George "Smokey" Sawatzke
June 19, 2024

George Edward Sawatzke, “Smokey”, age 92 of Rockford, Minnesota passed away on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, surrounded by family.  He was born February 22, 1932, to Edward and Laura (Baldus) Sawatzke in Delano, Minnesota.

George was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, uncle and friend to many.  He grew up in Wright County with 4 sisters and 5 brothers. In 1951, George married Joanne (Harwood). They raised 11 children and made their family home in Greenfield. After losing his beloved wife of 49 years, George married Pat (Gulbrandson) in 2007 and eventually made his home in Rockford, where he lived up until his death.

George owned and operated Rockford Cabinet & Woodworking for over 40 years where he worked alongside his eldest son Richard.  He was very active in the community including: having served 32 years as a volunteer firefighter for the Rockford Fire Department, retiring as a Captain; served 27 years on the Rockford School Board, without missing a meeting; represented Rockford as a delegate at the Minnesota School Board for 5 years; was an active member of the Loretto Lions Club; a Rockford Wright Technical Representative for Wright County Vo-Tech and was Grand Marshall for the Rockford River Days parade in 2022.  George was an active member of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church where he served as an usher and was ardently involved in the Men’s club.

George loved his sports.  He especially enjoyed watching the Vikings and Twins play and even volunteered as a security guard at the Met Stadium. George was one of the founders of the annual Rockford East and West softball game which was held for over 50 years. He also enjoyed going to the casino, playing cribbage, dancing and spending time with his family. George had the ability to make friends wherever he went. Anyone that knew George knows how much he enjoyed playing practical jokes, anything to get a good laugh.

George was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife Joanne; son Rodney Sawatzke; siblings Marlan Sawatzke, Donald Sawatzke, Harvey Sawatzke, Joseph Sawatzke, and Doris Sawatzke.  He is survived by his wife Pat; children Richard (Roberta) Sawatzke, Ronald Sawatzke, Randall Sawatzke, Roger Sawatzke (Shari Atkins), Rocklyn (Joyce) Sawatzke, Robert Sawatzke, Russell Sawatzke, Renee (Ronnie) Bianchi, Rhonda (Bob) Rothstein, Ralph (Stacey) Sawatzke; 23 grandchildren; 41 great grandchildren; step children Todd (Marcy) Davidson, Sean (Rachel) Davidson, Stephanie (Randy) Cuka, Trent Schroeder;; 13 step grandchildren; 6 great step grandchildren; siblings Laura Mae Hoffman, Shirley Ponce, Carol (Dale) Sieg, Floyd Sawatzke; sisters-in-law Evelyn Sawatzke, Darlene Sawatzke; as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Visitation took place on Wednesday, June 26, 2024, at the Iten Funeral Home in Delano, Minnesota from 4:00 pm to 8:00 p.m. with a 7:30 p.m. prayer service. Mass of Christian Burial was held on Thursday, June 27th, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Corcoran at 11:00 am with visitation one hour prior. Interment was in the church cemetery.

The Mass was live-streamed through the link provided below: