John Henry Stephens was born November 15, 1936, in Breckenridge, MN, the son of LeRoy and Rufina (Dreyer) Stephens. He grew up in Breckenridge, MN where he attended St. Mary’s grade school and graduated from Breckenridge High School. John continued his education at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton where he graduated with two degrees. He furthered his education at Moorhead State University, earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree.
Soon after high school, John joined the army. He was stationed at Fort Knox, KY and was quickly promoted to Sergeant. As you may have heard, he claims to have seen Elvis on base! Upon his return to Minnesota, he completed his duty, serving in the National Guard.
Before his teaching career, John worked on the Great Northern Railroad, starting as a fireman and working his way up to engineer. John loved running the big engines! When he heard the train whistle, it brought back fond memories.
On August 1, 1964 John was united in marriage to Pauline Hanson. The couple made their home in Algona, IA where John began a career in teaching. Two years later John and Polly moved to Alexandria, MN to be closer to family. John taught at Jefferson High School for one year, then moved “across the pavement” to Alexandria Technical College, where he led the Legal Secretary Department. For the next thirty years he enjoyed the camaraderie of the staff and students at the college. He retired in 1996.
In his early years, John was very active in his church, serving on the parish council, and being a lector. He also sang and played guitar at many liturgies, including weddings and funerals. John enjoyed sharing his love of music with his son Patrick, playing guitar together at church, and singing with his daughter Sara.
John was a member of the Elks Club in Alexandria. In his early days, he had the ability to play the piano, sing, and entertain his friends at any given time. Anyone who knows John knows his language could be quite colorful!!! He had a great sense of humor and was always ready with a one-liner - the life of the party.
John’s great love was being at his cabin, enjoying the beauty of the Earth. He was an avid outdoorsman, fishing and boating in the summer; pheasant, duck, and deer hunting in the fall and winter. Road trips were very special: Glacier National Park, Yellowstone; plus the Duluth and Phoenix areas. He cherished his kids and entertaining his grandkids; they all called him Papa. Others knew him as Rooster, perhaps for being half Irish, half German and half ornery.
On Sunday, June 2, 2019, John died at the age of eighty-two years. He was preceded in death by his son, Gregory John Stephens; and four sisters, infant twins, Mary and Ann Stephens, Patricia Olson and Sharon Heley. John is survived by his wife, Polly of Alexandria; son, Patrick (Julie Goodrich) of Prior Lake, MN; daughter, Sara (Jack) Volz of St. Paul, MN; grandchildren, Kali, Carson, and Dominic Stephens, Ashliegh and Emily Volz; and several nieces and nephews.
Special thanks to the staff of Diamond Willow for their loving care to John. John enjoyed the never-ending humor with his friends/caregivers.
A Memorial Mass will be held at 2 PM Friday, June 28, 2019, at the Church of St. Mary in Alexandria. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 PM Thursday, June 27, with a prayer service beginning at 4 PM, at the Anderson Funeral Home in Alexandria. Additional visitation will be from 1 PM to 2 PM Friday, June 28, at the church. Interment in will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery. Military honors will be accorded by the Alexandria Veterans Honor Guard.
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