MANKATO — Jerry Michaletz had a long military career flying B-29 Superfortress bombers and other aircraft and was among a group of influential business leaders in the '60s, '70s and '80s, who shaped the economy and social fabric of Mankato.
"He made his mark here and left his mark here," said son Scott Michaletz of his dad, who died at Pathstone Living July 25 at age 89.
"He was from that generation that created what we have today and he was active in a lot of that."
Michaletz was born in Green Isle, graduated from St. John's University and then joined the Air Force, reaching the rank of captain. He completed 26 missions in B-29 bombers during the Korean War and had a few close calls. He had an engine shot out during one mission and made an emergency landing.
On another occasion a fuel transfer pump failed and he was unable to transfer fuel to the wing tanks. When he landed he had zero gallons of usable fuel left in his tanks.
Michaletz later joined the Air Force Reserve, serving until the late '50s. He married Faye Casper in 1952 and in the late 1950s he went to work for Montgomery Ward in the Twin Cities. After a colleague told him he would make a good insurance agent, he moved to Mankato 1960 and started in the insurance business.
In the early 1980s he bought Kato Insurance Agency from John and Lucille Sjulstad, who had started it about a decade earlier. Kato Insurance is now owned by Scott. Michaletz also started Michaletz Financial Services, now known as Discipline Advisors, which is owned by son Joe.
He was involved in a wide range of groups including Sertoma, Jaycees, Knights of Columbus, VFW and Legion.
Michaletz was also a founder and original shareholder of Valley National Bank, which was the first bank to open in North Mankato after the 1932 “bank holiday” of the Great Depression.
Friends and family say he played as hard as he worked, hunting ducks, golfing and fishing and had a knack for telling jokes.
Monte Curtis, a longtime oral surgeon in Mankato, met Michaletz in the early '60s and was a frequent golf partner.
"We hit it off and were friends up until his last day," Curtis said.
The two were part of a foursome that went to Las Vegas once a year to golf.
"We played in rain and sleet and snow. We were there to play and we played no matter what," he said.
"None of us were that good but it was a fun-loving group of guys."
All the years he knew him there's one thing Michaletz never did, Curtis said.
"Jer was an insurance guy and never once did he try to sell me insurance. I really respected that."
Scott said his dad continued to fly his private airplane until he was in his early 70s. Recently Michaletz was given the Master Pilot award by the FAA. "He had 3,000 plus hours (flying) in the military and probably close to that in private flying," Scott said.
Jerry and Faye spent retirement years at Leech Lake and in Good Year, Arizona. A few years ago they moved back to Mankato as Faye's memory began to deteriorate. She is in the Pathstone memory unit.
Besides his wife and sons Scott and Joe, Michaletz is survived by children Michele, Patti and Megan. Another son, Cass, died of cancer in 1993.