LONSDALE — Donald G. Stepan, age79, of Lonsdale, went to his heavenly home on Sunday, July 25, 2021. He joined his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and his beloved wife of 55 years, Janet Stepan.
The Rite of Christian Burial will take place at Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, on Friday, July 30, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. with the Reverend Paul Reiger officiating. Interment will be at Meadow Ridge Memorial Park.
Visitation will be held at the Boldt Funeral Home, Faribault, on Thursday, July 29, 2021, from 4 to 7 p.m. and for one hour prior to service at the church on Friday.
Don was preceded in death by his wife, Janet; his parents; grandparents; aunts and uncles.
He is survived by his daughters, Judy (Doug) Davidson of Lonsdale and Cathy (Sami) Khedhiri of Faribault; sons, Donald J. Stepan of Faribault and John Stepan of Lonsdale; three grandsons, Cole, Jesse and Jacob Hill, all of Faribault; and granddaughter, Paige Davidson of Las Vegas, NV. He is also survived by two special friends, Ron Gernandt of Lonsdale and Joe Vandenheuvel of Cannon Falls. Don grew up with Ron and Joe and they are like brothers.
When Don neared 80, he decided to write his own obituary; this is his story, in his own words:
Life is a journey. For some the journey is short and for others it is longer. God has blessed me with many years of life and has blessed me with a wonderful family, friends, financial success and reasonably good health, for that I am grateful.
My journey began on June 22, 1942, at St. Lucas Hospital in Faribault. I was born to my parents, Louise Stepan and John Teply. I grew up living with my mother who lived with her parents, Frank and Louise (Teply) Stepan, and her brother, James (Jim) Stepan, on a farm in Forest Township. My grandfather was like a father to me, and Uncle Jim was like my brother. I learned the love of the outdoors, hunting, fishing and trapping from Jim. I also came to love the land and working the soil. I have done my best in passing on these traditions to my children and grandchildren.
When I was six, I began attending a one room country school. It had no running water, no indoor toilet and no central heating system. We did have electricity. Electricity was a luxury. The farmhouse I lived in had no indoor plumbing or electricity and we had a wood stove for heat. There were 21 students in that school and one teacher taught all eight grades. Everyone had school chores to do. The older boys chopped wood and brought in the water from a hand pump outside. It was also someone's duty to raise the flag and we stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance every day. I consider my country school days a privilege.
When I was in seventh grade, I rode the bus to "town school" because those two grades were no longer being taught. I have to say, riding the bus was an experience. We were all required to take physical education. One of the items in phys ed, was social dancing where we learned various dance steps. Most of the boys hated it. I, however, met the love of my life, Janet Velzke, in that class and soon we were "going steady" which was common at that time. That led to our eventual marriage on December 16, 1961. Sadly, I lost her to MS on May 19, 2017, after 55 years of marriage. She spent 30 years battling MS with 25 of them in a wheelchair.
While in high school I studied vocational agriculture. I was active in 4H and FFA and was president of both organizations. I was also a district and state officer for the FFA. I graduated from high school in 1960, our class was the first to graduate from the new high school.
After high school I enrolled at the U of M and majored in agricultural journalism. My wife and I moved to St. Paul so I could attend classes. She got an office job at Gould National Batteries, and I worked part-time at the infamous Porky's Drive-In on University Avenue.
After college, in 1964, Janet and I moved home and purchased an 80-acre farm near Kilkenny, Minnesota. We were crop farmers and didn't have any livestock. While on the farm, we became very active at Trinity Lutheran Church, North Morristown. We were in the choir and were councilors for the Lutheran youth group. Judy, Cathy and Don were born on that farm. Judy was born on my birthday. We owned the farm until 1972 when we sold it and we moved back to the farm I grew up on. We built a new home there with a great view of the lake and surrounding land. Our son, John, was born then in 1976. All four of our children grew up on that farm. They enjoyed roaming around the woods and pasture and they helped Uncle Jim bring the cows in for milking. They enjoyed watching him milk and feed the cows. John commented, "we were free range kids." Judy and Doug built a new home just across the driveway. They love the farm life. John purchased a farm stead near me also. Over the years, we have planted over 2,000 trees and built 11 ponds. The farm is in the CRP program, so grasslands are plentiful. It has become a virtual wildlife Mecca.
On January 19, 1973, I became an agent for American Family Insurance. I retired April 1, 2008, after 35 years of service. I must brag a little, I had a very successful career as an agent. I received numerous prestigious awards, prizes and trips. When I retired, my agency had around 2500 policies. My wife worked with me as a licensed representative for over 20 years, even though she was wheelchair bound.
I grew up not knowing about God and Jesus; I was never baptized. After I married Janet, she insisted I had to go to church. I must admit I was scared to death about going to church. I had no idea what goes on there or what would be expected of me. I was relieved to find it was a pleasant experience. I attended adult confirmation classes and became a church member. I was finally baptized at age 20. No, Janet didn't carry me to the baptismal font.
My hobbies include hunting, fishing, gardening, canning, making kraut and roaming the farm on my ATV. I also love to read, and our children do, too. At bedtime I would read to them in my bed. They really looked forward to that. Usually, it was Dr Suess books. When there were 4 children, the bed got a little crowded. I also collect Elvis memorabilia. I have hundreds of items. Jan and I have been to Graceland and Tupelo five times. We were able to go inside the house where Elvis was born and attend a service at the church that Elvis attended. Memphis was very interesting, and we had a great time visiting all the Elvis sites.
My legacy: Of course, the farm and the wildlife habitat I spent years creating. Also, the 24 acres near Thief River Falls where we hunt in the fall. We call it "Club Mucho". I hope I am remembered as kind, generous and for always keeping my word. Never once did I promise something and not deliver. I want to be remembered for raising a family that gets along. They do not fight and argue with each other and I'm proud of that. We always gathered around the dinner table and ate and prayed together. As a family, we went on many trips and lots of movies, too. Mom frequently made fresh bread that they would eat when they came home from school. They were taught to treat others as they would like to be treated. Today, they get along with everyone; for that, I am grateful. Someone once said something quite profound that I never forgot. He said, "any man can be a father, but it takes a really special man to be a dad." I hope I am remembered as a dad.
As I near 80, I realize that my life journey will soon end. I am grateful to God for the gift of life and the many blessings. I look forward to the day when I enter the Kingdom of Heaven and I will be with my wife and Jesus and many other relatives and friends that have gone before me.
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