Even several hard whacks to the head couldn”t stop John O. Tollefson. “His senior year, he had two concussions and had to stop playing, but he never missed a day of practice,” said his former football coach Mike Dressler. “Since he couldn”t play himself, he learned how to become an official and helped out at youth games.” Tollefson, 22, of Fond du Lac, Wis., was killed July 27 when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Ashraf. A 2001 high school graduate, he was assigned to Fort Hood. “He was one of those exceptionally wonderful people you”ll meet in your life,” said Dressler. “He was so special and worked so hard at everything. Everyone that knew him respected him.” Alice Tollefson said she looked forward to seeing her grandson during occasional visits. “I always enjoyed making John”s favorite cookies _ molasses fruit bars,” she said. He also is survived by his father Walter Tollefson and mother Mary Steinman. “He was Wally”s pride and joy, and he thought the world of him,” said City Councilman Sal Curcurio, a family friend. “It seems like it”s always the good kids that get killed, and this time it really, really was.”
Fond du Lac soldier killed in Iraq
FOND DU LAC, Wis. — A soldier from Fond du Lac has been killed in the war in Iraq, friends of the family say.
Ed Hammer confirmed Thursday evening that Spc. John O. Tollefson, 22, was one of two soldiers killed Wednesday by an improvised explosive device while on patrol, but the Department of Defense did not immediately release any information about the death.
Tollefson, the son of Walter Tollefson of Fond du Lac and Mary Steinman of Rosendale, was a 2001 graduate of Goodrich High School, where his football coach, Mike Dressler, had fond memories of him.
“He had two concussions within a week apart. The doctor said he shouldn’t play anymore,” Dressler said. “He was a starter at the outside linebacker spot. John did not play football his senior year, but he stayed with the program and helped us with duties on the field. He loved the game so much he began the process to become came an official and began to officiate youth football programs.
“It tells you the kind of heart the young man has. Too many times today people find excuses on why not to do something. John found a way to do it.”
Dressler said Tollefson’s death and those of other soldiers touched communities as a whole.
“They all touch the lives of people in the community, not just immediate family circle,” he said. “They were the kind and caring people.”
Fond du Lac City Councilman Sal Curcurio, a friend of the family, said the young man who was the 41st Wisconsin service member reported killed in Iraq was interested in cars and motors as well as football.
“It seems like it’s always the good kids that get killed, and this time it really, really was,” Curcurio said.
Curcurio said Tollefson had regular contact with his family while in Iraq and was proud to be a soldier.
“Parents should never have to bury their son,” Curcurio said. “But at least we can rest knowing that he was doing what he wanted to be doing.”
Soldier kept watch over friends, family
Tollefson is first service member from Fond du Lac to die in Iraq
By LAWRENCE SUSSMAN
Fond du Lac – Army Spc. John O. Tollefson was remembered during a funeral Mass Tuesday as someone who always looked out for others.
He was killed last month in a roadside bombing while on duty in Iraq north of Baghdad, becoming the first soldier from Fond du Lac to die in Iraq.
An overwhelming sense of sadness hung over the Mass that was attended by about 550 people at Holy Family Parish-Sacred Heart Church on a sweltering August afternoon.
Rev. John Radetski said during the Mass that Tollefson’s death July 27 had filled many people with sorrow. Radetski said after the services that this had been a particularly sad funeral for him.
“This isn’t like the movies where only the bad guys get killed,” Radetski said. “Real life isn’t that way. Good people are in harm’s way.”
Tuesday’s services included full military honors and Tollefson posthumously being awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart. Tollefson was the 42nd member of the military from Wisconsin to die in fighting in Iraq. The 43rd, Army Capt. Benjamin Jansky, 28, of Oshkosh, also was killed on July 27.
Radetski said during the service that Tollefson had a natural ability to connect with people. The priest also appealed to the mourners’ faith in God.
“We wish that God would protect us from all the difficulties and tragedies of this life,” Radetski said. “But we have to experience life in its fullness just like everyone else.”
He said that Tollefson’s death “is not the end of the story. Our God has promised us a kingdom that has no end. We have confidence that God will reward us for faithful service.”
Several of Tollefson’s friends who attended the service recalled that he had played the role of older brother, telling them to stop for yellow lights while driving and chiding them for being underage and sneaking into a tavern.
“He was always watching out for everybody,” Nathan DeBoer said. When DeBoer and his girlfriend, Amy, first talked about getting married, which they later did, it was Tollefson who cautioned them to slow down.
“Whoa! Whoa! Marriage police,” DeBoer quoted Tollefson as saying.
Beside DeBoer, Chris Rathermel, Jason Engelhardt and Brett Wiersema said they remember Tollefson as being creative and fun-loving. They also remember him as a close friend.
“That’s why we’re here,” Wiersema said.
Tollefson is survived by his father, Walter, of Fond du Lac, his mother, Mary Steinman, of Rosendale; two sisters, Jessica Tollefson and Kate Tollefson, both of Fond du Lac; and his grandmothers, Alice Tollefson of Mishicot and Delores Kochrosky of Maribel.
A private burial will take place today at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Manitowoc.