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John F. Dagel, age 82, of Watertown, SD, passed away on Wednesday, January 24, 2018, at the hospital in Watertown. A Funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 27, 2018, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Watertown. The celebrant will be Fr. Paul Rutten. Music will be provided by Danielle-Holmquist-Holida as organist with the I. C. Church Choir and Neal Mack, John’s godson, as song leader. The family is requested to meet at the church on Saturday by 10:00 a.m. for a prayer service.
Visitation will be at the Crawford-Osthus Funeral Chapel in Watertown on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. with a Scripture Wake Service at 6:00 p.m. Visitation will continue on Saturday morning prior to services at the church.
Burial will take place at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Watertown. Military graveside honors will be conducted by Codington County Post #17 of the American Legion of Watertown and the Military Funeral Honors Team of the SD Army National Guard. Honorary pallbearers will be: Dr. Kim and Kathy Wilde and the Wilde Care Team; Bryan, Jamie and Ally Brost; Lory Wilkens; Cleo Belk; Marvin and Maxine Czech; Gene and Rusty Curley; Dale and Joan Bummer; Dennis and Kay Nelson; Ilah Nelson; Merle Miller and all past and present co-workers at LAVTI. Active pallbearers will be: Scott Dagel, Tim Dagel, Kurt Dagel, Loren Dagel, Isaac Dagel, Daryl Dagel and Wes Wilkens.
Few people can say they have lived the American Dream. John Dagel was one of those people. He was born on September 6, 1935 to Fred and Charlotte (Schonberger) Dagel of Waverly SD. He grew up the eldest of five brothers on their family farm east of Waverly. They were poor in material things but rich in family. Many of John's most cherished memories were of his boyhood on the farm, growing and learning through hard work. It was there he developed his life-long love of John Deere tractors. They made their own entertainment. Sundays would be horse racing with the neighbor boys, riding bareback to see who was the fastest. One year John and his buddies spent every cent they could scrape together to build a propeller-driven ice boat. When they at last fired it up, it slid all of a few feet on the ice!
John attended high school in Waverly, graduating in 1953. It was at this time he met the love of his life, Marlis McGillivary, when he spotted the prettiest girl at Spider Web Roller Rink at Stony Point. They were married on December 16, 1954 at Immaculate Conception Church in Watertown while he was on leave from the army.
John joined the U.S. Army in June of 1954. He was sent to basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood MO, followed by further training at Ft. Belvoir VA. He graduated 2nd in his class in the Diesel Engine Repair Course. His skills led him to stay on as an instructor in the engine and compressor section of the Engineer Center Regiment. In 1956 John was selected to be in the honor guard at the inauguration of President Dwight Eisenhower. He was honorably discharged in 1957.
During his army days, John and Marlis lived in Alexandria, VA, where they started their family. Their first son, Jon, was born there. Keith and Lyn followed after they moved back to Watertown.
Back in civilian life, John took a job as a diesel mechanic for International Harvester Corporation in Watertown. While working there he also signed up for courses to earn a teaching degree at the University of South Dakota, Springfield, earning his BS degree in 1974. His first work as an educator was to help develop a farm equipment curriculum for the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training.
He left International Harvester in 1966 to begin work as an instructor in the farm equipment and diesel programs at Lake Area Vocational-Technical School, where he helped develop the first curriculum. He remained there as an instructor and department chair until his retirement in 1995. During his tenure there he earned numerous honors for his efforts in developing national testing standards for diesel mechanics and other programs. He and a partner also found time to start his own business, DK Diesel Repair.
John served on many organizations, including the Association of Diesel Specialists, an international organization of diesel service shops. It was through his work as both an educator and in business that he was approached by John Wiley & Sons publishing to write a textbook on diesel engine repair. This resulted in John authoring Diesel Engine and Fuel System Repair in 1982, followed by a second edition in 1987. After a third edition, it was also translated into Spanish. It remained the most-used diesel engine repair textbook for many years.
Life is not all business, and John made the most of his time with family, friends and many activities. He never lost his boyhood love of John Deere tractors. He spent countless hours tracking down old tractors in fields and sheds and lovingly restoring them to service. He and Marlis made many trips around the area to take part in antique tractor shows and plowing contests. He also used his tractors to plant and cultivate his own potato crop, so he would have a ready supply of his favorite food for the entire family—usually about 3,000 lbs. The Fourth of July parades in Watertown provided opportunities to entertain children of all ages with his tractors.
He also lovingly restored the pickups and cars he had owned over the years, especially the family's 1957 Chevy Bel-Air and his 1967 Chevy pickup. His most recent task was to work with his grandson Jeremiah to restore his 1955 Chevy pickup.
John also followed up on an early love for flying. He earned his private pilot's license and enjoyed attending airshows and seeing the country from up high. He never tired of reminiscing about his trip with friends to Texas to pick up a De Haviland Canada Beaver bush plane.
John and Marlis also loved to travel. They visited all 50 states and Canada, in addition to several European countries.
John loved spending time with his brothers, sons, grandsons, nephews and family hunting and fishing. The annual Dagel pheasant hunt was a much-anticipated event every October, bringing together many of the clan to sweep the fields for birds. This past opener he shot his limit both days. He and the family also spent many happy hours fishing on Lake Kampeska. The lake cabin served as a base for not only fishing, but water skiing and many other family outings.
John treasured family above all. His early memories were of family strategy sessions around the kitchen table at the farm, a practice he continued with his own family throughout his life. Now his children will carry on that tradition in their own way.
John passed away on Wednesday, January 24 at Prairie Lakes Hospital in Watertown, surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife of 63 years Marlis, sons Jon (Debbie Lukonen) of Watertown, Keith (Barb) of Sioux Falls, daughter Lyn Haug (Jim) of Rapid City, exchange student Monique van der Weijden (Reeuwijk, Netherlands), grandsons Jeremiah Dagel of Watertown, Alexander Haug and Jonathan Haug of Scottsdale AZ, and Samuel Haug of Rapid City, granddaughters Aanna Okerlund of Sioux Falls, Jada (Noah) Pyper of Sioux Falls, and great-grandson Cohen Pyper of Sioux Falls. He is also survived by his brothers Harold (Judy) of Harrison MT, Thomas (Carol) and Kenneth (Kathy) of Waverly, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents Fred and Charlotte and his brother Jim.
John was a member of the: Immaculate Conception Church, Watertown, Association of Diesel Specialists, USA Plowing Organization, Commemorative Air Force (Colonel), Buffalo Ridge Two Cylinder Club, John Deere Collectors, James Valley Two-Cylinder Club, Vice-President of the Codington County Historical Society, Jeans and Janes Square Dance Club, AVA and SDVA.
John's activities also included: organizing the first Trade & Industrial Teacher Association and served as its first president, represented SD on the Mid-America Curriculum Consortium Committee and helped write the ASES competency test for the Mid-America Curriculum Consortium, SD Outstanding Vocational Educator Award (1975), the SD Vocational Teacher Certification Committee, worked with the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, Washington DC, developing truck diesel mechanics' tests and delivered Meals on Wheels.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to be made to the John F. Dagel Scholarship at the LAVTI Diesel Program.