John William Conzemius, age 90, passed away peacefully on January 27, 2024, surrounded by family.
John was a family farmer with an emphasis on family. He lived his entire life on the family farm in Douglas Township, just southwest of Miesville. He took pride in being the fourth generation in the Conzemius family to farm since his great-grandfather, Peter Conzemius, came over from Luxembourg in 1856 and in seeing his son and grandson follow in his steps.
John was dedicated to improving his community and agriculture in general. His parents helped establish the Douglas 4-H Club. He was active in St. Joseph Catholic Church in Miesville his entire life. He volunteered for the U.S. Army and was stationed at the Far East command headquarters in Japan from 1954 to 1956 with a top-secret clearance. John was a member of the Miesville Lions and the Cannon Falls Knights of Columbus. He served on the advisory board of the Norwest/Wells Fargo bank branch in Hastings for 25 years.
In agriculture, he served and advocated for farmers at the county and state levels of many organizations including the Minnesota Irrigators Association, the Minnesota Pork Producers, and the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association.
Uniquely, John was a member of the Dakota County Farmers Union and the Dakota County Farm Bureau, serving in leadership roles of both at the same time. John was not a strong leaning liberal or conservative, but worked for and supported groups that he believed bettered agriculture and his community. He served Governor Jesse Ventura, an independent, as an informal advisor on agricultural issues.
He also served on the Dakota County Agricultural Extension Committee for 12 years, the Dakota County Planning Commission for two years, and as a member of the Metropolitan Council for four years.
Property tax legislation was an issue John was passionate about and he was at the forefront of the fight that resulted in the passing of the Green Acres law in the late-1960s. The Minnesota legislation adjusted agricultural land property taxes to be valued for its farm production, not its developmental value. Over the years, John personally lobbied at the State Capitol in St. Paul for property tax reforms that treated working farmers fairly.
The fight to prevent the relocation of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to an area of productive farmland near Vermillion was another one that John took part in and was proud to be on the winning side.
The productivity of the irrigated farmland in Dakota County, especially for vegetables, was something that John valued. When lobbying to protect it in various forums and settings, he often creatively used a visual presentation that included the use of cans of peas, sweet corn, and green beans.
Over the years, John, and his wife, Joan, graciously hosted many international exchange students and tour groups looking to learn more about production agriculture.
The Minnesota Jaycees named John the state’s Outstanding Young Farmer in 1968. John and Joan met and visited many other farmers from across the nation through this group. John and Joan were recognized as the Dakota County Farm Family of the year in 1986.
Baseball was a special love for John and he played and managed for the Miesville Mudhens in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and was later inducted to the team’s Hall of Fame. John was among the small group of players and community members who invested into the purchase of land and construction of the current field, often recognized as one of the nicest in Minnesota.
John was born in the depression and raised in the era of horse-drawn plows and hand-picked corn. Over his career, he was an early adapter of new technology in machinery, irrigation, plant protection products, and new and improved hybrid genetics in seeds and livestock. He developed on the farm businesses in seed sales and plant protection products that he valued for saving money for himself and for his neighbors. Reward trips from those businesses allowed John and Joan to travel around the world (literally on one trip). He lived long enough to marvel at his son and grandson using satellite technology for precision farming purposes.
Always a glass half-full guy, John believed anything could be accomplished with enough hard work. No matter how daunting a task appeared on the farm, John would say it’s a 50-50 chance - it will either work or it won’t. John loved summer because earlier sunrises and later sunsets meant there was more time to accomplish projects.
When not farming, John loved a good card game with family, friends or neighbors. 500 was his game of choice, but he was up for anything. He enjoyed bowling, trips to Vegas, fishings trips in Canada, and visits with friends. He picked up golf late in life and enjoyed the competition and camaraderie.
John is survived by Joan (Schottler), his wife of 62 years, who he met at a dance on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus. Joan was his partner in life and on the farm. He is also survived by his children: Jennifer (Tim) Langdon of Cannon Falls; Sue (Doug) Huebsch of Perham, MN; Julie (Ken) Haggerty of Cannon Falls; Mary (Monte) Bany of Lake City, MN; Mike (Joyce) Conzemius of Cannon Falls; and Jean (Eric) Thoms of Savage, MN. Also survived by his sisters, Jane Donkers of Red Wing, MN and Rita Nichols of Oradell, NJ.
John is survived by 19 grandchildren: Madison (Spencer) Flodeen, Emma (Justin) Langdon, Luke Langdon, Cameron Langdon, Elizabeth (Kamal) Huebsch, Rebecca Huebsch, Mark (Britta) Huebsch, Marek (Kelsey) Haggerty, Marguerite (Joe) Winter, Peter Haggerty, Rachel Bany, Ethan Bany, Grace Bany, Jenna Conzemius, Mitchell Conzemius, Nolan Conzemius, Natalie Thoms, Julia Thoms, and Aubrey Thoms. Also, four great-grandchildren and many beloved nieces and nephews.
He is preceded in death by his parents, George and Marguerite (Driscoll), sister Rosemary Saari of Ann Arbor, MI, and brother George Conzemius of Cannon Falls.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held 11:00 a.m. Saturday, February 3, 2024, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Miesville, with Father Terry Beeson officiating. A visitation will be held from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning. Interment will follow at the parish cemetery and a reception back at the church after the burial.
Family and friends are cordially invited to a visitation Friday, February 2, 2024 from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. Friday evening at Starkson Family Life Celebration Chapel in Hastings, MN.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations can be made to Hastings Family Service.
Arrangements are being completed by Starkson Family Life Celebration Chapel of Hastings.