John Weiland, who had a long career in General Mills' research department, had a well-earned reputation among family and friends as a handyman and problem solver.

“He could fix anything,” said his wife, Carol.

He also was a lifesaver.

In 1999, the couple were living on Lake Minnetonka, off Crystal Bay. “We lived right on the corner by Coffee Channel,” Carol Weiland said. “There were interesting things happening all the time. We had quite a few people come to our door needing help.”

On March 12, 1999, a snowmobiler struck a channel wall near the Weiland residence, sending both the driver and vehicle through the ice and into the water. John Weiland heard the commotion, rushed to the scene and rescued the snowmobiler, who was taken to the hospital in critical condition but survived.

Later that year, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office presented Weiland with an Award of Merit “in recognition for John’s outstanding efforts to save the life of another.”

Weiland got further recognition a few years later when the snowmobiler named his first son after him.

Weiland, of Eden Prairie, died on April 24. He was 80.

Weiland and his twin brother Jerry were born to Leo and Ione Weiland on Aug. 25, 1939, in Hastings. The family moved to Minneapolis a short time later.

The Weiland brothers joined the Navy Reserve while at Washburn High School, serving at the Naval Air Station on the north side of Wold Chamberlain Field (now Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport). They graduated from Washburn High in 1957 and then went on active duty in the Navy. In six years of service, the brothers served together on the aircraft carriers USS Leyte and USS Tarawa.

After his service, John returned to Minneapolis. He graduated from Dunwoody Institute and began working at General Mills, where he helped build machinery for the company’s new products.

During this time, he developed into one of the top amateur hockey referees in Minnesota.

“He really enjoyed it,” his wife said. “He started working with young kids, pee-wees and bantams. Then he moved up to high school-age kids. He worked some college games too. It was something he loved.”

After refereeing in the Bloomington Hockey Association for a couple of years, Weiland officiated at the World Junior Hockey Tournament in Winnipeg in 1974. He refereed many USA/American Hockey Association tournament games and, in 1984 and 1985, worked the Minnesota state boys hockey tournament.

The couple moved to Florida for retirement. While living in Clearwater, Fla., John served as a volunteer with the police department. He also was an avid golfer.

“He was loved by everyone,” said Carol Weiland, a retired real estate agent who met her husband while she attended Minneapolis West High School.

“We made a good team. He was the perfect husband. I don’t know how many can say that about their spouse. He was the nicest guy in the world. He was a family man. He was easygoing. He was confident. He didn’t tell jokes, but he was funny.”

In addition to his wife and his brother, Weiland is survived by his daughters Dawn Cardarelle and Diana Craig, two granddaughters, his brother Ron and sister Sue Thoreen.

A private service has been held. A memorial celebration will be held at a later date.

Correction: An earlier version misidentified John Weiland's former employer.