watched Family Feud,
Seinfeld, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy (both DVRs are 98% full). We will miss
listening to him tell us about the latest Dragnet episode he watched on MeTV and
learning new words and random factoids from him. We will miss his wild laugh and
the way he threw his head back when doing so. We will miss his smile. That big,
Our journey is beautiful and fragile, but we courageously take the torch from those
before us and honor their eternal fire by lighting the path ahead.
We are his light.
In addition to his parents, Wayne was preceded in death by his brother, Clyde
Jerome Strong and nephew Darnell Davidson both of Racine. He is survived by his
wife, Terri Strong (nee: Concentine), children Jessica (David) Strong of Alexandria, VA,
and Byron Strong of Madison; grandchildren: Bella and Noah Strong of Madison and
Mari Du Bois of Alexandria; brothers: James Strong, Jr. and Sam Strong both of
Racine, Lee (Francine) Strong of Madison; brothers-in-law James Concentine, Jr.
(Betty) of Racine and William (Renee) Concentine of Monterey, CA; sisters-in-law
Brigit (Ricky) McNeal of Milwaukee and Janet (Aldred) Days of Racine; nieces and
nephews: Jamie Strong of Racine, Myles Strong of Madison, Tyrone Strong and Myles
Philips both of St. Paul, MN, Kaj and Nobal Days both of Racine, Kellen Concentine of
Los Angeles, CA, as well as a host of other relatives and friends, too numerous to
name. Visitation for Wayne will be held on Thursday, July 7, 2022 at Foster Funeral
and Cremation Services located at 4201 E. Towne Blvd, 4:00-8:00 p.m. His Celebration
of Life will be held on Friday, July 8, 2022 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 2019 Fisher
Street, beginning at 12:00 p.m. with Rev. Karla Garcia officiating. A repast at Mt. Zion
will follow the Celebration of Life. Online guestbook and other information at
www.fosterfuneralhomes.com or click this link.