Joseph “Joe” Ressler, 92, a lifelong Mandan resident, died May 17, 2023, at Sanford ICU with his wife, Colleen, holding his hand. He was the fifth of twelve children to Nick and Monica (Eckroth) Ressler.
Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 AM on Monday, May 22, 2023, at Christ the King Catholic Church, Mandan, with Fr. Fred Harvey celebrating. Burial will be at 2 PM at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, with full military honors.
Visitation will be held at Christ the King Church, where Joe was a charter member, on Sunday, May 21, 2023, from 5 to 7 PM, with a parish vigil and rosary at 7 PM. Visitation will continue one hour prior to the service at the church on Monday.
Born on January 24, 1931, he was called Joe, Uncle Joe, Papa Joe, Snoopy, and Don Entzel’s angel throughout his rich life. Joe attended St. Joseph’s grade school where he was drawn more to mechanics than academics. Raised with the Ressler work ethic, he was accustomed to hard work, early hours, and fixing things. As a young boy, he worked for Joe Wetzstein tending horses in the summer for a dollar a week. He also worked for Love’s Dairy where he would rise at 3 AM to round up cattle and begin milking in the early hours. His wages were $7.00 a week, which were needed at home with such a big family. He was allowed to keep a dollar which he used for a 12-cent movie and a milkshake at Bone’s Ice Cream Parlor.
Desiring to further his abilities as a mechanic, Joe joined the Air Force a week before his 16th birthday. His parents had to sign for him. In the Air Force for three years, he worked as a mechanic and military policeman. His most memorable time was a sixteen-month stint in Guam.
After being honorably discharged, he began employment where he met his first wife of 43 years, Isabella Graner. Following their marriage, Joe drove for Hauk Transport. Joe and Isabella became parents when Virginia Ann was born on February 29, 1956. In June, 1959, Joe received Driver of the Month Award from the ND Motor Carriers Association. Harold Zimmerman described him as “conscientious, clean, neat and good at getting along with customers. He has a commendable record of courtesy and assistance to highway motorists.”
Shortly after this, Joe’s skills were needed at Barney’s Standard where he worked until 1970. That year his dream of becoming an over-the-road trucker was realized. He picked up his brand-new Kenworth eighteen-wheeler in Seattle. Joe logged the miles while Isabella kept the books. He drove that semi across thirteen states until he “retired” due to Isabella’s failing health in 1992. That year he received the Driver of the Year Award from the ND Safety Council for his outstanding record of driving 3.5 million accident-free miles.
Known for his enterprising spirit, Joe had his beloved Kenworth converted back to a dump truck in which he hauled sand, gravel, recycled asphalt, and coal until he retired in the fall of 2017, at the age of 86.
It was during Isabella’s need for care at St. Vincent’s Care Center that he first met Sister Colleen Mickelsen in pastoral care there. Near her death in June of 1996, Isabella said, “You and Joe would be so happy together.” Her wish came true two years later when Joe and Colleen were married in July.
Joe was known as a kind, faith-filled man who enjoyed life. He looked forward to yearly summer trips with Colleen where they camped with friends, Lary and Sue Poulton. He enjoyed Norsk Hostfest in Minot each fall.
Blessed to have shared in his life is his loving wife of 24 years, Colleen, Mandan; his daughter, Ginny (Ken) Braunagel, Camas, WA; brothers, Clarence and Nick (Nadine); sisters, Kathleen John and Adeline Castleberry; sisters-in-law, Cheryl Ressler, Paulette Ressler, Sharon (Steve) Dalen, and Colette (Greg) Furness; brother-in-law, Tony (Jari) Mickelsen; along with many nieces, nephews, and friends.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 43 years, Isabella; his parents; brothers, Ed (Violet), Christ (Agnes), Paul, and John who died just three days before Joe; sisters, Ida (Jack) Bohl, Dorothy (Frank) Hellman, and infant Mary Ann; in-laws, Katherine Graner, Barney (Isabelle) Graner, Raymond (Evelyn) Graner, Lawrence (Colleen) Mickelsen, Dick John, and Wendel Castleberry; and special friend, Patrick Boehm.
Joe’s last six months were spent at Sunset Drive Care Center where he received compassionate care from dedicated caregivers, whom he loved and felt at home with. A special thank you to them and so many family and friends, especially Karen Smith, who visited him while there along the way, blessing his way all the way home. His barber, Mike, from Silver Clipper, assisted him into the shop each time he had his hair cut and was so kind when Joe was compromised. A special thanks to the excellent care he received so often when he was a patient at Sanford, especially Dr. Sean Russell who faithfully checked up on him.
Memorials are preferred to Christ the King Montessori School or the ND Veterans Cemetery in Joe’s memory.