William Bolin


William BolinWilliam Bolin age 82 of Garvin passed away Sunday, October 15, 2017 at Our House Hospice in Slayton.  Funeral Services will be held at 10:30 am Friday at Lake Sarah Baptist Church. Visitation will be held on Thursday from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. AT THE CHURCH, and will continue one hour prior to the services on Friday.  Interment will be held at a later date.  Memorials will be donated to the Lake Sarah Baptist Church and the Tracy Area Education Foundation Fund. Online condolences may be sent at www.stephensfuneralservice.com.  Stephens Funeral Service – Tracy Area Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

William T. (Bill) Bolin was born on July 29, 1935 in Mitchell, SD to Tillman W. Bolin and Norma Jean (Young) Bolin. Bill attended grades 1-12 in Slayton, MN. He was active in football, basketball, baseball, school paper, class plays, and speech. As a junior, he represented Slayton at Boy’s State. Following graduation in 1953 he worked for the Murray County Herald and that fall entered Macalester College in St. Paul where he studied Journalism and played both baseball and basketball.  He discovered that journalism wasn’t for him and transferred to Mankato State University working toward degrees in history, English, and physical education. The summer of 1954 he was offered the position of Community Education Director in Slayton; a position he loved and for which he returned in ‘55 –‘57.  In December 1956 he began his 10-week experience as a student teacher in Tracy, MN and was hired the following fall as a history teacher. Over the next 50 years he worked in the Tracy school system; retiring in 1997 and continuing as a substitute teacher thru 2007. During these years he impacted many generations of students as a teacher, coach, referee, behind-the-wheel instructor, and friend.  He had a knack for finding commonalities with all students and was able to build enduring relationships which lasted through his final days as former students called and visited to share their stories of the difference his support made in their lives. During his early years in Tracy, he worked summers at the municipal pool which ultimately led to meeting Sandy Allumbaugh in 1958. They dated while she attended college and married in 1961.  He continued his love of sports and the outdoors by playing baseball for the Tracy Engineers and hunting the backroads of Southwest Minnesota, which often brought him to the lakes area and Tennis Shoe Pass between lakes Maria and Sarah.  In 1968, two days before the Tracy Tornado, they purchased 8 acres of alfalfa on Lake Sarah which initiated an almost 50-year love affair of developing and caring for this piece of heaven on earth. Trees, birds, plants, and wildlife became his passion as they built a lake home and moved out of Tracy full-time in 1991. The acreage remained his love through his last day at home as he enjoyed the sunset from his deck before entering a hospice facility.  Over his lifetime he took on a variety of endeavors that both supported his family and fostered his love of country and Southwest Minnesota History.  He served 20 years in the Army National Guard and was called to active duty for the Marshall Flood and Tracy Tornado.  He served as the Park Naturalist at Lake Shetek State Park for 17 years which allowed him to share the history, flora, and fauna of Southwest Minnesota with people from around the country.   After leaving the DNR, to have more time with his growing family, he used his expertise to teach Elderhostel at Shetek Lutheran Ministries for 20 years. His love of history ran deep and was the common thread which he used to build relationships throughout his life.  No matter the city, state, or country he would bond with people over a common person or event; building the base of friendships he grew with so many people.  He loved writing the “History is Life” column for the SW MN Sailor and penned over 75 articles over his 19 year run. He also grew to admire and respect the Native American culture which plays such a prominent role in Southwest Minnesota history.  Throughout his career he strived to bring the cultures together hosting a rededication of the Lake Shetek Monument, hosting anniversaries of the Shetek historical events and working on the project which led the US Fish and Wildlife Service to purchase the 640 acre Slaughter Slough area.  Bill had many interests and hobbies but his greatest passion and love were for his family. It was not uncommon for Bill and Sandy to make a weekend out of traveling across the southern half of Minnesota to support his grandchildren in their many activities. As his grandchildren grew, he would read them books, recite poetry and tell them stories of his years growing up in SW Minnesota. His detailed storytelling among the grandchildren is legendary and a cherished memory. Bill treated everyone with respect and was always willing to give of himself to others. This legacy of service and love has left a lasting imprint on his grandchildren’s lives. He was a member of Lake Sarah Baptist Church. Consistent with his love of nature, Bill was baptized in the waters of Lake Shetek on July 26, 2009.  Bill enjoyed Wednesday morning men’s Bible study and was a strong supporter of the church and its many ministries.

