Obituary of John Richard Wolfe
John Richard Wolfe was born in St. Paul to Richard and Florence (Allison) Wolfe on June 30, 1926 and passed away November 26, 2023. Throughout his 97 years, he lived a life of responsibility, devotion to family, hard work, and humor. John was a committed Catholic who attended St. Columba grade school, Cretin High School (graduating in the top 3 in military rank and top 10 in scholastics), and St. Mary's in Winona. Upon graduation from Cretin, he voluntarily enlisted and was accepted into the rigorous V-5 naval fighter pilot program. In the Navy, he excelled in the classroom and physical training and was proud of winning numerous boxing and wrestling tournaments, never losing a match. With the end of WWII, John continued his education and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1948 with a degree in engineering.
Family, frugality, hard work, and the St. Odilia parish were the cornerstones of his adult life. Soon after graduating from college, he met Frances Castagnoli, a VA hospital nurse, and was smitten. They were married in 1950 and together raised five children. His and Frances's remarkable depression-era frugality gave way to commitment to family, education, and the Catholic church, and they paid for Catholic grade school and high school for all five children. John attended every athletic and school function they were involved in. And once his beloved eight grandchildren began arriving, he attended countless more games and activities.
John started working at age 12 as a paperboy and never stopped working. His adult career began as an industrial engineer with Brown and Bigelow, and he was soon promoted to Chief Engineer and eventually Production Manager for the entire company. His final seven years before retirement were as CEO of Cooperative Printing. Unfortunately, retirement was cut short when, at age 84, Frances suffered a severe head injury from a fall, and John returned to full-time work caring for her. He was totally devoted to "Cas" and to providing her with the best care possible. He took over all aspects of her care for the next 12 years and 8 months, including personal care, meal preparation and cleanup (after never previously cooking a meal in the kitchen other than hot dogs, beans and potato chips), laundry, and medical decisions, all while keeping up their house they had lived in since 1957. During that time, he took two days off, for a hospital procedure at age 95, meaning he worked 4624 days out of 4626, from age 84 to 97. Frances had almost no medical problems under his care.
Before Frances's injury, John had time for a weekly summer golf game with his friend and brother-in-law, Joe Rivard, and helped his adult children work on their homes. John suffered a fall in August of 2023 that led to complications and a stroke, and he spent his final two months with Frances in assisted living, reuniting after a month of medical separation to celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary.
John was predeceased by parents Richard and Florence Wolfe and sister Marilyn Rivard. He is survived by wife Frances, children Dan (Sue), Steve (Cheryl Beaumier), Lisa (Perry) Laszewski, Mike (Kim), and Teri (Doug) Bird, and grandchildren Caiti (Brian) Przybylski, Evan Wolfe, Emily Laszewski, Brent Wolfe, Thomas Laszewski, Grant Bird, Luke Laszewski, and Vanessa Bird. He is also survived by the special nieces and nephews from the Rivard family, Kevin, Maureen and David, with whom every holiday was shared, and by the special nieces and nephews from the Bogner family of Granville, Illinois, with whom every summer vacation was spent, Diane, Jim and Nancy (and Joe, deceased).
Thanks, Dad, for your devotion and direction, and for taking such great care of Mom for so many years and through such exhausting effort, particularly in your last few years. We will miss you, your indomitable commitment, and your humor.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at the Catholic Church of St. Odilia on Friday, December 1, at noon. Visitation one hour before at 11:00. Burial at Calvary Cemetery at a later date. Memorials preferred to the Catholic Church of St. Odilia.
A special thank you to the staff of Regions Hospital, Capitol View Transitional Care Center, Sunrise of Roseville for the care of our husband and father.
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