“It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit,” Ken Slipka loved to tell his kids when they were teens.
It’s a credo he also modeled in an upbeat way to countless others.
Slipka was CEO and president of FORCE America, one of Burnsville’s biggest businesses. And in 2007, Gov. Tim Pawlenty made him an honorary U.S. Army colonel in recognition of nearly 30 years of military service.
Slipka died on Oct. 22 of lung cancer. He was 67.
“Ken Slipka was truly a dedicated and engaged friend and citizen who gave of his financial resources, time and talent to our community in a quiet way,” said Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz. “He was always there with a heart of gold.”
Slipka, a former volunteer firefighter who collected fire trucks and memorabilia, had long organized Burnsville’s festival, “Fire Muster,” during which he’d joyfully drive his shiny fire engines in parades.
He served on numerous charitable boards, educational boards and commissions as well as the Dakota County Board of Equalization. He chaired Burnsville’s Economic Growth Commission. He was a longtime coach and local baseball commissioner and past president of Burnsville Community Foundation.
“He was an extremely kind, caring, generous person with great character and integrity,” said his wife, Linda Slipka. “Always so interested in others, and concerned about helping others, he was truly a giver, not a taker.”
Ed Delmoro, a retired railroad executive and Burnsville civic leader, said that even though he was older than Slipka, he was among many who saw him as a mentor.
“Ken taught me so very much about life, including in business and a lot about human virtues, mostly kindness and patience,” said Steve Finanger, a friend and business associate.
Slipka grew up in Roseville, working for the U.S. Postal Service to put himself through Cretin High School.
He attended the University of Minnesota and Officers Candidate School in Fort Benning, Ga. He served in the U.S. Army and Minnesota National Guard, and rose to the rank of adjutant general of the 47th Infantry Division.
Through friends, he met Linda Olson and they married in 1973. They lived in her hometown of Sioux Falls, S.D., for several years, and had three children.
The family moved to Burnsville in 1979, when Slipka joined Mid-America Power Drives, now FORCE America. He helped build the small company, which makes and distributes mobile hydraulics, to eight locations nationwide.
“Ken never forgot his roots and where he came from, and would say if he ever amounted to anything, he owed it to his Catholic upbringing and military training,” Linda Slipka said.
Brian Slipka said his dad was a “connector” who helped people meet, get jobs and reach career goals. In tense situations, he turned to his faith and humor.
“He was always above the fray because he had that unconditional peace and joy about him,” Brian Slipka said.
Another son, Brent, spoke of how his dad made life fun for others.
“He could turn rain into sunshine, and he was just such a glorious light into the world,” Brent Slipka said.
Ken Slipka was preceded in death by his father, Joseph A. Slipka.
Other survivors include a daughter, Dawn Irlbeck; seven grandchildren; mother Viola Slipka; and siblings Donald and Roger Slipka, Marilyn Kordosky and Cindy Opdahl.
Services have been held.