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Passed away on May 21, 2020, at home in White Bear Lake, MN. Cherished husband of 58 years to Catherine (Baxter) Zdechlik; dedicated father of John (Marjorie), Mark (Amy) and Sarah Kolo (David); and delighted grandfather of Alina, Marya, Lily, Jack, Claire and Catherine. Also known and loved by Elisabeth and Nolan. Friend, mentor, and educator of many, he is remembered for his contribution to playing, teaching and composing music that made an impact around the world. Born in Minneapolis, he was writing music and playing for dance bands as a teenager. He attended the University of Minnesota for undergraduate and graduate degrees and was assistant director of bands there from 1963–1970; taught in St. Cloud, Taylor's Falls and Jordan; and joined the faculty at Lakewood Community College (now Century College) in 1970. He wrote more than sixty works for band and small ensembles, including Chorale and Shaker Dance, a standard in the repertoire. He loved the outdoors, life at the lake, camping, fishing, planning trips and traveling, gardening and golfing. He was impeccably organized and would find efficient, if unconventional, solutions. Inspired by global cuisine, he was an inventive cook who loved to entertain. His jokes were legendary groaners—every time he told them—and he always won at poker. Memorial plans will be announced at a later date.

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Published in Pioneer Press on May 27, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by St Paul Pioneer Press
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8 entries
October 23, 2020
Doctor Z was my favorite professor. He counseled me to double-major in music & engineering. This led to me playing music professionally, while running my engineering business. Doctor Z encouraged me to study jazz piano with Manfredo Fest. He was able to instantly play by ear any piece of music- something I have tried to duplicate my entire life; never able to attain his level with his gift of perfect pitch.
Steve Eng
July 14, 2020
John was a fabulous guy & musician!
Fantastic jazz pianist, teacher & person, loved life, big smile, friendly, humorist & never a dull moment
We had great times at the Lake Washington
Band Camp & it was always fun to see him directing with the UOfM band
Many memories of John teaching in Jordan too
Wonderful wife Kate & hear his sons name on MPR frequently!
John will live on the in the school music programs & the students lives he touched & made a difference
Thanks for all you taught us & the special teacher you were teaching other peoples kids!
Rest In Peace John
Cliff & Mary Klehr
June 21, 2020
John Zdechlik was my first trombone teacher when I was in fifth grade at Jordan Public School. It began a life long love of music that has made a better person. Thank you for being a part of my life.
Larry Kiewel
June 4, 2020
I first met John as a freshman at the U of MN back in 1964, and remained friends with him and Katie all these years. In 1997 I commissioned a piece from him, "Barcarole for Flutes and Band." We premiered it at his retirement concert. I was a charter member of the Century (Lakewood) Concert Band, playing piccolo and flute. He was an outstanding mentor to many and left us a treasury of compositions. I like to think he and Dr. Ben are getting another band together up in Heaven, and that he'll greet me someday, "Hey Reggie! Good to see you. Did you bring your piccolo?" Blessings on his soul. He was the best.
Reggie Buresh
May 29, 2020
I knew John for over 30 years as a colleague at Lakewood. He always had a corny joke to share but really, uderneath was a hard working , serious and creative man. My thoughts go to Catie and all of the Zdechliks as I know you will miss him most dearly.
Gerry Perrin
May 28, 2020
"Doc Z" was one amazing man! I was privileged to be a trombone player in his bands for many years. His talent as a music educator and performer were immense. My sympathies to his family, and all those who were touched by the magic of his music.
Brian Tolzmann
May 28, 2020
My condolences to John's family. I was in the U Minnesota marching band when John was one of the directors. He was fun to work with, and a great musician. We all loved hearing him play jazz piano in a group with Doctor Ben.
Dick Seebach
May 27, 2020
My sympathies to the family. I loved having Doc as a band instructor (Lakewood/Century 1982-84). He was immensely talented and I enjoyed playing for him. He had a great sense of humor, and I still remember him giving me the "look" when he wanted me and my neighbor to stop chatting during rehearsals, which we of course should not have been doing anyway. Over the years I occasionally ran into him at the Dakota Jazz Club. He will definitely be missed.
Laurie Drexler
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