Landscapes 08

John "Jack" Philip Schmalenberg

November 20, 1946 ~ May 15, 2023 (age 76) 76 Years Old


We are sad to announce that on Saturday, May 13th, 2023, Jack, loving husband to Kate, father to 4 children and 2 stepchildren, Grampa to 7 grandchildren, 1 step grandchild, passed away at age 76 at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, North Dakota with his wife, Kate and his children by his side. 

His Celebration of Life will take place Tuesday, May 23, 2023, at 2:00 pm at Olson-Schwartz Funeral Home with visitation one hour prior to the service.  He will be placed to rest at a different time at the Ft Ripley Minnesota State Veteran’s Cemetery in Little Falls, MN.

Jack was born on November 20, 1946, in Grand Forks, North Dakota to Gladys Madonna (Sabe) and Timothy Frederick Schmalenberg.  He was a native of East Grand Forks, MN where he lived and graduated from Sacred Heart High School in 1964.  Jack went on to earn a degree in Economics from the University of North Dakota in February 1969. He worked for the City of East Grand Forks during the flood fight of 1969 after which he joined the United States Army, (173 Airborne). He served in Viet Nam where he earned a Commendation Award and the Bronze Star. When he returned home, he joined the Polk County Auditor’s Office to work personnel and other issues at the Courthouse in Crookston on November 7, 1971.   There he worked for 41 years in the Administration offices.  His position had many titles starting with Executive Secretary of the Board, to Polk County Coordinator, to Administrator.

He loved his job and won many awards and honors during his tenure with Polk County including the Joe Reis Award for Excellence in County Management.  He was the lead in the construction of the 25.9-million-dollar Polk County Justice Center and the adjoining 218 bed Northwest Regional Corrections Center jail.  It will serve the tri-county area, (Polk, Norman and Red Lake) for many years in the future.

His involvements in northwestern Minnesota included service on the Community Health Services Advisory Board from the 1980’s until his retirement in 2012.  He was a member of the Lake Agassiz Regional Library, (LARL) Boards from 1988 through 1994.  He was also the president of said LARL board in 1991-92.

Jack was also involved with the Nature Conservancy purchase and restoration of 24K acres of land In Polk County called the Glacial Ridge Project. The Glacial Ridge Project was the largest prairie and wetland reconstruction project in US history by the Nature Conservancy which began this project in 2001.

He married and raised 4 children with his first wife: John Jr., Kristine, Derrick, and Justin.  He divorced in 1988 and remarried Kathryn (Kate) Reed (Rardin), in 1990, and helped raise 2 stepsons, Jonathan and Jared.  Jack and Kate settled down in a small town of Fisher, Minnesota where they had a 5-acre homestead for over 20 years.  They moved again, almost 4 years ago to Bemidji, Minnesota where they enjoy being closer to the state forests and enjoyed the wildlife walking through the yard in town!

Jack was a quiet, thoughtful man and was of deep feelings and empathy which served him well throughout his working and personal life. He was one who never said a bad word about anyone and would allow people to make choices for themselves to achieve their potential by figuring out things on their own. Because of that, he was a great teacher, leader and mentor of many. He never invaded another’s ego by telling them what to do, but rather, for them to go to him if they didn’t know how to proceed.  He would go by his saying that a good boss or mentor was someone “who can step on your toes without messing up your shine.”  If he was asked, he would do anything he could to help someone out. 

He had a passion for the outdoors and loved to fish and hunt with lifelong friends and family in northern Minnesota where they had a “Mash Tent” and then, later a cabin.  He loved the woods and the creatures in it so much that he and Kate would go camping and 4 wheeling wherever and whenever they could.  They settled on the Dixon Lake Resort to park their 5th Wheel camper close to many state forests, national forests and other wild places where many friends and acquaintances explored the numerous trails and gathered around many wine times, campfires and potlucks. 

He is preceded in death by his mother Gladys and his father Timothy. He is survived by his wife Kate, 3 sisters, 4 children, 2 stepchildren, 7 grandchildren, 1 step-grandchild and 2 great grandchildren. His sister Claudia, (Apache Junction, AZ), Susan, (Les Biskop, Lakeville, MN), and Cynthia, (Rick Beausoleil of Maine).  His children, John Jr. (Deb Strem, Fertile, MN), Kristine Schmalenberg, (Randy Sauer of Northport, New York), Derrick, (Chanhassen, MN), Justin, (Anne Meyer, Grand Forks, ND) and Stepsons Jared Rardin (Chey Mollohan, Emerado, ND), and Jonathan Rardin, (Mpls, MN). Grandchildren Brad, (Ally, Fargo ND), Alex, (Becca, Cannon Falls, MN) along with great-grandchildren, Lane and Walker), Aurora, Max, Bennette, Leia and Giselle, and step grandson, Michael Rardin. Many nieces and nephews. 

He will be greatly missed.

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May 23, 2023

1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Olson-Schwartz Funeral Home
3330 Irvine Ave. NW
Bemidji, MN 56601

Memorial Service
May 23, 2023

2:00 PM
Olson-Schwartz Funeral Home
3330 Irvine Ave. NW
Bemidji, MN 56601


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