Roland Sardeson Remembers Roland Sardeson, 1946-2016

It is customary for one’s obituary to be penned by a third party. Why is that? I wanna do my own. What could go wrong?

I was born in late November 1946 on the cusp of the baby boom in Dodgeville. After some confusion over where I would live and with whom, I was placed with my maternal grandparents on an Edenic (in hindsight) dairy farm hard astride the Pecatonica River near Hollandale.

In addition to the Pecatonica, there was a big frog and turtle pond, an abandoned railroad right of way, sandstone bluffs crowned with white pines and century-old oaks and several Native American camp and tool making sites. These treasures, along with the cows, pigs, chickens and a menagerie of plants and wild animals, made for an idyllic if somewhat sheltered childhood.

Small dairies abounded at that time. Neighbors exchanged work, there were playmates, cousins and quiet times. I was quite oblivious to the travails of the outside world. I hoped it would never end.

End it did. At 18 the world intruded upon the lives of many young men when our leaders, the smartest men in the room, the best and the brightest, decided we must save a small country in Southeast Asia from itself.

Not content to be drafted, I signed up willingly and joined the Marine Corps. You may ask why would anyone join the Marine Corps and especially during a war. Well, I don’t know. Who knows anything at 19 years of age? I suppose patriotism had a part in it, adventure, also. See the world. Ignorance and naiveté surely played a role. In any case my outlook on the world expanded and changed during those three years. All the stories good or bad one reads about Vietnam or any war are probably true to someone at some time. My tour was by turns boring, scary (if not terrifying), exciting, rewarding, devastating, exhilarating, life affirming, life threatening, and eye opening. When my turn came to go home I didn’t need to be coaxed. I survived/thrived during it, and it was the seminal event in my life on which all other things are partially based.

Twenty-two years old, free of military encumbrance and discipline and glad to be home, I spent my time growing hair and being responsible and attending the University of Wisconsin at Platteville. After four years of rigorous study they awarded me a bachelor of arts degree. It did not, however, confirm on me any job skills. And here is where fate played such a profound role. A random pottery course taken to fulfill an art requirement led me to talk my way into a job in Mineral Point, making pottery, and it has been my home for 43 years.

Natives like to say, “But you weren’t born here.” I reply, “No, I was not born here, but I got here as soon as I could.” The pottery fling lasted a decade or so, but if you keep your eyes open you can still find my work at rummage sales and antique shops at a fraction of its original cost, and now that I’m gone, who knows what will happen?

Pottery making did not afford me the means to the style of life to which I wanted to become accustomed. And when no one was looking, I slipped over into the stone masonry business. Mineral Point is blessed with extant stone and limestone houses and commercial buildings, stone walls and outlying farm buildings often in need of repair or rebuilding. So this is what I did for three decades. Now, again you may ask, isn’t stone masonry a brutal, hard and mind-numbing trade that results in sore backs, smashed fingers and a sour outlook on life and sometimes too much drink? Yes, for many, but not me. I found it a useful and honorable task that brought me much satisfaction. Gradually, though, the stones became heavier, due, I think, to increased gravitational pull as a result of global warming. Just a theory. The jury’s still out on that.

Mineral Point has an opera house and the opera house has a stage. This, too, was a central part of my time here. Community theater provided an outlet for all the things I wished to be.

I would be remiss if I did not mention sky diving. At midlife I learned to skydive. It was an excitement akin to Vietnam, but more controllable and in small doses. I made 1,860 jumps in all. They were all good, the best being when I jumped into the fourth of July band concert for two or three years.

If I have had any regrets of a lifetime lived, they would be:

1. It seems our leaders, the smartest men in the room, continue to try and improve the lives of people in other countries by attacking them with little or no forethought as to its necessity or consequences.

2. I would have liked to have been a senior fellow at a think tank.

3. I should have danced a lot more.

At this time obits usually list surviving relatives and friends, but they know who they are, so I’ll forego that. There will be no funeral, just a private burial. Space is limited so it should be a hot ticket.

Well, this bio has gone on much too long, and I still have much to say, but let’s end with the quote from that king in the Scottish play: “Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

That may be dark, but I like that whole thing. Semper fi.

Editor’s Note: Mineral Point resident and man of many talents Roland Sardeson died of liver cancer Nov. 12 after receiving a terminal diagnosis in August. A memorial gathering has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 20, 2017, at the Shake Rag Alley Lind Pavilion that will feature photographs, pottery, and home-baked pies from the Pointer Cafe. 

Reprinted with permission from www.rolandsardeson.com. Visit the website to view more pictures and read or contribute memories about Roland.