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James Richard Rowoldt dies; was Vietnam combat vet, longtime VFW leader

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — James Richard Rowoldt, a Vietnam War combat soldier who was a longtime California and national leader in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, died Thursday of cancer and diabetes, his family said. He was 68.

Mr. Rowoldt ran the day-to-day operations of the California Department of the VFW as state adjutant/quartermaster since 2008. He oversaw the department headquarters' move to Elk Grove from downtown Sacramento last year and was elected last January to a four-year term as state representative for the national VFW Council of Administration.

He led the California VFW, which has 90,000 members, as state commander in 1988-89. He went on to spend 18 years in administrative positions at the VFW national headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., including director of post services and the Buddy Poppy fundraising program. He was national director of membership from 1999 to 2008.

"Jim was Mr. VFW," former California commander Nick Guest said. "He lived and breathed the VFW. He was very committed to helping fellow service members."

Born Aug. 27, 1944, and raised in Watertown, Wis., Mr. Rowoldt joined the Army after high school. Besides serving in Korea, he fought in South Vietnam in 1965-66 with the 69th Signal Battalion. He received the Vietnam Campaign Medal with two bronze stars and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm citation.

He joined the VFW in 1970 in Wisconsin and was post quartermaster and commander. After moving to California, he was commander of Post 10040 in North Hollywood and spent 19 years as a production planner for the Carnation Co. in Los Angeles.

He belonged to American Legion Post 1000, Military Order of the Cootie and the VFW National Home. He lived in Elk Grove since 2008.

Besides his wife, Shirley, of Elk Grove, Mr. Rowoldt is survived by three children from a previous marriage, TeAnna Thompson, James Jr. and Michael, all of Rainier, Wash.; stepchildren, Erinn Thomas of Sacramento, and Leroy Johnson of Springfield, Mo.; sisters, Judy Zanto and Jane Englehart, both of Madison, Wis.; stepmother, Adele of Madison, Wis.; and 10 grandchildren.
 

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