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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 13, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 15
IN MEMORIAM : John Eric Rolfstad
Section One
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IN MEMORIAM : John Eric Rolfstad

June 6, 1958 - April 4, 2018

by Scott Larsen - Special to the SGN

Long time West Seattle resident John Eric Rolfstad died at the University of Washington Hospital on April 4 after a short illness. He was 59.

Because 'John wanted a green burial' wrote his brother on Facebook, 'he had to be buried quickly' on April 6 at the Meadows Natural Burial Grounds in Ferndale, WA.

While John Eric was a big guy, his heart was even bigger, as well as his zest for life. No one could mistake John's booming, hearty laugh.

Born in North Dakota, he attended the University of Jamestown in Jamestown, ND; University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND; and the University of Washington, Seattle, obtaining business, law, and social work degrees respectively.

His ties to the Seattle community were numerous. From once singing in the Seattle Men's Chorus to serving on boards like Companis Seattle, Green Burial Council, Extraordinary Lutherans Ministry, and ReconcilingWorks (formerly known as Lutherans Concerned). Only this past January did John Eric join the board of trustees of his alma mater, University of Jamestown.

Rolfstad became known across Washington state giving interviews after becoming executive director at End of Life Washington. The organization was instrumental in getting Initiative 1000 on the ballot in 2008. The so-called Death With Dignity Act, which was passed into law by voters.

Later, John Eric became executive director of People's Memorial Association, a funeral education and advocacy group in Seattle. While there, he was instrumental in the society setting up its own funeral business.

'When I was just beginning work with AIDS CareTeams in Seattle, he was the first social worker to refer his clients to me,' wrote Trudy James on Facebook. 'He was always real, exuberant, funny, and caring.'

John Eric loved to boat, hike, and camp and nothing could widen his smile more than to be out on Lake Washington or Lake Chelan with friends in his boat or sharing a meal together.

He was a long time social worker in Seattle, working at Providence Health & Services, case manager at Harborview Medical Center, and oncology social worker at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

For a number of years, John Eric organized a weekend retreat for Lutherans Concerned, the LGBT ministry, at the Lutheran retreat center in Holden, WA, located high in the Cascade Mountains.

A formal funeral/celebration of life will take place on June 2 at Seattle's First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Ave., and another one in his hometown of Williston, North Dakota on August 12.

Survivors include his brother Thomas Rolfstad of Mesa, Arizona; sister Dorothy Rolfstad, aunt Dora Rolfstad, a niece and nephew, all of North Dakota.

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