FUNERAL SERVICES: 11:00 A.M. on Friday, January 30, 2009 at Grace Lutheran Church in Sebeka
JOHN EDWARD RIFE
August 4, 1920 ~ January 27, 2009
John Rife age 88 of Sebeka, MN passed away on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at Tri-County Hospital in Wadena, MN. John was born on August 4, 1920 to Walter and Susie (Hurst) Rife in Broadland, IL. He attended school in Decatur, IL. At an early age he ventured to Chicago. His first gainful employment was selling Good Humor ice cream. Later he worked for Chicago Roto Print and also at a number of various sales related jobs. John was married to Dorothy Ostvig in Chicago and their union was blessed with three children: Allan, Karen Sue, and Diane. John moved his family to New York City. While he lived in New York, he frequented a corner coffee shop where he often bought coffee for a young Cuban immigrant Desi Arnaz. John moved back to the Midwest in the early 1940’s where he gained employment at Northern Pump (a defense factory) in Minneapolis. It was in Minneapolis that John met a sweet girl by the name of Helen Meckola and the two became fast friends. John and Helen were united in marriage on November 14, 1942 at Helen’s parents’ home in Meadow Twp., MN. Their union was blessed with five children: John Jr., Tom, Cherie, Jim and Timothy. John and Helen first moved to Duluth, MN where John held a position as a welder at a defense plant. Later he was transferred to another defense plant in Spanish Fork, UT. John moved back to Chicago where he enlisted in the United States Navy. He served his country with the Seabees in the South Pacific from 1943 until his honorable discharge in 1945. For a time, he was loaned to the Air Force and trained as a photographer. He was flown into battle sites before and after the battle to document the event. It was a time in his life he seldom spoke of. He returned to the states to the home and 40 acres Helen had purchased in Meadow Twp., during his deployment. In 1948 a business partnership with Western Novelty took the Rife family to Great Falls, MT, where they lived until John’s health forced them to return to Sebeka. John, not being one to let the grass grow under his feet didn’t take it easy for long. He was offered Veterans Vocational Training for agriculture. He and Helen used this training to grow their small farm into a large and profitable dairy business. In addition to farming John sold insurance for (MFA) Missouri Farmers Association. His office in Sebeka was where city hall is now. He bought the Chevrolet Dealership in 1966. It is now operated by his son, Jim Rife. In 1976 they rebuilt the dealership in the current location and converted the old garage into Rife’s Stop-N-Shop. John was passionate about all his endeavors. He was continually looking for ways to develop and enhance business and employment in the Sebeka area. He started the Wadena Soil and Water Conservation District and through his efforts numerous projects were completed. In 1963 John was inspired by John F. Kennedy’s speech and subsequently was appointed by the governor of Minnesota to establish and complete the first of 10 projects in the United States, The Crow Wing River Canoe Trail. He was the founding father of the Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D). John was asked, in 1971 to serve on a USDA National RC&D Program review team consisting of only 14 people in the nation because of his experience and expertise and rapport with USDA. He was listed in the 1973 edition of the “Who’s Who in the Upper Midwest”. John was Named Minnesota’s Outstanding Conservationist, in December of 1998, and appeared on the front cover and in a 4-page article of the January 1999, “The Minnesota Farmer”. He received the Outstanding Conservationist Award by the International Soil and Water Conservation Society in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1999. He received “Visionary Leader Award” July 2004 from the WesMin RC&D at the 40th Anniversary Celebration in Wadena, MN. John was inducted into the National Hall of Fame in Washington DC in 2008. Because of his son Tim’s attendance, he became involved in the Developmental Achievement Center (DAC). John was instrumental in raising funds for the new building that was dedicated on May 17, 2002. He was a member of Zion Lutheran Church in North Germany Twp., a member of the Sebeka American Legion Post 456, and a founding member of the Sebeka Lions Club.
John is survived by his beloved wife and best friend of 66 years, Helen of Sebeka; 3 daughters, Karen Sue (Errol) Keith of Loudon, TN, Diane Notch of West Des Moines, IA, Cherie (Thomas) Rife Smylie of Edgewood, NM; 4 sons, Allan (Joyce) Rife of Foley, MN, John Jr. (Mildred) Rife of Anoka, MN, Tom Rife of Mounds View, MN, Jim Rife of Sebeka, MN; 18 grandchildren: Dawn Marie Minton, Allan Rife Jr, Shawn Vazquez, Cody Rife, Wayne Rife, Michelle Brufoldt, Jason Rife, Jana Rife, Troy Rife, Bryan Rife, David Rife, Jamie Smylie, Ashley Maijala, Austin Rife, Ajay Rife, Autumn Rife, Alec Rife, and Ava Lee Rife; 15 great grandchildren: Cathryn Vazquez, Maria Vazquez, Sarah Vazquez, DeLayna Rife, Natalie Rife, Joseph Rife, Dominic Maijala, Elijah Maijala, Ashton Rife, Parker Rife, Cooper Rife, Noah Minton, Cory Minton, Joel Minton, and Jacquelin Minton. ; 1 sister, Cathleen Blankenburg of Sullivan, IL; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents; 1 son, Timothy in 1998; 2 sisters: Marie Mitchell and Gladys Jenkins; and 1 grandson, Blaine Rife.
Funeral services will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Friday, January 30, 2009 at Grace Lutheran Church in Sebeka, MN with Reverend Jim Gorentz officiating. Organist will be Faye Mavis. Congregational hymns will be “Just As I Am” and “On Eagle’s Wings.” Soloist will be Ray Seibert singing “In The Garden”. Active Casketbearers will be his grandchildren: Honorary Casketbearers will be the remainder of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Military Honors will be provided by The American Legion Post #456 of Sebeka. Services provided by the Cardini-Pearson Funeral Home serving Sebeka and Menahga, MN.