Bill is survived by his wife of 56 years, Sandy, and children Kelli (Jim) Vogel of Northfield, Tom (Marilyn) Bolin of Marshall, and Shannon (Tom) Hook of Tracy. Grandchildren Matt and Mike Vogel, Grace and Laura Bolin, and Josh, Joe (Kimberly), Cassandra, Sarita and Annaka Hook.  Nieces and Nephews Shannon (Wayne) Pederson, Sue Brown, Sally (Tom) Berg, Bill Johlfs, Lynn (Dan) Iwaszko, and Kris (Jeff) Salmon. Bill was preceded in death by his parents, sister Carol Johlfs, brother-in-law Wally Johlfs, and grandnephew Bob Brown.


  1. Wow, what a life he lived! It must have been a pleasure knowing him. Sorry for your loss. Blessing!

  2. Harold Remme says:

    Our deepest sympathy to Sandy, Kelli, Tom, and Shannon, and the Bolin grandchildren. Bill was one of the finest educators I have ever known. His passion for history – especially Minnesota history and the SW Minnesota area made him a very special teacher. . Bill knew more about SW Minnesota history than you read in a book. He had a gift of being able to describe a history event to students in a classroom and make them feel as though they were there at the moment. His positive influence on students didn’t end in the classroom as he shared his talents in the area of athletics as well. Whenever the school district had a need, Bill was first in line to volunteer his services. By his nature, he was there to help others. It was an honor and privilege to know Bill. He was a wonderful role model for students to follow.
    Harold & Maxine Remme

  3. Jesse Cauwels says:

    I am sorry to hear of the loss of Mr. Bolin. I had the privilege of being one of his students in History class. My condolences to the family! We keep you in our thoughts and prayers! Jesse Cauwels Family

  4. Pat Quinlivan Moe says:

    I was saddened to hear about the passing of Bill. He was a great man, one I got to know subbing in Tracy and through stories from my son Mike Quinlivan. One of my favorite memories is Mike and a few buddies being invited out to help Bill “burn some stuff”! Boys and fire are probably not the best combination, but thankfully all the guys came home unscathed and the Bolin home was still intact!! He will certainly be missed, yet so fondly remembered.
    Pat Quinlivan Moe

  5. Dan Peterson says:

    Bill was a wonderful man in so many ways!! I first got to know him when I substitute taught at Tracy and learned we had similar interests. I loved talking to him about MN history and Native American culture. He touched so many people. What a legacy he left. My sympathies to his family and all those whose lives he touched. Rest In Peace Bill.

  6. Bob Gorman says:

    I posted this on Tom’s facebook page, but still true: I am so sorry for your loss, other than my own father I can think of no one that had an influence on me as much as Bill. In the late 60’s I remember him coming to Currie as part of a summer rec program, later when I was in school he reinforced my interest in history and encouraged me so much. Again having him as a coach in different sports and his overlooking of the intramural program in school. We served six years in the National Guard together before I went active and he encouraged me in that. And his state park tenure, I loved just to go out and talk to him at Shetek and he taught me so much of the local history during that time as well. Coming back and seeing him when we attended sporting events for our niece was always a pleasure. Your father was in so many different aspects of my life and I am so blessed for it.

  7. Amanda Bassett-Swanson says:

    Mr. Bolin was a one of a kind teacher. He connected with all his students and treated everyone with respect. I learned more about history from him than anyone because he made it fun. I also enjoyed teasing him with stories that my grandma told me about him from when he was little. He made an imprint on numerous lives. RIP Mr. Bolin

  8. Dixie Johnson says:

    My condolences to all of you as this is a huge loss. May God give you peace in your heart as you remember this man. May the people who gather with you in these next days be a blessings of love and support.

  9. Sharon Bertels Klasse says:

    Being a neighbor in Slayton to Bill, a classmate, we both attended Macalester College and he was so kind to me, finding me rides home on weekends because I was so homesick. We reconnected recently and I loved hearing from him. As he struggled with cancer he was in my prayers and now I send my heartfelt sympathy to Sandy and the rest of the family. Blessed be his memory in our hearts. ,

  10. Blair Anderson says:

    Mr. Bolin was one of my finest teachers (7th grade history). Though I was not a “star student”, he was certainly an exemplary teacher–always prepared, engaging, and caring. He held the bar high–expecting each of us to excel in learning and loving history. Just a year ago, he took an entire evening to spend with our class of 1966 (50th reunion). What a legacy he has left! With gratitude, Blair Anderson

  11. John and Marlys Terry says:

    So sorry to hear of Bill’s death. We grew up together in Slayton and played sports together in H.S.. Whenever we met we would always talk about the Mill Street gang playing made up roles, tackle football, with a group of guys
    from the other part of town where he lived. Always enjoyed his history stories about the SW part of MN. He was a great guy and will surely be missed!!

