Donald William Steffan, 76, longtime Minot area grocer, died Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, in his home surrounded by his loving family.
Don was born March 27, 1937, at the Weidler family farm, south of Velva, to Benard and Gladys (Weidler) Steffan. He attended school in Sawyer, where he played on the basketball and baseball teams. Don grew up on his parents’ farm, south of Sawyer, and always maintained a love for the land and farming. He loved to drive out in the country and watch farmers do field work and harvest.
Don’s employment started at the Minot Air Force Base in 1958, working in the construction industry. He also worked at M & H Gas Station and the Great Northern Railroad before beginning his over 50-year career in the grocery business in 1959. Don began his grocery career at the Downtown Red Owl Store, Minot’s first grocery supermarket, as a stockman. He became the assistant manager downtown and was then promoted to store manager at South Hill Red Owl, which later became known as Red Owl Country Store. Don was always very proud of his 25-year career with Red Owl and he won many awards for outstanding employee courtesy, store cleanliness and for exceeding sales goals.
Don met Carol Odden in Minot and they were married in 1983. In 1984, Don and Carol purchased the Red Owl Store in Rugby. He had always wanted to own his own grocery store and with Carol by his side his dream was realized. Don and Carol moved back to Minot and he began his business relationship with Steve and Linda Barlow, owners of the Miracle Mart stores in Minot. Don took a position at the Dakota Square Miracle Mart and was promoted to store manager in 1985. He had a great run with Steve, Linda and all of the Miracle Mart employees and was later promoted to Miracle Mart Minot all store director.
When the Miracle Mart stores were later sold to Johanneson’s Inc. and became Marketplace Foods Stores, Don stayed on during the transition period and he and owner Keith Johanneson became great business associates and friends before Don retired in the fall of 2009. Don always said, “Don’t burn your bridges, you just might wind up working for your competitor,” and in this case he was right.
During his career, Don was given the nickname, “Big Daddy” and the “Godfather” by his employees, store vendors and friends, as a term of endearment and sometimes purely out of their fear when he gave them the Don Steffan look, or they needed a positive attitude adjustment. He was an old school manager who loved to be on the sales floor working and visiting with his employees and customers. He took pride in being tough but fair. Like him or not, he had a tough exterior, but a big heart when it came to helping out his employees, friends and family.
Don delivered Meals on Wheels for the Minot Commission on Aging for more than 30 years. He looked forward to every Wednesday to helping feed those in need. He took pride in delivering meals regardless of the weather and many times took his children or grandchildren along to teach them the importance of giving back to the community. Many of the people he delivered to became lifelong friends.
Don was a member of Bethel Free Lutheran Church, Minot, where he served as a trustee and cared for the lawn. He was also active with the North Dakota Grocers Association throughout the years, where he was recognized in 1994 as the N.D. Grocer of the Year. When he wasn’t working, Don could often be found mowing his lawn, cooking supper, going for a ride in his sports car or pick-up with one of his three poodle dogs, Hardy, Heidi or Haddie. He also enjoyed spoiling his kids, grandkids or great-grandkids. Don loved collecting diecast toys, especially John Deere tractors, along with listening to Gospel music.
Thanks for all the memories Don, Dad, Grandpa, Big Daddy! We will always love and miss you!
Don is survived by: his wife of over 30 years, Carol; son, Rick Steffan, Minot; daughter, Kim (Randy) Lakoduk, Minot; stepsons, Rob Odden, Minot, and Jeff (Alexis) Odden, Fargo; granddaughters, Kellie (Mitch) Meyer, Wahpeton, and Kelsey and Alexa Odden, of Ashburn, Va; grandsons, Jon (Jessica) Lakoduk, Jordon Lakoduk and his fiancee, Julia Ahrndt, and Nathon Lakoduk, all of Minot; Colton Odden, Fargo; great-grandsons, Lucas Lakoduk, Minot, and his future brother expected in January 2014, Minot; sisters, Bernadine (Gary) Fikse, Gardnerville, Ariz., and Lodena Todd, Laguna Niguel, Calif.; aunts, Ruth Zimbelman and Sarah (Harlan) Shippy; and several nieces, nephews and cousins.
Don was preceded in death by his parents.
Funeral service: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, at 1 p.m., in Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Brethren Church, Minot
Visitation: Tuesday, Oct. 29, from 2 to 6 p.m., in the Thomas Family Funeral Home, Minot.
Memorials: In lieu of flowers and plants, the family prefers memorials to Youth For Christ, Bethel Free Lutheran, Our Redeemer’s, all Minot, or an organization of the donor’s choice.
Those wishing to sign the online memorial register or share memories are invited to use the expression of sympathy section at (www.thomasfamilyfuneralhome.com).