Cover photo for John Drazenovich's Obituary
John Drazenovich Profile Photo
1936 John 2023

John Drazenovich

May 4, 1936 — February 17, 2023

Hibbing, MN

John Mathew Drazenovich

May 4, 1936-Feb. 17, 2023

John Drazenovich, 86, a longtime Hibbing resident, died peacefully Feb. 17 at Heritage Manor Health Center in Chisholm, leaving a legacy of laughter and love that lives on in his family and many friends.

John’s enormous personality is legendary. He was an extrovert bursting with fun and charisma who took joy in making people laugh and feel good, even in his final days. As one of his friends so aptly put it, “John could make people smile if they were sitting on tacks.”

Equally big was his capacity for kindness. “Mr. D.,” as so many people knew him, was a masterful educator whose empathy and guidance helped countless students conquer their fears and find their confidence. John made an immeasurable impact in his more than 30 years as a teacher at Cobb-Cook Elementary School, principal of Alice, Jefferson and Greenhaven Elementary Schools, and as an ISD 701 administrator. He loved kids, and they loved him.

John liked to hunt, fish and play racquetball in his younger years and took up curling after he retired in 1993. Though he rarely mentioned it, he was a gifted athlete and Minnesota high school football’s leading scorer his senior year at Nashwauk High School. He graduated from Nashwauk in 1954, served in the U.S. Army in Germany and then enrolled at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he earned his degree in elementary education and played football under iconic coach Jim Malosky.

He met Gaile (Salo), his wife of 60 years, through his UMD Bulldogs teammate Kent Salo, who became his brother-in-law and, along with his wife Kay, a close friend of more than six decades. John and Gaile got married in 1961 and settled in Hibbing, where they lived until Gaile moved to Heritage Manor in December 2017 and John followed her in March 2021. He was devoted to Gaile and at her side every day until the Covid lockdown prevented him from visiting. His heart broke irreparably when she died in October 2021.

John is survived by his daughter Dana (Dave DeLand) of St. Cloud, Minnesota; son Jay (Jennifer Meland), grandsons Drew and Ryan and granddaughters Karlyn and Lillian, all of Scottsdale, Arizona; his beloved brothers Joe (Carol) of Hibbing and Tom (Mary Clare) of Grand Rapids; brother- and sister-in-law Kent and Kay Salo of Duluth; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, Gaile; father, Anton; mother, Helen; brother, George; and oldest friend Bob Shock, who knew John his entire life.

His children extend their heartfelt gratitude to the staff at Heritage Manor in Chisholm, who gave John and Gaile outstanding friendship, respect and care in their final years. They also would like to thank Jay’s mother- and father-in-law Barb and Jim Meland for all they have done to keep John and Gaile connected to their grandchildren across the miles between Scottsdale and Hibbing.

A celebration of John’s and Gaile’s lives takes place Saturday, April 1st, 2023 at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hibbing. Visitation starts at 11 a.m., followed by a noon service and luncheon afterward. The Rev. William Skarich will officiate. Arrangements are with Dougherty Funeral Home of Hibbing. Memorials are preferred to the Muscular Dystrophy Association in honor of their grandson Drew Drazenovich, who has a condition called spinal muscular atrophy.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Drazenovich, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Saturday, April 1, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

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Mass of Christian Burial

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Starts at 12:00 pm (Central time)

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MN

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