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.