Cover photo for John W. Wolff's Obituary
John W. Wolff Profile Photo

John W. Wolff

September 1, 1926 — January 14, 2024


John W. Wolff


John Willis Wolff

~ JWW ~

John W. Wolff, age 97, of Alexandria, passed away on Sunday, January 14, 2024, with his daughter by his side.

A visitation will be held from 5-8 p.m., Thursday, January 25, 2024, at Lind Family Funeral Home in Alexandria.

A private family service will be held. Interment will be held at Evergreen Cemetery, Alexandria.

Full military honors will be accorded by the Minnesota Honor Guard, American Legion Post #87, Veteran of Foreign Wars Post #936, Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter #235, and the Marine Corps League Detachment #1409.

John Willis Wolff was born on September 1, 1926, first born of twins, to Amy (Wulkan) and Martin Wolff.  He grew up on a farm in Hector, Minnesota.  His mother had her hands full with the twins, John and Jim.  She put up a chicken fence for them to play in, but soon one went over and the other went under the fence. One headed west and the other headed east.

In 1945, at the age of eighteen, John was drafted into World War II.  After two weeks at sea, he was stationed near Seoul, Korea, with Jim joining him later.  John was a cook, he cooked for “The Brass.”  He returned to San Francisco in October 1946.  He was discharged in December, having served one year, ten months and thirteen days.

During the fall of 1947, he started attending Dunwoody Industrial Institution in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This also included classes at the Walker Art Center.  For a class project, John painted a picture of Dunwoody.  It was eight feet long and was displayed in the Dean’s office for over twenty-five years.  Dunwoody was the only trade school in Minnesota at that time and John attended it for two years.

The first company John worked for, as a painter, was Haglands, worked for them for two years. One job included working at the Governor’s mansion for two months.  Another job included working at the St. Cloud Penitentiary where he taught wood graining to the inmates.  

John married Agnes E. Bullick on June 10, 1950.  They resided in Roseville, Minnesota.  Shirley Ann was born a few years later.

During his painting career, John worked for Pearson Decorating, George Colby Company and the last twenty-one years with Swanson and Youngdale.

On September 15, 1978 John became a father-in-law when Daryl Saathoff married Shirley.

For thirty-two years, during the evenings, John taught at several Hennepin Technical Colleges in the metro area.  He loved working with the younger generation and sharing his knowledge.  Many of his students won State and National awards and John always spoke highly of them!

John enjoyed hunting until the age of eighty with friends and family.  His largest buck was in 1990, eleven points.  He enjoyed fishing, with memorable fishing trips to Canada and Alaska. He spent many days fishing and camping at the Lake of the Woods.  John also enjoyed snowmobiling in beautiful “up-north” Minnesota with his friends, staying at their hunting shack, where he, again, was the cook.

John loved traveling and talking about his trips. Alaska was his favorite; he enjoyed Alaska so much that he made three trips.  On one of those trips, he rented a pick-up truck, bought used camping supplies and spent a month traveling around Alaska, staying in campgrounds. He finally made it to the Grand Canyon with Jim on a road trip. In San Francisco he walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, plus a helicopter ride over and under it.  In Washington, D.C., he walked the full length of the National Mall.

With many sets of twins in the family, another set was born on September 26, 1980, granddaughters, Melissa and Melanie. When Shirley showed him the ultra sound picture of the babies, that was the only time in his life he was speechless.

John volunteered his time at the Minnesota State Fair, demonstrating special finishes and skills.  He also spent many hours at Feed My Starving Children, also at the Polar Museum at the Anoka Airport.  Even after turning 80 years old, he volunteered time helping the Lions Club at the Douglas County Fair. John was also a regular donor at the blood drive; he donated eight gallons of blood.  He was only turned down once due to a rapid heartbeat.  He was more upset that he didn’t get to donate that day then he was about his heart, (which turned out to be nothing).

During the last nine years of his career with Swanson & Youngdale, he was contracted to the Hennepin Government Center.  One of the highlights during that time was on May 20, 1987.  John was front-page news of the Star and Tribune Newspaper, with a 6x8 inch picture of him spray-painting specially mixed green paint that would blend with the grass.  The “Today” show was coming to town and they wanted a bird’s eye view of the Government Center.  John was spray-painting areas where the pedestrians had worn out the grass.  He knew the photographer was from the newspaper, but what a surprise the next morning to be on the front page!  John was in demand after that from friends and relatives who needed their lawns “touched up.”

John retired on his 65th birthday.

In 1993, John and Agnes moved to Maple Grove, Minnesota to be closer to Shirley, Daryl and their granddaughters.

During the summer of 1994, John spent nine days at the Fortune Bay Resort Casino by Lake Vermilion, Minnesota.  He was hired to paint a nineteen by thirty-foot mural of Lake Vermilion.  He started with a twenty-one-inch map, blocked it off by one inch on the map to equal eighteen inches on the wall. The mural was six feet off the floor to allow for the machines. John painted while moving himself on a scissor lift.  He camped at the state park, at his favorite campsite.  It was under the lamp post so that he could read at night, after fishing for his dinner.  The mural remained there for 10 years.

In 1997, John started a retirement job with the Osseo Press, delivering newspapers once a week and also substituting on other routes.  There was a lot of wildlife and excitement along the route.  John worked for the Press for eight years.

In 2007, John and Agnes moved to Alexandria, again to be closer to family.  He spent the remainder of his days fishing, building things, working out at Snap Fitness and having lunch with Shirley once a week, same place, same time, same booth.  John had beautiful gardens no matter where they lived. He loved to work in his garden growing grand prize dahlias and zinnias, entering and competing with Shirley at the Douglas County Fair. Agnes and Melanie were not allowed to touch any of his roses, he would be the one to cut, arrange and give away.

John just loved dogs!  They had five dogs, plus he loved all the other family dogs, with Sassy spending countless hours in his lap.  He loved all the family dogs as if they were his own.

In 2013, John moved to Bethel Manor.  He enjoyed working out in the fitness center, playing Bingo and taking the bus uptown for lunch.  Daryl, Shirley and his granddaughters stopped by weekly for supper and four games of Dominoes.  Melanie took Grandpa out for many Sunday drives which included lunch at the Dew Drop Inn. Last, he moved to Pelican Bay at Bethany where he received loving care by staff.

Family visited John often. On one visit, Melanie walked in and said, “Hi Grandpa!”  He replied, “Hi Squirt!”  Later to find out, that was what John called Shirley when she was little.  (Shirley was so jealous!)

John is preceded in death by wife, Agnes; parents; sister, Charlotte; brothers, Layne and Jim.  He is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Shirley and Daryl Saathoff; granddaughters, Melissa Saathoff, Melanie Saathoff; sister and brother-in-law, Marion and Ervin Stobbe; Sister-in-Law, Audrey Wolff; cousins, nieces and nephews.   


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Past Services


Thursday, January 25, 2024

5:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)

Lind Family Funeral Home - (Alexandria)

1623 10th Ave E, Alexandria, MN 56308

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