Lemley Chapel
Serving Sedro-Woolley &
All of Skagit County Since 1935
1008 Third Street
Sedro-Woolley, WA
John  Slabodnik Memorial
John  Slabodnik Memorial

John Slabodnik

John Slabodnik

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

John Robert Slabodnik, 91, passed away in his sleep on January 24, 2021 at home in Sedro-Woolley, Washington.

John was born in Ely, Minnesota as a second-generation Slovenian. He grew up with the nicknames of “Sonny” and “Slabs.” He graduated from Ely High School in 1947 and Ely Junior College (now Vermilion Community College) in 1949. He played basketball for both schools and loved to tell stories of his college team’s road trips in a Buick stretch limousine throughout northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

The day after his twentieth birthday, John enlisted in the U.S. Air Force pilot training program and was honorably discharged in November 1950. He began civil engineering studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. John then received a scholarship and went on to complete a property insurance program in 1954 at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, where he was a lifetime member of Theta XI fraternity.

John married the love of his life, Janet Baumhover, in 1956 in her hometown of Carroll, Iowa. They started raising their family in Richfield, MN. They were original Minnesota Vikings season ticket holders and enjoyed attending games at the Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. He liked to recount how they would occasionally meet the team players at the Heidelberg restaurant on weekends and how quarterback Fran Tarkenton was a nice guy to chat with. John had even attended Super Bowl VIII in Houston, Texas where he paid only $15 for his ticket.

John was employed in Chicago and Minneapolis by the Home Insurance Company of New York, the Pacific Group of New York (Meserole Family) and Royal Globe Companies of London, England. He was a member of the Minneapolis Insurance Club and in 1965 was president of the Minnesota Insurance Association. John joined Warner & Co. insurance and moved his family to Fargo, North Dakota in 1969. He retired as vice president in August 1994. He was a member of the American Legion, Knights of Columbus, and Kiwanis Club of Fargo and Carefree, Arizona. He also was president of the Downtown Fargo Kiwanis Club in 1981 and director of the American Red Cross Minn-Kota Chapter from 1991-1994.

After retirement, John and Janet moved to Cave Creek, AZ in the fall of 1998. For the next 21 years they enjoyed the sunny, warm climate, outdoor tennis, hiking and swimming, as well as making new friends through their various volunteer positions.

John lived with Parkinson’s Disease these last six years. He was a lifelong tennis player and up until the pandemic he enjoyed playing indoor pickleball at the Skagit Valley Family YMCA. As a court player, he knew well that you only live once but get to serve twice. Upon retirement, he told his tennis buddies he wanted to lead them on a trip to go play tennis at Wimbledon. Turns out they drove to Wimbledon, ND where he had t-shirts ready for them to play in. His family is sure he and his tennis pals are letting their rackets do the talking in heaven.

John was also a lifelong fan of Sherlock Holmes and had built up a library collection of over 150 books. Up until his passing he was working on sleuthing letters received in the mail with a subscription to “Dear Holmes.”

Everyone who knew John appreciated his easy manner and off-beat sense of humor, especially his jokes and one-liners. He was always available to help others in need and knew a rich life of community service. John loved his hometown of Ely and told many stories of growing up on the multi-ethnic Iron Range and working his teenage summers with Wilderness Outfitters and Basswood Lodge Resort on the Canadian border. Polka music always brought a smile to his face. He passed on his love of cooking and eating to his children. John loved brandy, beer and gin martinis and especially enjoyed sausages of all kinds.

Surviving family members include his wife of 63 years, Janet Slabodnik of Sedro-Woolley, WA; daughter, Jane Buffie of Burnsville, MN; son, Tom (Melissa) Slabodnik of Burnsville, MN, Mark (June) Slabodnik of St. Louis, MO, Robert (Ellie) Slabodnik of Sedro-Woolley; seven grandchildren, Matt, Tyler, Max, Jacob, Sydney, Hannah and Zoe; his niece, Sarah Carlson of Decatur, IL.

John was preceded in death by his parents, John J. and Mary E. Slabodnik; sister, Mary Jeanne Carlson of Evanston, IL.

The family will hold a private celebration to honor their beloved husband, father, and grandfather at Lemley Chapel in Sedro-Woolley. Donations to research Parkinson’s Disease can be made in his name to either the Michael J. Fox Foundation at www.michaeljfox.org  or the national Parkinson’s Foundation at www.parkinson.org. Share your memories of John and sign the online guest register.


  • Susan Wolfe

    Jan & family,
    He was a fabulous man. Truly enjoyed conversations with him & Jan . Good old soul and will be missed. I meet the both of them at my Dental office in cavecreek az. I was front office MG. And always enjoyed them
    God bless to all

  • David Pfister

    Tom, Mark and Rob,
    I am sorry to read of your your fathers passing. I enjoyed hanging out at your house on Elm St house during our time together in Fargo. I remember your dad was a friendly funny guy, the Vikings room in the basement and he had a unusual windup in his basketball shot.

    Dave and Laurie Pfister
    Colorado Springs

  • Pamela Slate

    Dear Jan and family, You have my sincerest and deepest condolences over the loss of your wonderful husband and best friend. Reading his obituary in the Sonoran News was like revisiting many conversations with John as well as filling in some gaps. I will always remember him as the clever, positive, accomplished, civic-minded, generous and talented man who was always there with a smile and a helping hand. I will always have the fondest of memories of both of you. My very best to you.

  • Sharon Saba Hildebrandt

    I was saddened to hear about John’s passing. I knew John from the YMCA in Scottsdale where we played Pickleball. He was always so cheerful and positive and considering his limitations, a great player. I met his wife Jan a few times and they were an adorable couple. 67 years….quite a feat.

    My thoughts and prayers with you all.

  • Carman & Carole Lynnes

    Noted with sadness the passing of John. Our sympathy on your loss. May God grant you peace.

  • Bob Mihalik

    I became good friends with John in recent years through tennis and pickleball in CaveCreek/Carefree. His great sense of humor and drive to stay active while battling Parkinson’s were truly inspirational. I was sad to see him move away and though he has now passed on, he will always remain a dear friend in my heart.

  • Richard Penning

    I worked with John for many years. He always had a smile and so positive about life and work. Janet will get this little story: Howard would say “This train go Dulut” and John would say “No this train go toot toot”. John had fun!

    My condolences to the family. God’s Peace to all.

  • Gloria Vertin

    My deepest condolences to all of you. “Sonny” was my next door neighbor! Have many fond memories of the Slabodnik family! His parents were so proud of him and Mary Jean.

  • Jenko Jerome

    Janet, sorry to hear about John. Thought of you guys often. My deepest sympathy.

    Jerry Jenko