  12. Doug Sawatzky says:

    My sympathy to Sandy & the Bolin family. Bill was a person who I had the utmost respect for! Many peoples lives were touched by Bill, especially students @ Tracy High School! I remember the stories some of his students told! He was a great teacher, made school fun, & demanded respect. My dealings with Bill is when he managed the Tracy pool! He was absolutely fabulous. Of course he keep us Balaton boys in control and we looked forward to going to swimming lessons & testing Mr. Bolin’s rules! He seemed to always win with a slight twist of the ear. ???? Bill was caring & made you feel you were a friend! I was fortunate enough to teach his granddaughter, Laura, when his son,Tom, lived in Willmar. It was fun to reconnect with Bill and tell stories and laugh about swimming lessons, sports, & people we knew. Students don’t take for granted or wait until it is to late reconnect with someone you admire because life isn’t forever. Thank you for being part of my live Bill! RIP!

  13. Terry Weisbrich says:

    My condolences to Sandy and his family. So glad we invited him to our 50th Tracy High school Class reunion two years ago. He was definitely the highlight that evening and enjoyed sitting by him at dinner and sharing stories. We gave him a signed picture of a Jr. high Basketball team he coached from 7th through 9th grade that revered his leadership style immensely. I felt so fortunate to “catch up” with him the last couple of years, receive some wonderful letters from him and get a last chance to speak with him about a month ago. I believe he had the most effect on my life of any teacher, coach and friend that I have known. He touched so many lives in a very personal way, I am one of many hundreds that have benefited from knowing him. What a legacy he has left…RIP!

  14. Debi Weisbrich Pack says:

    What a great teacher Mr Bolin was. I enjoyed the great discussions and debates we had in his class. He posed questions that made you think and problem solve. He also made you smile with his unique humor. My Bolin helped me through a difficult time during my high school years with his wisdom and ability to see the best in me.
    My condolences to his family. I know he will be missed.

  15. Jerry Hassenstab says:

    I remember his first years of teaching. He truly made the world a better place. Blessing to all.

  16. Dr. C. Paul Martin says:

    I had the wonderful opportunity and rewarding experience to know, interact and appreciate Bill Bolin in our mutual interests in matters related to the history and peoples, both historical and contemporary, of Southwest Minnesota. His personal and enthusiastic interest and knowledge of Southwest Minnesota historical events which I enjoyed through the spectrum of his guided tours of the sites related to the 1862 War to his personal knowledge of the 1940s Slayton tragedy enabled me to appreciate his educational skills and personality which will allow his students to perpetuate that knowledge to others in our society. Thank you, Bill, for your vocation!

    Dr. C. Paul Martin, Marshall

  17. Marty and Gloria Zeimetz says:

    We would like to extend our sympathy to the Bolin family. We got to know Bill in 1984 when we bought Cliff’s Country Store near Lake Shetek State Park, Currie, MN. Bill would always stop by in the morning on his way to work or when he got done for the day. Yes, he did know a lot about the history that had happened around the park and the surrounding area between the Indians and white man. We learned a lot from him.
    May God bless your family and so sorry for your loss.

  18. John Link says:

    Sandy and family,
    Sorry for your loss. Bill was a fine man. I really enjoyed speaking with him about geneology, native cultures
    and his family. We last spoke when his and my Aunt Shan died last year in NYC. PEACE to all his family and friends.
    He is at rest in a better place.
    Love from Bill’s cousin John Link and our entire family.
    Virginia Bolin Link, William Link, Chris Link and Beth Pascal

  19. Barbara Byrne Whiting says:

    Dearest Sandy and family, Bill had a well-lived life. He left an imprint on all who were fortunate to come into contact with him. I first met him in 9th grade civics class where I loved his teaching style. Later our paths crossed again at Lake Shetek State Park, and then again, when I moved back from British Columbia, on the garden tour where I had a very nice chat with you and Bill and got a personal tour of your property. He had a way of making you feel special by really listening to you. He never forgot who I was after so many years. I greatly admired him. My sincere condolences to you and your family.

