Jon Cieslak

Obituary of Jon Chester Cieslak

Jon Chester Cieslak, age 72, of St. Paul, died October 11, 2021 following complications from spinal surgery. He is survived by his wife Ann, with whom he celebrated 50 loving years of marriage on June 12, 2021; children Jennifer Cieslak (Erik Sutcliffe), Madeline Cieslak (John Scandurra), Kathryn Ganfield (Jacob), Marian Cieslak, all of St. Paul, and Jon F. Cieslak (Valerie Torres) of San Diego; grandchildren Conrad Cieslak, Josephine, Roland and Beatrice Ganfield, David Sutcliffe; brother Paul Nahurski of St. Paul; nieces, nephews, cousins and Ann's extended Donlevy family. Preceded in death by his parents Evelyn Cieslak Nahurski and Edwin S. Cieslak; stepfather Francis J. Nahurski. Jon was born in Minneapolis, spent his early childhood on a hobby farm in Eden Prairie, then lived in St. Louis Park through his teen years, graduating from Benilde High School in 1967. He graduated from Princeton University, where he studied history and was a member of the ROTC program. Within days of graduating in 1971, he was commissioned in the Regular Army, Adjutant General's Corps, and married Ann Donlevy of Port Chester, New York. Together, they were stationed and grew their family in Germany and San Francisco, then moved to Oregon, and ultimately settled in St. Paul. He served 23 years in the United States Army as a commissioned officer. After earning his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, Jon was appointed to the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps. He culminated his military career as Lieutenant Colonel in the Minnesota National Guard, as legal counsel to the Adjutant General of Minnesota. For six years as vice president of development for the Minnesota Zoo, Jon was proud to "feed the tigers." He served as a board member for numerous community organizations, most recently for Dodge Nature Center and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and exceled as a fundraising volunteer for the Interfaith Council of St. Paul, Minnesota Chorale, Minnesota Military Museum, Northern Star Scouting and Princeton University. Giving back to his community was a core value, as he lived the words of his college motto: "In the Nation's service." A consummate cook, Jon nourished family and friends at his and Ann's table. He utilized every dish in his quest for a memorable meal. A people person, a storyteller with a tale for every occasion-and a sweet tooth for candy and coconut. As the head chef, Jon gifted the joys of Polish culture to the next generations, particularly through the celebration of Wigilia, the Polish Christmas Eve. With blessings to all (including the beloved family dogs), he offered the opłatek-the Christmas wafer-and the 13-course meal that followed. Jon and Ann met as members of their respective glee clubs in college. Music was omnipresent in their home, and reflected eclectic taste, from Mahler to Madonna. Jon loved the words and lives of others, and filled his shelves with books, magazines and newspapers. The West called to him, and Jon returned as often as possible to the Rockies and the waters that flow there. As a fly fisherman, Jon plied rivers and trout streams from the Madison Range of Montana all the way east to the Catskills in New York. Many summer vacations saw him trolling the Atlantic off Wakefield, Rhode Island or landing trout on Lake Michigan. He deeply valued friendships, conversation, and broadening his perspective, especially through membership in Mindstretch, Oryg Gyro and the Rotary Club of St. Paul, and his compatriots in the U.S. Army and Minnesota National Guard. From a young age, Jon was spellbound by Western movies and novels. In a nod to Hopalong Cassidy, his five grandchildren called him "Hoppy." He cherished his role as Hoppy and seeing his grandkids grow as readers, musicians, athletes and adventurous eaters. Mass of Christian Burial 10 AM Friday, October 22, at the Church of the Assumption, 51 W. 7yh St, St. Paul. Visitation 4 - 7 PM Thursday at Willwerscheid Funeral Home, 1167 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-228-1006 and also at church one hour prior to Mass. Masks required at all services. Private interment Fort Snelling. In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to Dodge Nature Center and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to Dodge Nature Center and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. The River BY JIM HARRISON Yes, we’ll gather by the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river. They say it runs by the throne of God. This is where God invented fish… All the 5,000 birds on earth were created there. The firstborn cranes, herons, hawks, at the back so as not to frighten the little ones. Even now they remember this divine habitat. Shall we gather at the river, this beautiful river? We’ll sing with the warblers perched on his eyelashes. Source: Mass of Christian Burial 10 AM Friday, October 22, at the Church of the Assumption, 51 W. 7yh St, St. Paul. Visitation 4 - 7 PM Thursday at Willwerscheid Funeral Home, 1167 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-228-1006 and also at church one hour prior to Mass. Masks required at all services. Private interment Fort Snelling. In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to Dodge Nature Center and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
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