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Obituary

Mark Sertich, WWII Army veteran and 'world's oldest hockey player,' dies at 99

By PAM LOUWAGIE | Star Tribune | Published: August 25, 2020

DULUTH, Minn. (Tribune News Service) — The world’s oldest hockey player has died.

Mark Sertich of Duluth was 99 when he died Monday surrounded by family and friends in the house where he grew up and lived independently up until his last days.

Friends and family celebrated Sertich’s 99th birthday with a drive-by party in mid-July and “Sertie,” as his teammates called him, was feeling well at the time, his friend and fellow hockey player Dane Youngblom said. He learned soon after that he had some health issues and died of natural causes.

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Sertich, who sported a signature handlebar mustache, was well-known among Duluth’s hockey circles. For years, he skated on a team with many retired or active firefighters who saw Sertie bounce back after losing teeth in the rink, breaking his ankle, puncturing a lung and bloodying his face in a fall.

Sertich took no painkillers or medicines because he didn’t believe in them, leaving it up to his body to work to heal itself, Youngblom described.

Sertich raised seven children with his wife and coached their youth hockey teams after serving in the U.S. Army in a division that liberated a concentration camp in Austria and served under Gen. George Patton in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. He took up marathon running and had a lifetime entry into the NorthShore Inline Marathon.

For a few years, Sertich had been beating his own achievements as the Guinness World Record-holder for oldest ice hockey player.

He last skated in early July amid pandemic restrictions, Youngblom said. Though he had some aches and pains that come with age, “he wasn’t the kind of guy to let that get in his way,” Youngblom said.

Sertich had continued to drive, cook and clean for himself and live independently as his family and teammates checked up on him, Youngblom said.

“I’m glad he kept strong right up pretty much until the end,” Youngblom said. “He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”

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