Willis Ratzlaff: 1932-2023
Willis Ratzlaff, 91 of Freeman, S.D., died Friday, Sept. 1, 2023 at the VA Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. A funeral service will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 8 at the Bethany Mennonite Church in Freeman. Burial will be with military rites at the Schartner Cemetery, rural Marion, S.D. Visitation will be at the church from 5-7pm Thursday evening. Arrangements by Hofmeister Jones Funeral Home.
Willis Bonnell Ratzlaff, son of Ben J. Ratzlaff and Alice (Thomas), was born July 19, 1932 in Freeman. He attended country school and graduated from Freeman Academy in 1950. He then furthered his education at Freeman Jr. College. From 1953 to 1954 Willis served in the U.S. Army and was deployed to Korea serving in a medical staging unit. On Feb. 8, 1964 he was united in marriage to Sharon L. Otten at Grace Lutheran Church in Parker, S.D. To this union three children were born: Kurt, Christopher and Patrick. Four more children joined the family by adoption; Shantel, Donnie, Melanie and Justin.
For many years he worked at the Freeman elevator and farmed part time on his parent’s home place near Freeman. He purchased the land outright after his father’s passing. Willis was an active member of Bethany Mennonite Church in Freeman, serving in the areas of Sunday school, Christian education, council, deacon and custodian. Willis was a quiet but deeply devoted man. He was especially devoted to his faith in God, his family, and the farmland he tirelessly worked and harvested for many years. Children were also very important in Willis’ life. He and Sharon were licensed foster parents for the State of South Dakota for 44 years, caring for and loving 151 children.
Leaving to mourn his passing are his children Kurt Ratzlaff and wife Tara (sons Tyler, Nicholas (Miranda) and Nathan; daughters Jada Hieb (David) and Elizabeth Taggert (Cody) Sioux Falls; Chris Ratzlaff, Sioux Falls, Patrick Ratzlaff and wife Cheryl, Olympia, Wash., Shantel Ratzlaff (daughter Brea), Chanhassen, Minn., Donnie Ratzlaff, Vermillion, S.D., Melanie Ratzlaff (son Ian), Sioux Falls, and Justin Ratzlaff, Tampa, Fla.; along with a very special grandchild, Marquese Rokola, Cokato, Minn. His eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren brought him much joy.
Preceding him in death was his wife of 45 years, Sharon; his parents; sisters Marjorie, Lois, and LeAnne; brother Glenn and grandson Jaden.