Return To Honor Roll Page
Click on any thumbnail photographs to enlarge for viewing.

If you have any questions, additional biographical information, personal remembrances, or photographs you would like to contribute, please contact the History Project Manager via this Email Link.


SPC John O. Tollefson
411th MP Company, 720th MP Battalion
, 89th MP Brigade

Killed In Action ~ 27 July 2005 ~ Iraq


They Say,
our deaths are not ours,
they are yours,
they will mean what
you make of them.

They say,
we leave you our deaths,
give them some

Archibald MacLeish
poet and WWI

There is no contact information for the next of kin.

        SPC John O. Tollefson, age 22, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and SPC Adrian J. Butler, age 28, of East Lansing, Michigan, died when an improvised explosive device detonated near their HMMWV during a patrol in Ashraf, Iraq.

        SPC Tollefson was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service and the Purple Heart Medal.



Spc. John O. Tollefson, age 22, passed away on Wednesday, July 27, 2005, while serving his country with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

He was born Sept. 27, 1982 in Fond du Lac, a son to Walter and Mary Kochrosky Tollefson. He was a 2001 graduate of Goodrich High School. He received an associate’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Fond du Lac before entering the military. He enlisted with the U.S. Army completing basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in 2004. He was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, with the 411th Military Police Company, 720th Battalion and 89th Military Police Brigade. He was deployed to Iraq in February 2005 where he proudly served his country until the time of his death. He was a member of Holy Family Parish.

Survivors include his father: Walter Tollefson of Fond du Lac; his mother: Mary (Dan) Steinman of Rosendale; sisters: Jessica Tollefson and her daughter, Kylie of Fond du Lac; and Kate Tollefson and her son, Brendan Boettcher of Fond du Lac; grandmothers: Alice Tollefson of Mishicot; and Delores Kochrosky of Maribel; his godparents: Bill and Janet Jensen of Fond du Lac; aunts and uncles: Eugene (Sharon) Tollefson of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Philip (Phyllis) Tollefson of Milwaukee; Mary (Chris) Garcia of North Prairie; Martha (Mike) Jadin of Green Bay; Ronald Tollefson of Green Bay; Janice (Jerry) Soucoup of Two Rivers; Joe (Debbie) Tollefson of Kiel; Aggie (Tom) Fabian of Sheboygan; Nancy Haas of Fond du Lac; and Amy (Tom) Nigbor of Hayward; cousins; stepsisters; stepbrothers; his special friends: Brett Wiersma, Nate DeBoer, Chris Rathermel and Jason Engelhardt; many other friends, and his feline companion, Tubby.

He was preceded in death by his grandfathers: Oliver Tollefson and John Kochrosky; and his uncle: Peter Kochrosky.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005, at noon at Holy Family Parish Sacred Heart Church followed with military honors. The Rev. John Radetski will officiate. Cremation has taken place and private family burial will take place in St. Peter’s Cemetery, Manitowoc.

Visitation will be held on Monday, Aug. 8, 2005, 3 to 8 p.m. at Holy Family Parish Sacred Heart Church. A parish vigil service will be held at 8 p.m. Visitation will also by held at Sacred Heart on Tuesday, 9 a.m. to the time of services at noon.

A memorial in his name will be established.

Zacherl Funeral Home, Fond du Lac, is serving the family;

Herald Times Reporter, 7 August 2005


"Parents ask for prayers for troops."

The parents of SPC Tollefson, Walter Tollefson of Fond du Lac and Mary Steinman of Rosendale called for prayers for U.S. troops after their son’s funeral Tuesday.

“John was a very caring son, a loving son, a companion and a friend. He’s surely going to be missed and never forgotten,” Walter Tollefson said at a brief press conference at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

“Please pray for all our troops. They need our prayers,” he added.

His mother, Mary Steinman, said that since John’s death, she’s been overwhelmed with support from people she never knew before who have loved ones in the military.

“Please don’t forget John,” she said. “He’s a great kid and he’s going to be very, very missed.”

Edited from Associated Press article.


"Soldier kept watch over friends, family."

          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.



"He was doing what he wanted to be doing."

          SPC Tollefson 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 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.”

Edited from Associated Press article.


"Farewell John"

          The Rev. John Radetski knew the world would change as he watched footage four years ago of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, he told those attending the funeral of fallen Fond du Lac soldier Spc. John Tollefson.

“I had a sinking feeling that the events of 9/11 would touch every community in our country,” he said in the eulogy for the 22-year-old, who was killed July 27 in Iraq. “It has touched our community, particularly the family and friends of John Tollefson. He paid the ultimate price as good people have done down through the ages.”

About 450 family, friends and community members paid their respects Tuesday afternoon at Sacred Heart Church to the young man who was the son of Mary Steinman and Wally Tollefson, brother to Jessica and Kate and loving uncle of Kylie and Brendan.

Gov. Jim Doyle, U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, and city and county officials attended the service, along with members of the military, who presented each parent with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a meticulously folded flag.

“It’s amazing how the community pulls together at a time like this,” Steinman said shortly before the services began, her eyes welling with tears for the son she would never hold again.

Six young men, close friends of the fallen soldier, carried the small, flag-draped urn ark that held his ashes. During the eulogy, Radetski spoke of Tollefson’s natural ability to connect with people, his passion for music, sports and the friends and family who loved him.

He mentioned a big bluegill that was caught and a flickering light that seemed like signals from John to his father that he would be OK.

Soft weeping could be heard intermittently, and couples comforted each other as Radetski celebrated Mass. As the choir sang the final hymn, “Farewell,” the priest blessed the small urn, the sweet scent of incense filling the church.

“John, may the angels lead you to Paradise,” he said.

But after the medals were presented, when shots rang out from the 21-gun salute in the parking lot followed by a bugler playing taps, the dimly lit church echoed with loud sobbing and the sounds of sorrow and loss.

Outside the church, Mary DeBoer, of Waupun, talked about the close relationship that John had with all of his friends, including her son, Nate.

“He drove Nathan’s car home from Texas when he (Nate) went to serve in Iraq,” she said, her eyes red and voice breaking.

She was shocked to hear the news that John had been killed there, DeBoer said, because she had convinced herself that he would return safely.

“I just kept thinking, ‘He’s coming home, he’s coming home,’” she said.

Edited from an article by Patty Brandl, the reporter


Use Your Browser Button To Return