Joe Vasek

Joe Vasek


February 16, 1932 - August 19, 2023


Joe Vasek, 91, of Mitchell, formerly of Geddes and Kimball, SD, died Saturday, August 19, 2023, at Firesteel Healthcare Center in Mitchell. Funeral Mass will be 10:30 AM Tuesday, August 29, at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Mitchell. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery in Mitchell. Visitation will be Monday from 5-7:00 PM at Bittner Funeral Chapel.

Joseph “Can Do” John Vasek was born February 16, 1932 in Janesville, Wisconsin. He lived on the family farm with his parents, Charlie and Celestine (Gajdosik) Vasek east of Geddes, SD. He was the oldest of 5 children, Joe, Karel, Helen, Anna, and John. Joe attended a country school in Gooselake Township, and then attended Geddes High School.

Shortly after graduation, he was drafted into the United States Army on July 21, 1952. Sgt. First Class Joseph Vasek was stationed in Korea where he fought and was wounded. He underwent surgery for his wounds and received a Purple Heart for his service. He was flown to Japan and then home.

When Joe returned home, he had a nick name, “Can Do” Joe, and when asked why he got that name, he explained that his Regiment in Korea was called “Can Do Regiment”. He kept the name for the remainder of his life.

Joe came to know his future wife, Ellen M. Koss, from Kimball, SD while he was in Korea. Ellen started writing an anonymous soldier as many people do during a war, and they ended up together. Joe and Ellen were married February 1, 1955. They farmed and ranched in the Geddes area for three years and then moved east of Kimball where they continued to farm and ranch. They were members of St. Margaret’s Catholic Church in Kimball. Joe also loved to bowl and was on a bowling league in Kimball.

As a side job, Joe and Ellen were both employed at the Paragon Ball Room across the road from their farm. Ellen was a waitress and Joe was a bartender. The Paragon was known for their homemade pizzas and on special occasions, the ballroom was used for wedding dances and shivarees that included live music.

Everyone knows that when you own a farm/ranch you work seven days a week. Ellen and Joe were no exception, they worked long hours on the farm, but always tried to make time to go on trips, not only around the world but in the continental United States as well. Some of the places they toured were Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Mexico, and South America. In the United States they booked Farmer’s Union bus trips and some of the places they toured included New York City, Niagara Falls, Florida, Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monuments, the Grand Canyon, Alaska, and California. They even went to the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena.

Joe and Ellen retired from the farm and moved to Mitchell in 1995. They signed up for 3-day bus trips to Deadwood through Jim Wanderscheid Bus Tours. They hosted many of those trips to Deadwood where they played bingo. Joe would call the numbers and Ellen would hand out the goodies to the winners.  They had a lot of laughs and made a lot of friends.

In late 2011, Ellen became very ill and spent her last days in the Avera Brady Health and Rehab Center in Mitchell. She received great care as did Joe during this very difficult time. Joe lost the love of his life on December 14, 2011. Because of the great care that Ellen received in her last days Joe wanted to show his appreciation by making a donation of $275,000 in support of the new addition to the Avera Brady Health and Rehab assisted-living and nursing home facility in Mitchell. It is called the Vasek “Can-Do” Villa. Joe also made a donation to fund the covered shelter at the American Legion Cemetery.

Joe stayed in their home in Mitchell for a few years and then decided it was too much house for just him, so he sold the house and moved into an apartment. After a few years, Joe went into the Firesteel Healthcare Center where he spent his remaining time until his passing.

Joe is survived by his brother, John (Linda) Vasek of Geddes, SD; and nephews, Jeff (Jacky) Vasek of Texas, Gregory Vasek of Geddes, SD, and Kevin Vasek of Lake Andes, SD.

He is also survived (Ellen’s side) by his nephew Arlo McKim (Nancy) of Crystal, MN, two nieces Lois Nash [deceased] (Jerry) of Anoka, MN and Janet (Daniel) Taragos of Eden Prairie, MN and many other nieces and nephews.

Joe is preceded in death by his wife, Ellen (Koss) Vasek, December 11, 2011; parents, Celestine and Charlie Vasek; infant sisters, Anna, 6 months old (1938) and Helen, 3 months old (1940); and brother Karel Vasek.


Monday, August 28, 2023
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Bittner Funeral Chapel
805 W Havens Ave
Mitchell, SD 57301


Tuesday, August 29, 2023
10:30 AM
Holy Spirit Catholic Church
1401 W Cedar Ave
Mitchell, SD 57301


Graceland Cemetery
Mitchell, SD

Posted by Rick & Kim Swank on August 30, 2023
Joe was such a great guy. We always enjoyed conversations with him, seeing the photo's he'd share of his yard and flowers and etc.
Posted by Frank and Joanie Kloucek on August 29, 2023
Joe "Can Do"and Ellen Vasek were wonderful South Dakotans. We had the opportunity to go on several trips with them and really enjoyed their company. Their farming operation like their lives was filled with happy memories, work hard, farm smart, play hard and enjoy life to its fullest.
Retired Senator Frank & Joanie Kloucek & Family Scotland South Dakota
Posted by joel and linda hanson on August 29, 2023
the deadwood bus was never the same without you
Posted by Jessica (Boehmer) Knigge and Family on August 29, 2023
Joe you have always been a part of our family. You and Ellen were like a third set of grandparents to us. I have so many wonderful memories from pizza nights, four wheelers on the farm, holiday celebrations together, learning how to drive on our way to visit you both on the farm and letters I would receive from Ellen while in college. On to the next journey, together again with Ellen. You will be missed!
Posted by Mark Harrington on August 25, 2023
Joe was a Very Wonderful person
Joe Vasek will be missed by ALL
Posted by thomas walsh on August 24, 2023
great American
Posted by Dennis Martin on August 23, 2023
"Joe Can Do" and the Can Do farm. Joe was a one of a kind and hard to replace. A proud veteran who served his country (us) in the hell of war. Although Joe has gone the way of all flesh....his memory will not be forgotten.
Posted by Brian Loken on August 23, 2023
I was glad to spend time with him later in his life. He is now with his dearest Ellen. Rest in Peace Joe.
Posted by Eric and Mandy Boehmer on August 22, 2023
I will miss you Joe, and miss having you and Ellen being part of my life. I have so many great memories over the years, spending every holiday together, spending time on the farm, building bridges, playing hid’n’seek with 4 wheelers, running bails, hunting, shooting, going to coffee, farm fest, snow days and the zoo to name just a few. You and Ellen are together again. I can hear her saying “Joe it’s about dam time”. I love you Joe and you have always been a grandpa in my heart.
Posted by Linda Vasek on August 22, 2023
John and I will miss you. You always had a smile on your face.A farming story to tell and you and John would start speaking a few things in Czech.
Posted by Jane Krzesowiak on August 22, 2023
So glad I got to go on a few bus trips to deadwood with you. You and Ellen were always so good to everyone that went. I loved the games we played. Rest in peace Joe. You had a remarkable life. Your legacy lives on forever.
Posted by Ron and Deb Boehmer on August 22, 2023
Thank you for sharing your life with us. You were like another parent and grandparent to us and our children. You have now joined with Ellen and rest peacefully in heaven. Our prayers, love and sympathy to your family.
Posted by Jackie Christiansen on August 22, 2023
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