JOHN HARVEY FREESE was born to John and Marie (Myer) Freese on October 27, 1936, in Alpena, South Dakota. He attended a country school for his first four years and then finished his schooling at Virgil Public Schools, graduating in 1955. During his years in high school, he participated in basketball, softball, and track; gave humorous readings in DECLAM; was in several high school plays; and sang in the choir. He was also involved in 4-H as a member and then leader. He received many awards on his sheep, swine, and brown Swiss dairy cattle. Following graduation, he attended Huron University receiving a two-year degree in education. While in college, he took part in the musical “Oklahoma” and sang with the college choir. He then taught in a country school just seven miles from the family farm for the next three years. After this, he taught in Cavour, South Dakota and Alpena, South Dakota. He then returned to Huron University where he received his BA in elementary education with a minor in music. John met Voneta DeVries at a dance in Lane, South Dakota, and they were married on July 8, 1962, at the Methodist Church in Huron, South Dakota. In 1966, he and his family moved to Pipestone, Minnesota where he continued to teach sixth grade for the next 33 years. He retired from teaching in 1999 to stay home and take care of his wife who had been diagnosed with dementia. After a long hard fight with cancer, he entered the care of the Pipestone County Hospice House where he died peacefully on Monday, August 9, 2021, at the age of 84 years, nine months, and 13 days.
John was a member of Peace United Methodist Church in Pipestone for 44 years where he served as the choir director, MYF counselor, lay speaker and served on several committees. Later he became a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Pipestone where he sang in the choir. John was active in the Pipestone community where he served on the Hiawatha Concert Association Board, was a member of the Male Chorus, the Al Opland Singers, Toastmasters International, Arrows Club, Pipestone Area Development, the Lions Club, the Pipestone band board, the student teacher curriculum committee, and the negotiations committee. He was also a Boy Scout leader, little league baseball coach, and high school volleyball coach. He belonged to a 500 Card club, bowled in both the men’s and the teachers’ league, and sang for weddings and funerals. In education, he was chosen to serve as assistant professor at Southwest Minnesota State College, was chosen as one of the Innovative Teachers in the U.S. to help critique and provide information for the beginning of the National Education Magazine “Learning”, was chosen as Pipestone Teacher of the Year, Outstanding Young Educator by the Jaycees, and Pipestone County Teacher of the Year. John was an avid gardener and loved flowers, including a large rose garden. He also enjoyed volunteering at the Good Samaritan Communities, helping with the activities and doing some landscaping. John’s family appreciates the many members of the community and neighborhood who showed their care and friendship through the years, especially neighbor, Lucy Wallerich who checked on John every day.
He is lovingly remembered by his fiancé, Leona Sween of Volga, South Dakota; three sons, Brett (Kelley) Freese of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, Mike Freese and his son Dominic of Pipestone, Minnesota, and Ryan (Erica Brolin) Freese and children Aiden and Brigit of Maple Grove, Minnesota; three sisters, Velma French of Huron, South Dakota, Lila (Everett) Reindl of Black Hawk, South Dakota, and Lois Rosse of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; three brothers, Everett (Tina) Freese of Huron, South Dakota, James (Bonnie) Freese of Clark, South Dakota, and Lloyd (Bonnie) Freese of Huron, South Dakota; his sister-in-law, Mavis Grace of Huron, South Dakota; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, Voneta; his parents; his stepfather, Harold Timperley; his father- and mother-in-law, Arthur and Rozella DeVries; his brothers-in-law, Richard DeVries and Ernan Grace; his sister-in-law, Marsha DeVries; and his niece, Penny Jones.