Roland Sardeson, “the spirit of Mineral Point,” died Saturday, two weeks before his 70th birthday, writing in his own obituary that he regretted not dancing more.
A short obituary is being prepared to run in the Wisconsin State Journal, referring people to his website, rolandsardeson.com. “Since I have learned that obituary words are not cheap, I’d like to save my dough for charities,” he wrote.
In the longer web version, which was posted after his death, Sardeson describes an idyllic but complicated childhood and details how he joined the Marines at age 18 during the Vietnam War instead of being drafted.
He describes his tour of duty as “by turns boring, scary (if not terrifying), exciting, rewarding, devastating, exhilarating, life affirming, life threatening, and eye opening.”
Sardeson called it “the seminal event” in his life on which all other things were partially based.
In college at UW-Platteville, a random pottery course taken to fulfill an art requirement led him to a job making pottery in Mineral Point, a community of 2,500 people an hour west of Madison.
Sandy Scott, who runs the Longbranch Gallery a few doors down from Sardeson’s studio, said in the 1970s, he was the original potter at Shake Rag Alley, a 2½- acre campus of paths, gardens, stone walls and historic buildings.
To earn a better living, Sardeson went on to work as a stone mason most of his life. Judy Sutcliffe, who runs the gallery with Scott, said that anyone who has a stone wall in their backyard, it was likely built by Sardeson.
In the past few years, he started doing pottery again. “He’s really good at it,” said Sutcliffe.
His early pottery “fling” lasted a decade or so, Sardeson wrote in his obituary. “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?”
Both Scott and Sutcliffe considered Sardeson a close friend. “He’s probably the most beloved figure in this community,” Scott said.
“He’s just the spirit of Mineral Point,” Sutcliffe added.
Sardeson was active in community theater, performing in just about every play ever produced there, Scott said. He also had a role in every parade.
“He was always in costume. You just never knew what to expect next,” she said.
Sardeson was also a skydiver and skydiving instructor, Scott said. “He was an ex-Marine but a pacifist, I would say. He was a gentle man.”
Sardeson died of liver cancer that was diagnosed in August. He went to Agrace HospiceCare in Fitchburg early Saturday morning and died in the evening.
Scott said Sardeson was a confirmed bachelor with a complex extended family.
There will be a memorial party April 20, 2017, at Lind Pavilion, Mineral Point, Sardeson wrote in his obit: “I won’t be there, but you’ll have a good time.”