John "Jack" Dressen
John Joseph "Jack" Dressen was born on October 12, 1924 to Frank "Moose" and Mary "May" Dressen. Though his father died when he was only eight years old and he and his sister were raised during the difficult years of the Great Depression, Jack had many happy memoires of his childhood in Shakopee, Minnesota; his repertoire included an endless array of stories about school art projects and penmanship competitions, celebrating Christmas in grand style, playing sandlot baseball, and "picking pickles" in nearby Prior Lake on Martinson Island, which was owned by his mother's family.
After graduating from high school and working briefly at the Savage Tool Company, Jack enlisted in the army and was assigned to the 273rd Field Artillery Battalion, which became part of General Patton's 3rd Army. At the height of World War II, Jack landed with his unit on Utah Beach in Normandy, France in August of 1944 and took part in the great counteroffensive that came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Corporal John Dressen was honorably discharged in 1945 and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for distinguished and meritorious service.
After returning home at the war's end, Jack decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and enrolled St. Thomas College in St. Paul in order to pursue a degree in education. It was as a result of this decision that he met and fell in love with a beautiful young math teacher who agreed, through a mutual friend, to tutor Jack in Algebra -- never his strong suit. Throughout the course of his long life, Jack had the opportunity to meet and interact with many interesting people and would tell stories about how he fought under Patton, played town ball in Shakopee with Dick Siebert, worked closely with Minnesota Congressman Bob Bergland, and even rubbed shoulders with Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey. But, as he never once hesitated to declare loudly and clearly, the most important and influential person Jack ever met was his Algebra tutor, Josephine Schmelzle. Jack and Jo married in 1948 and soon afterward moved to Browerville, Minnesota where they would spend the next five decades together -- teaching, coaching, participating actively in the community, raising four children, and building deep and lasting friendships. Jack and Jo moved to nearby Alexandria, Minnesota in 2000 where they spent thirteen years playing as many rounds of golf as they could possibly squeeze in, and making many new and wonderful friends.
Jack was often described as a "colorful character" who loved to wear colorful clothes, told colorful stories, and approached challenges in creative and colorful ways. But once he moved to Browerville, Jack's favorite color of all would ever-after, and always, be Orange. In ways large and small, Jack took to heart the words of one of his heroes, Robert Kennedy: he never simply saw things as they were and asked "Why?" Instead, he dreamed of things that never were and asked "Why not?" More particularly, he never stopped asking, "Why not the best for our school and community? Why not the best for Browerville?" He was a builder by nature and was full of ideas, but he also knew instinctively that building community is always more important than building up the reputations of any of the individuals within it. He served often and tirelessly with community groups like the City Council, the Lions Club, the Church Parish Council and the Long Prairie Country Club Board. He was a master at marshalling the forces of volunteers and inspiring the generosity of community donors, and he worked relentlessly to champion projects like the building of a new Elementary and High School in Browerville, an Athletic Complex which bears his name to this day, the addition of nine more holes at the Long Prairie Country Club, and a Community Center for the citizens of Browerville -- all the while making sure that his Browerville Tigers wore the best-looking uniforms, played on the best-kept fields, and could walk with their families and friends through city streets lined with the most beautiful and bountiful collection of flowers imaginable. A life-long DFLer, Jack also served as a Field Representative for Bob Bergland and in that role never ceased to advocate for the needs of Browerville and other surrounding communities in Todd County. His experience of "growing up poor" during the Depression left him with an unwavering compassion for those in need or struggling through difficult times; every year during the holidays he delighted in donating not just food and necessities to local food shelves, but also ample supplies of candy and pop, because he never stopped believing that being poor shouldn't mean that you didn't have a right to have a little fun. And, above all else, Jack believed in having fun.
As Coach, and eventually Athletic Director, Jack enjoyed countless "wins," but he also, of course, endured many losses. The greatest loss of his life, however, was the loss in 2013 of his beloved bride, best friend, and faithful partner of 64 years. Jack moved to Hastings, Minnesota after Jo's death and enjoyed six more good years in the company of friends and family. But, early on the morning of November 13, 2019 -- which just happened to be the 71st Anniversary of his marriage to Jo -- he finally decided that he could wait no longer to be united with her again and died peacefully in his sleep.
Jack was also preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Lilalee Volker, his nephews Michael, Patrick, Eddie, and David Volker, his daughter-in-law Connie Burman Dressen, and his son, Daniel Dressen. He is survived by his sons Nic (Linda Wall) and Ric (Kerry) Dressen, his daughter Mary Hedstrom (Vern Winge), and his daughter-in-law Debbie (Dan) Dressen. He is also survived by grandchildren Kim (Chris) Dardis, Ryan (Jeanette) Dressen, Ann (Bryce) Hanstad, Paul (Laura Lucía) Dressen, Jack (Brooke) Dressen, Joanne (Michael) Pomroy, Hannah and Burt Hedstrom, and Arthur DressenWall, as well as by great-grandchildren Charlie, Lucy, and Drew Dardis, and Daniel and Henry Dressen.
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Browerville High School Athletic Fund
620 Park Avenue, Browerville MN 56438
Browerville Area Food Shelf
23777 County 14, Browerville MN 56438