Garry Richard Tollefson


February 3, 1940 - May 8, 2016


Garry Richard Tollefson was born February 3, 1940 in Sanborn County near Cuthbert, SD to Lyle Richard and Dorene (Adams) Tollefson. He attended school in Mt. Vernon, SD.  He loved working for his uncle, Herbert Tollefson, on the farm near Woonsocket, SD, and hunting with his uncle, LaVerne Tollefson, starting cherished life-long relationships. At the young age of 15, he met the love of his life, Sara (Sally) Morgan, marrying 3 years later, September 20, 1958.  As a young man, Garry worked as an automobile mechanic for Marlyn Gjesdal in Mt. Vernon, SD.  He spent five years in the sport of boxing with Mitchell UCT.  He went to work for Montgomery Ward in Mitchell, SD as a tire shop foreman before he accepted a position at Hormel Meats Company.  When the Mitchell Hormel plant closed, Garry went to work at Mt. Vernon School, maintaining several buildings and classrooms and driving the school bus.  His mornings would start very early, especially in the cold winters, to be sure the school was warm for the students and faculty.  He was excited to connect with children and develop life-time relationships at the school and when driving the bus.  Garry was proud of his 32 years of accident free driving.  He was known in the community to mow your lawn, cut down your tree, fix your car or till your garden.  Garry served the community of Mt. Vernon as the Justice of Peace and 41 years as a volunteer fireman with the fire department.  He was a South Dakota National Guardsman serving in the 153rd Engineering Battalion.

Garry’s heart was full of love.  His love for his wife moved him to start his family and raise 6 children making a home in Mt. Vernon.  It was important for Garry to instill his unique genuine qualities to his children, his work ethic, honesty, loyalty, generosity, passion, sense of humor and sense of pride in accomplishments.  Life lessons and qualities were taught first hand at the farm, in the garden, pheasant hunting, camping, fishing and while playing pinochle.

He was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1973, serving faithfully for 43 years.  He was an encouragement to his congregation.  His faithful example taught spiritual values to his children.  Garry brightened your day by making you laugh. 

He is survived by his wife, Sara (Sally); four sons:  Roger (Pamela), Gering, NE,  Richard (Teresa), Myrtle Beach, SC,  Daniel, Sturgis, MI,  Matthew (Diedre’), Syracuse, NY;  two daughters:  Janette (Dan) Block, Sioux Falls, SD,  Nancy (Don) Gehrke, Luverne, MN;  three brothers: Darrell ‎( DeeDee ),‎ Aberdeen SD,  Herbert L., Luverne, MN;  Eugene (Kathy), Parkston, SD;  two sisters:  Gloria Ann (Mel) Tuffs, Mt. Vernon, SD,  Dorene (Richard) Polz, Jackson, MN;  one sister-in-law:  Mary Lou Tollefson, Mitchell, SD;  eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Garry was preceded in death by his parents; one brother, Randall; one sister, Martha Hanson and one brother-in-law, James C. Hanson.


Thursday, May 12, 2016
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Bittner Funeral Chapel
805 West Havens
Mitchell, South Dakota


Friday, May 13, 2016
10:30 AM
Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses
S Highway 37
Mitchell, South Dakota


Mount Vernon Cemetery
Mount Vernon, South Dakota

Posted by Brandy ( stunes) ainslie on May 12, 2016
My siblings and I have great memories of Gary. He was our bus driver during our grade school years in Mt vernon. He was the fun bus driver. Sometimes on Fridays he would stop at the store in town so we could get candy for the ride. Even with a crazy bunch of kids , he always seemed happy. But you knew he mentioned business if he pulled the bus over :)
Posted by Pamela (Hyde) Hughes on May 12, 2016
Garry was my bus driver, janitor for our wonderful school, and even my boss for awhile for a summer job, but most of all he was my friend. He will be missed, and always and forever remembered fondly. My heart is heavy, but I know he is well and happy. I will always love Garry and his whole family, each meaning so much to me. Bless you all in your memories of this great, caring, selfless, and funny man.
Posted by janette block on May 12, 2016
The greatest gift our dad gave us is that he loved our mom dearly and us dearly. We will miss him, but what a wonderful promise the Bible gives all of us that we will see him again. Until then we have each other to lean on for comfort. Thank you Daddy for all you did for us. love Janette
Posted by Lywellyn Paul Tollefson on May 11, 2016
Just a comment to say that I think the photo chosen for Garry's obituary captured a lot of his essence. A great guy with a twinkle in his eye and an insatiable sense of humor. He will be missed by all of us. Cindy and I also have always thought that he married really well. We will be there to honor him and his greatest legacy; his terrific family.
Posted by Eugene Tollefson on May 11, 2016
Our son Benjamin alway wanted to hear about Garry past .He would laugh so hard about some of the story that i told him.Ben love you a lot..
Posted by Vicki morgan on May 10, 2016
Gary was my brother-in-law but I never thought of him that way. To me he was just my brother. I never have known such a big man with a hart as big as he was. I will never forget him and his big hart๐Ÿ˜
Posted by Amanda and Eddie Nava, Family on May 10, 2016
Uncle Gary had the best personality and since of humor. Family reunions were a blast with him and playing cards....well, if you've ever played with know what I'm saying. He made it so fun! Every time we were together, we would laugh until we cried. And then we would laugh about crying. It is so hard to believe that he is gone ๐Ÿ’”. Aunt Sally, Roger, Rick, Matthew, Dan, Jennett and Navy, I love you all so much. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Posted by Steve Tollefson on May 10, 2016
Want do you say about Gary that every one else wont say he was a generous, hard working man, his humor is what legends are made of. We all will have a Gary story all the lives he touched the custodian the bus driver the farmer the neighbor coworker brother uncle the dad and the dad husband. What made him special to me was that he always seemed to be active in my life, it did not hurt we grew up only blocks from the family the cousins all of us spent time together not every day but enough to have a close bond and love for each other. the love for family and community was strong in Gary he served Mt Vernon as Mayor and Fireman as well. He may not have perfect but he was real and honest and he was loved by many the legacy tells the tale the memories the story Love you all
Posted by Dave and Tammy Vawser on May 9, 2016
Sending our sympathy to the family....Gary was a great Man.Very sorry Sally hold the memories close and talk much about him it helps the soul mend. Keep him close to your heart he will always be there. โค
Posted by Oran and Amy Sweet on May 9, 2016
Garry was a great person
Posted by Perry & Lynn Hubbard on May 9, 2016
Our heartfelt condolence to Sally, Roger, Janette, Rick, Dan, Matthew, Nancy and so many other family members.
Uncle Garry will truly be missed. No one could make us laugh and cry til our cheeks hurt like he did. Or say it, how it really is. So many of us have what we call "Garry Stories" and I am sure we will be telling them. He would love to be a mouse in a pocket and listen and laugh with us. He would not want us to be sad. He would tell us to SHAPE UP.
For now he leaves us with sadness and a part of our hearts, but we look forward to seeing him again and hearing his unforgettable laughter and smile. Till then Love to the family
Lynn Hubbard
Posted by David Dill on May 9, 2016
Great memories of Gary from my teaching and coaching years at Mt. Vernon. He always had a way to make people laugh and smile. Sending our prayers and thoughts to family and friends.
Dave & Ruth Ann Dill
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