John Robert Sakariassen, 92, Bismarck, died Sunday, March 26, 2023 in Hospice care at Touchmark on West Century, Bismarck.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00AM, Friday, May 5th at First Presbyterian Church, Bismarck, with Rev. Dr. Leanne Simmons officiating. Private interment was held previously at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan.
John, called “Bob” by family and business associates and “Sak” by many friends, was born July 14, 1930 in Mandan, the son of John A. and Phyllis (Yochim) Sakariassen. He grew up in Mandan and graduated from Mandan High School in 1948. He attended the University of North Dakota where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi and a founding member of the Varsity Bards. He graduated in 1952 with a degree in commerce and a commission in the U.S. Air Force. He entered active duty that summer.
In December 1952, John married Betty Ann Holt in Grand Forks. The couple resided in North Carolina where John was assigned to Headquarters, 9th Air Force. The following spring he was re-assigned to duty in South Korea. After his return and release from active duty the couple moved to Bismarck to make their home and raise their three children. John joined his father at Saks News, Inc., a wholesale magazine and book distributorship. He remained active in the Air Force Reserve and retired in 1976 at the rank of Major.
In their early years in Bismarck, John and Betty were members of several musical groups. At a time when most of the town’s entertainment was locally produced, they appeared in a number of local productions both singly or together. They were long time members of the First Presbyterian choir. John was a youth group leader at the church while Betty directed the youth choir. John served as an Elder at First Presbyterian.
In his business life, John was active in magazine industry affairs, serving on many boards and committees. He was president of two regional trade associations and, in the mid-1980s served as chairman of the trade association representing magazine wholesalers throughout the U.S. and Canada. Over a number of years, John, through acquisition, expanded the distribution area served by Saks News from Bismarck and Minot to the entire state of North Dakota and into northwestern Minnesota, with distribution centers in Bismarck and Fargo.
In 1969 John was appointed chairman of the Bismarck Urban Renewal Agency, a position he held for the entire ten-year life of the entity. The Agency was charged with the revitalization of Bismarck’s downtown.
In 1970 John was elected to the Board of Trustees of Bismarck Hospital, and seven years later, was elected chairman, a position he held for 15 years. Those were eventful years of growth and change as the hospital transitioned to Medcenter One. In 1994 John was presented the Trustee Award of Merit by the North Dakota Hospital Association. He later received the Robert H. Lundberg Award from Medcenter One.
When the Bismarck State College Foundation was organized, John became a trustee. He served as president in 1990 during the celebration of the college’s 50th year. In 1997, he was named a trustee emeritus.
John was a founding director of the Bismarck Development Association (now part of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber EDC) and served as president. He was a 25 year member of the board of directors of First Bank, Bismarck (now US Bank). He was a director of the Provident Life Insurance Company.
He was a devoted 63 year member of the Bismarck Rotary Club and served as club president in 1969-70. At the time of his death, he was both the club’s oldest and longest-serving member.
In the mid-1990s, John began to curtail his activities to devote more time to the care of his ailing wife. His beloved Betty Ann died at Christmastime 2007.
John had wide ranging interests including art, architecture, and music, both jazz and classical. He was an avid reader, mostly of history. He enjoyed gardening, at which he was very good and golfing, at which he was admittedly not very good. His great joy was his family. He took great pride in the lives and achievements of his children, their spouses, his grandchildren, and great grandchildren,
He is survived by his sister, Irene “Dede” Linseth, Bismarck; a daughter and son-in-law, Betsy and Horace Nash, Seguin, Texas; a son and daughter-in-law, John Erik and Amy Sakariassen, Bismarck; a son and daughter-in-law, Paul and Karen Sakariassen, Lakeville, Minn; a granddaughter and grandson-in-law, Kristi and Blake Onkka, Prior Lake, Minn; a grandson Michael Sakariassen, Eden Prairie, Minn; a grandson Alexander Sakariassen, Missoula, Mont; a granddaughter, Emily Sakariassen, Bismarck; and great-grandchildren, Lucy and Max Onkka.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Betty; his brother, Charles “Bill” Sakariassen; and brother-in-law, Jerry Linseth.
The family prefers, in lieu of flowers, memorials to First Presbyterian Church, Bismarck, the Bismarck State College Foundation, or the charity of the donor’s choice.