Former mayor, jeweler dies at 88Published 10:14am Thursday, June 20, 2013
A longtime Austin watchmaker who kept the town ticking passed away recently.
Roger L. Svejkovsky, 88, died suddenly of a heart attack at his Austin home on June 11. Roger was known for his watchmaking shop Roger’s Jewelers and for serving as Austin’s mayor and a longtime Utility Board member.
“A lot of people knew him,” said Roger’s wife, Betty. “He had a great sense of humor. That’s for sure … He made me laugh every day.”
Roger Lavern Svejkovsky was born on March 3, 1925, to Albie and Albin Svejkovsky on the family farm near London, Minn. He attended Austin High School in 1943.
Roger worked at a defense plant in California during World War II, where he manufactured the hydraulic pumps that operated machine guns.
When the war looked to be ending, Roger headed back to the Midwest, where Clarence Grabarkiwicz suggested he attend watchmaker’s school and offered him an apprenticeship if he proved to be good at it.
He took the advice, and went to Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. After passing his watchmaker’s exam, Roger returned to Austin and took a job at Scoville Jewelers to start his apprenticeship.
A jeweler in Grand Meadow passed away, and Roger jumped on the opportunity to branch out on his own. He sold his new car to make a down payment on the store.
“There wasn’t much in the store, but I was determined to own my own store,” Roger wrote in a short biography he submitted to SCORE.
A building later opened in Austin, and he moved Roger’s Jewelers to the new location. Roger wrote he expected to do better business there.
“I was right,” he said in the biography. “I even had to hire an employee.”
After three years on the east side of town, he moved to 125 N. Main St., where the Flaherty Paint Store stands today. Roger purchased a second store and operated it for about eight years before selling it to another jeweler.
In 1951, Roger married Betty Engwall in Minneapolis. She and Roger’s sister, Lucille, assisted him at the shop.
Roger ran for and was elected mayor of Austin in 1962.
“He was a civic-minded person,” Betty said. “He felt like he needed to do it.”
Between running his jewelry shop and serving as mayor, life became too hectic for Roger, Betty said, and he decided not to run for a second term.
In 1969, Roger was appointed to the Utility Board, where he served 14 years as a commissioner and six as president.
He sold Roger’s Jewelers in 1980 and retired after 34 years as a jeweler.
Roger became a business consultant with SCORE in his retirement, where he gave advice to local small business owners. He also was part of other local groups, including the Moose and Rotary.
“He was such a part of the community,” Betty said.
He took flying lessons at the Austin airport and became a pilot. He frequently flew with Betty on trips, including visits to Mexico. His flights were always for leisure, never business, Betty said.
Later, Roger and Betty switched to driving, and took a motor home down to Florida or California with their car in tow, where he and Betty lived out of it during the colder months.
“We usually left in the winter and spent three months in the motor home,” Betty said.
In his free time, Roger also liked to golf, and sank two hole-in-one shots during his time at the Austin Country Club.
Roger and Betty were sitting in the living room of their home earlier this month when Betty noticed something was wrong. She looked at his chest and saw it wasn’t moving.
“Just a second and he was gone,” Betty said. “That makes it awfully hard.”
A funeral was held Saturday at Clasen-Jordan Mortuary. Roger’s nieces and nephews came in from states as far as California to pay their respects.