John Gruden, 84 of La Crescent, passed away peacefully on Monday, October 17, 2022 at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.
John was born in Mirna Pec, Yugoslavia (Slovenia) to John and Josephine Gruden on April 14, 1938.
John’s family came to the United States as displaced persons following WWII. The family lived in former concentration camps in Spittal and Lienz Austria for four years where his dad served as Camp Superintendent. The Immigration Act of 1949 allowed the family to come to the U.S. The family was scheduled to locate to Brazil, but with his dad’s position, they were redirected to Gilbert, Minnesota, where a family sponsored the Grudens. John was eleven when they arrived; he immediately was attracted to sports and theatre to help him work around the language barrier. He graduated from Gilbert High School in 1956 and Winona State University in 1960 with a major in Mathematics. Throughout his college years, he worked during the summer in the local iron ore mines and performed masonry work to pay for school. John initially taught math until he followed up with a Master’s degree in Guidance from Winona State while attending night school.
John was employed by the La Crosse School District for 35 years at Lincoln Jr High School as a Guidance Counselor. John’s passion was sports; followed closely by clothes and shoes. He loved to play golf, bowl and cards. John was also a Minnesota Viking fan; fortunately, Favre and Rodgers could keep him quiet. He also loved to referee football, basketball, and baseball games for all ages, throughout the Coulee Region. He was recognized for 50 years of service as an official. John ran the annual summer baseball league at Emerson field for several years. John touched 1000s of lives as both a counselor and referee; he thoroughly enjoyed impacting young people’s lives, promoting sports, and pointing them in a positive direction.
John’s pride and joy were his sons John and Steve; John was athletic and studious, while Steve was artistic and a free-spirit. John enjoyed parenting and guiding them to their long-term goals. John’s heart was broken when both sons died in early adulthood with promising careers.
John and Shan were married in 1983. They spent the majority of their married lives in La Crescent; with the later years living in La Crosse/Onalaska. Together they enjoyed traveling, walking, biking, reading, golfing and playing cards. They relished the opportunity to visit their children and grandchildren in Colorado and California. John and Shan were proud of their Catholic faith; it provided the spiritual foundation in their lives.
John is survived by his wife Shan; sisters Val Selleck and Mary (Bob) Hall; children Jody (Lynn) Fiedorowicz, Littleton, CO, Jena (Jeff) Lougee, Littleton, CO and Jeff (Teresa) Fiedorowicz, Carlsbad, CA; grandchildren Jesse, Jaime Fiedorowicz (Littleton) and Pier, Emma Fiedorowicz (Carlsbad); niece Angel Johnson (Britt, MN); and nephew Brad Hall (Aurora, MN).
Preceding John in death were his two beloved sons, John and Steve; his father John and Mother Josephine; Frank Gruden (brother); Anastasia, Breda, and Sanda Gruden (sisters).
Special thank you to Dr Beahm at Mayo Clinic for being such a thoughtful and caring physician.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00am Friday, November 11th, 2022 at The Gathering Place, 133 Mason St, Onalaska, WI. Visitation will be from 10:00am until time of service, with lunch immediately following at 12:00pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the “John Paul Gruden Memorial Scholarship”, c/o UWL Foundation, 615 East Avenue North, La Crosse, WI 54601 at; or a charity of your choice.
John – we will all have a final drink of Slivovicz to toast your life on earth, to a truly Good Guy Nostrovia!
Zadnjic Pozdraviti – The Last Goodby