John Franklin Hartwig, 85, (better known as “Dad/Grandpa or Sr”), son of the late Frederick Hartwig and Alma (Draeger) Hartwig of Johnson Creek, passed away at his home on February 22, 2022 after a long and valiant fight with heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.
John was born on Feb. 28, 1936. The day he was born, it was the first time it snowed that winter…and snow it did! Apparently, the doctor who came to the house to help deliver him, had a difficult time getting there because of all of the snow—perhaps this is when John’s love for winter and snowmobiling was born?!
During school, John excelled in athletics—playing both Football and Basketball for the Johnson Creek Bluejays and also played the trombone in the High School band. During his sophomore year of High School, John had to overcome a huge hardship when he lost his mother. At that moment and throughout the rest of his life, John understood the importance of family as he and his 11 brothers/sisters learned to fend for themselves with the help of their father.
After graduating high school, John attended college at UW Platteville and began dating the late Dorothy (Schloesser); they married on April 11, 1959 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Jefferson, WI. Shortly after they married, John was drafted in the United States Army and he served a two-year term to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina where he trained to be a Medic and Paratrooper for the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division….as dad put it, “It’s when he learned how to jump out of a perfectly good airplane!” After John finished his service commitment, he and Dorothy moved back to Wisconsin where they built their house and started their family, being blessed with three children.
Throughout his life, John was handy with tools and gained the reputation of being a “Fix it Guy” helping people with their service needs in a large 2-car garage that he built. He also tried his hand at racing Midget Cars in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest. And it didn’t take long in his racing career, for John’s strong mechanical skills and keen driving abilities to excel him into being an Angell Park Track champion--all on what he called a “shoestring budget!”. After he retired from racing, you could usually find John Sunday nights at Angell Park in Sun Prairie cheering on his fellow racers and reminiscing about the glory days of racing.
In 1967, John purchased his first Rupp snowmobile and it was at that moment that he fell in love with snowmobiling and shortly thereafter, he became a Rupp Snowmobile Dealer. Then in 1978, a representative from Polaris stopped by asking if John would consider being a “temporary dealer” for Polaris—it’s at that point that he and wife Dorothy began building what would become John Hartwig Motor Sports, a very successful and long-standing family run Polaris snowmobile and Off-Road vehicle dealership for the last 40+ years—it’s also when we coined the phrase “It’s when his snowmobile hobby really got out of hand!”
While growing the powersports business, John also held a full-time position as a Locator for Wisconsin Electric, until he took early retirement and shortly thereafter, he took up gardening because his retirement motto was “If you rest, you’ll rust!” Each spring, dad would plant hundreds of annuals in front of the business storefront and would collect hundreds of gallons of rainwater--faithfully watering and nurturing all of the plants well into the fall until the frost would eventually kill them off. He was also a long-time member of the JC Riders Snowmobile Club and was very supportive of all things snowmobiling/recreation…including, but not limited to, attending many of the Snowmobile Club breakfasts through the years.
John leaves behind his siblings: Carol Neuman of Florida, Brother Robert (Donna) Hartwig of Watertown, sister Kathleen Bauer of Michigan, Sister-in-law Ruth Hartwig, along with his children: John Jr (Amy), Julie (Donald) Chapin and Jane (Paul) Schmidt and grandchildren: Elise and Claire Chapin, Haden Hartwig, Emilie and Cohen Schmidt. John is preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy, his parents Fred and Alma, his siblings, Frederick, W.O. “Bud”, James, Dorothy, Lucille, Donald, Elizabeth and Joyce at infancy, along with other family and special friends.
John will be laid to rest at Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Johnson Creek, where he was a long-time member. Before they passed, John and Dorothy designed their own headstone, with the help of nephew John Block Jr, from Block’s Watertown Memorial Co. The headstone shows John pictured with his champion race car along with a beautiful bouquet of flowers—something that brought them both joy.
As John’s health deteriorated the last few years, his family put together a strong care team (aka Sr’s pit crew) who helped keep him in his home and provided him with friendship, grace and great care. A special thanks to Christine, the team at Home Helpers of Lake Country, Brightstar of Janesville, Rainbow Hospice (Nurse Jenny and all of the Rainbow Helpers including volunteer Brian), Pastor Fricke and the members/visitors from Immanuel Ev. Lutheran, Jefferson County Meals on Wheels (and the great team from Opportunities who delivered his meals with giant smiles each week) and of course, his dear family and special friends.
Memorials may be directed to Immanuel Ev. Lutheran in Johnson Creek, Rainbow Hospice of Johnson Creek, Johnson Creek Legion Post #305, JC Riders Snowmobile Club, Johnson Creek Historical Society, Angell Park Speedway, or the charity/organization of one’s choice.
Visitation will be held on Saturday, February 26 from 9 a.m. until the time of service at 11 a.m. at Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church in Johnson Creek with the Rev. Fricke presiding.
Wishing you Godspeed dad as you take your final victory lap into heaven…until we meet again!
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