Navy man. Mechanic. Pilot. Winemaker. Boxer. Cook. Downhill skier. Uncle. Brother. Grandfather. Husband. Father. Bop-Bop.
Jesse J. Tougas died peacefully Sunday, July 12, 2020 in Mankato Minnesota, after family members who were at his side all day left the room for just a few minutes. He was 88 and apparently didn’t want to be rude.
He is survived by a son, Joe, of North Mankato, Minnesota; granddaughters Samantha Tougas and Wendy Tougas and her husband Dan Vierck; grandson Dylan Tougas of Bellingham, Washington.; brothers Raleigh, David, Bernie and Patrick; sister Ellen Hanson; daughters-in-law Mary Effertz of Stoughton and Shelley Tougas of Hudson; brother- and sister-in-law Bob and Jean Doyle of Chicago; great-grandsons Raleigh and Joey; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife Mary; and brothers Bert and Ian.
Jesse was born Nov. 1, 1932 to Alva and Enza Tougas in Brainerd, Minnesota, where he attended school, graduating from Brainerd High School in 1950. During the Korean conflict he enlisted and served in the United States Navy on ships including the U.S.S. Lexington. He toured the United States on his Harley Davidson, living on both coasts in jobs that ranged from commercial fishing to movie usher.
He moved to Chicago and began working for General Motors when he met Mary F. Solms, at Carney’s Tavern in Chicago’s South Side. The two were married at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in June 17, 1961. They had one son, Joseph, on April 7, 1962.
The family moved to a new home Jesse designed and helped build on weekends in Edgerton in 1973. He soon thereafter opened his own diesel repair business, Tougas Diesel Exchange in Milton, where he worked throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.
He retired shortly after Mary was struck with a brain tumor and a paralyzing stroke. He tended to her every need for years together, eventually agreeing to have her cared for at Nazareth House in Stoughton where he moved in order to be with her daily. They traveled around the country and Jesse doted on her to the end. Mary died with Jess kneeling at her side on June 17, 2017 – their 56th wedding anniversary.
In Stoughton, Jess was a celebrated member of the community and enjoyed spending time at Vincenzo’s and a few other night spots with good friends as well as the Stoughton Senior Center, where he volunteered, shot pool and made wooden furniture he would give to loved ones. He was the light of many lives, the youngest of which were his two great-grandsons Raleigh and Joey, who lost their minds when Bop-Bop knocked on the door.
He was a devoutly spiritual man who liked challenging himself with new tasks and new ideas. He loved fishing, cooking and starting conversations and friendships with complete strangers. His favorite leisure time activity was working on something, anything. He fixed everything, and that will be missed by many.
He was a skilled winemaker, winter lumberjack, cook, and chess player. He could ring the bell on those strongman carnival games and once took home a championship arm-wrestling trophy from a Trempealeau, summer festival when all he really wanted to do was get a beer. (See “new challenges” above.)
Toward the end, when he moved to Mankato to live with Joe for hospice care, he enjoyed watching films, listening to music and visits from hospice nurses and staff.
Jesse’s personality, his love for his family and his impact on those who knew him are immeasurable.
A short prayer gathering and burial will take place for family members at 10 a.m. Friday, July 17 at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Milton. The Albrecht Funeral Homes & Cremation Services, Milton is assisting the family with arrangements.
A celebration of his life will take place at a later date. See you then.