Last Friday, family, friends and many in the Rochelle community will be saying farewell to Dan Sawicki, who passed away suddenly last Monday night.
Sawicki, owner of Sawicki Motor Company in Rochelle for more than three decades, is being remembered as a business leader, avid outdoorsman and contributor to the community.
For the last 24 years Sawicki has donated a car to Rochelle Township High School students at the annual Renaissance Assembly, which recognizes perfect attendance throughout the school year.
“Renaissance has been an incentive at RTHS since before I was even a student here,” RTHS superintendent Jason Harper said. “Guidance counselors Marianne Swanson, Laurie Pillen, and Ed Garrison contacted local business leaders like Dan with the concept of rewarding good attendance.”
Sawicki graciously responded.
“As an employer who counted on his people being on time and prepared to work, Dan liked the idea. He immediately agreed to provide a car,” summarized the trio of counselors. “That was back in 1992-93 and for 24 years, every student who sat in that year-end assembly hoped when Dan pulled the winner’s name, it would be to them he handed the keys.”
Friends also shared their memories of Sawicki and his love for hunting and fishing, but mostly for his friendship.
“Dan and I spent a lot of time together, mostly in duck blinds or turkey blinds or during deer season. In fact, we just finished up four days (deer season) before this happened,” friend Mike Cassidy said. “I love hunting, but Dan really loved being out there. He planted something like 150,000 trees and created wetlands for waterfowl out on his farm. Dan did a lot for wildlife conservation.”
Kim Huntley fondly remembers meeting Sawicki at the dealership just after graduating from high school. Since then, both Huntley and Sawicki have shared common interests in hunting, fishing, boating and playing cards — even attending each other’s weddings.
“We started talking about hunting and fishing,” Huntley said. “From there the conversation blossomed into a friendship that has lasted 40 years. The one thing I keep coming back to is over the last 40 years, he’s the kind of guy that if you ever needed something all you needed to do was call… no questions asked, he was there. He wore everything on his sleeve, and you knew exactly where he was coming from. I admire people that are willing to wear it on their sleeve like that.”
“He’s my best friend, we go back 46 years… He had a heart of gold,” said Mark Metzger. “Dan’s one of the hardest working guys I have ever known, and I learned a lot from him. I’m really going to miss him… he loved to hunt and fish, liked to have people to join him and he liked to be around people.”