  20. Bob Dolan says:

    Condolences and prayers to the family of Bill! What a man. There are only a few people that are that special that when they pass away from our earth, God sweeps them up and they are in Heaven instantly. Bill was that kind of a man. The Angels in Heaven are dancing with the wit and kindness of Bill. I was privileged to know Bill through the Hook family. He was at every event for his grandchildren and would always talk strategy after the game. He was such a great man and if I could be half the person he was, I would have a chance for Heaven. Thank you Bill for being such a friend and an inspiration to me , my family and my boys. You will be missed so much! Love – the Dolans

  21. Paul Carpenter says:

    I have had the greatest admiration for Bill and counted him as one of my most treasured friends. From the time my high school classmate Bob Brockman introduced us in the early 80s, Bill and I explored the 1962 Shetek history together, We walked the 6 miles my great grandfather ran and rode to warn the settlers. We met the descendants of the Fool Soldiers who rescued the captives from Shetek. Bill opened my eyes to the Dakota side of the story and I will ever be grateful. My sincere condolences to Sandy and the rest of the Bolin family. I can not be at the funeral but my prayers will be there for the family in their great loss

  22. Alan Leversedge says:

    My deepest sympathies to Mr Bolins family. He was a great man who had great influence over many people in the area for years. I personally remember him as my high school teacher (Class of 1979)and how he taught with such compassion. I have many good and funny memories of him in the classroom and as one of the football coaches. He also was great out at Lake Shetek State Park. He touched people with the knowledge of the nature that made up SW Minnesota. I don’t think anyone else could compare to him. May his family find peace in knowing how much he meant to do many people and thanks to them for sharing him with all of us. Rest In Peace Mr Bolin.

  23. Diane Gabel says:

    The Bolin family was so special to the Gabels. Bill was especially loved by our children, not only as a teacher but as a friend. Our hearts and prayers are with Sandy, Kelli, Tom, Shannon and their families.

    Wes & Diane Gabel

  24. Shirley Jo Radke Meidl THS Class of 1960 says:

    Dear Sandy and Family, I read Bill’s obituary and smiled as I thought of all the contributions he made to our school, Tracy, and the surrounding area. He was an excellent teacher and certainly was a positive roll model to all his students.
    Every class he taught and every athlete he coached were special and important. Bill came to our 45th class reunion, and we had such a good time visiting with him and sharing stories and revelations of our years at Tracy High School! He truly was a special man.

    May all the years of wonderful memories you and your family shared with Bill be with you, sustain you, and bring you peace. Blessed be his memory.

    Shirley Jo Radke Meidl THS Class of 1960

  25. Nyla Nordvik says:

    My deepest condolences to Sandy and the families of Tom, Shannon and Kelli. Bill was a very special person to our family and he was always interested in hearing what my brother and I were doing. You could not ask for a better teacher, friend, mentor, or family man than Bill. He clearly, will be missed by so many of us, near and far. The best way to honor Bill, is to keep showing others the same respect, kindness and compassion that he is so well remembered for.
    RIP …. we won’t forget you.
    Nyla (McDaniel) Nordvik

  26. Connie Claire (Peterson) Szarke says:

    What wonderful memories I have growing up in the southwest region, which was so loved and cared for by Bill and Sandy. When I returned to Slayton several years ago for my book events, we spent a day together touring and hiking through Slaughter Slough, around several lakes and woods, at Tepeeotah on Lake Shetek, and around Curie, while Bill shared a great deal of fantastic history that matters forever.

    “We owe those who pass, not grief, but gratitude.” —Thornton Wilder

    Love to all—
    Connie Claire (Peterson) Szarke

  27. Jim Ketcham says:

    My deepest condolences to Sandy and the rest of the Bolin family. I was and remain so impressed with the many testimonies of Bill’s former students. I treasured our brief times together during the 1990’s and all the help Bill provided me in researching the stories of the Shetek settlers and the Fool Soldiers. I just learned of his death through our mutual friend, Barb Britain in MN. I hope you can all treasure the wonderful memories of Bill. He has enriched so many lives. Now it is our turn to remember and tell the stories. Peace to you.

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