Looking back at high-profile passings
Published 10:27 am Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Year in Review: Quietus in 2014 …
The death of a loved one brings an outpouring of memories and farewells. For some, the entire community mourns their passing.
Here is a look back at a few of the people who died in 2014. The people are listed in order of when they died.
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Marjorie Thompson, 79
Oct. 4, 1934-Jan. 10, 2014
Moving to Albert Lea in 1969, Marjorie Thompson and her husband, Thoburn, gave back to the community in numerous capacities.
Thompson, who grew up in Milaca, was immersed in work of the United Methodist Women, Albert Lea Area Schools, the League of Women Voters, the Good Samaritan Society advisory board, the Trades and Labor Credit Union housing board and the United Way of Freeborn County allocations committee, to name a few.
She also served on the refugee committee of the United Methodist Church’s Committee on Relief for several years and traveled to south Asia, Central America and the Caribbean in that capacity.
While her husband was a surgeon, she served as a nurse, having graduated in 1955 from the Methodist-Kahler School of Nursing in Rochester and becoming a registered nurse at the University of Minnesota hospitals.
The couple served on a missionary assignment as nurse and surgeon in La Paz, Bolivia. Two of their four children were born there.
Thompson died Jan. 10, 2014 at 79 after battling Alzheimer’s disease.
Jessica Lokken, 30
March 29, 1983-Jan. 25, 2014
A 30-year-old woman who died from complications with a pulmonary embolism, Jessica Lokken loved music and participated in the choir at First Lutheran Church.
Her mother, Julie, in September described her daughter as a person who loved every day of her life and who reached out to others and easily made friends.
“Jessica had no hatred in her soul,” Julie said. “She is the only person I ever met who I could say she loved everyone in her life.”
She had a positive attitude and lit up every room she walked into.
In her memory, Tim O’Shields, the church’s music minister, and Lokken’s family have formed the First Lutheran Church-Jessica Lokken Music & Arts School & Camp.
The nondenominational music camp will provide more young people with an opportunity to learn music and arts in a Christian atmosphere at zero cost.
Children will be able to learn choral music and instruments such as recorders, percussion and possibly the harp. Fine arts are planned for the curriculum, too.
More people viewed Jessica’s obituary on the Albert Lea Tribune’s website than any other in 2014.
LeRoy Maas, 96
Sept. 5, 1917-May 10, 2014
Starting as a coach at Albert Lea High School in 1943, LeRoy Maas spent his life dedicated to working with and serving children, youth and adults.
He taught physical education, health and social studies and coached B squad football, wrestling and track at the high school level. Founding the Tigers wrestling program, he taught for a period of 40 years and retired in 1980.
Aside from coaching and teaching, Maas was the director of the Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Department from 1951 to 1968, and he organized the Albert Lea Figure Skating Club.
Maas was active in many community affairs and received many awards — national, regional, state and local — for his work in education and community service.
His legacy will live on with the founding of the LeRoy Maas Scholarship Fund by some of his previous wrestling students. At the time of his death, the fund had given out 58 scholarships totaling $78,000.
Maas also founded a scholarship fund at Bemidji State University in 2012 and the LeRoy Maas-Carol Colstrup Fund for the Albert Lea Figure Skating Club in 2013.
He has been inducted into the Bemidji State University Hall of Fame, plus the Albert Lea High School Hall of Fame.
James Winnes, 28
Jan. 26, 1986-May 28, 2014
James Winnes of Albert Lea will be remembered among those who knew him for being a kind, selfless man with a strong faith.
Winnes was struck and killed in a head-on collision May 28 on Interstate 35, one mile north of the Iowa border near the Minnesota Welcome Center.
He had moved to Albert Lea about four years ago to earn a degree in diesel mechanics from Riverland Community College and had been commuting to Interstate Motors in Mason City for work about 1 1/2 years.
He was slated to marry his fiancee less than a month after the crash.
Many people who knew Winnes said they would remember his smile and kind and gentle personality.
“He was just a prime example in my opinion of how we should live — how us Christians should be going through life,” said friend Dalton Pagel a few days after Winnes’ death.
He attended Crossroads Evangelical Free Church and was part of several ministries there.
Paul Sparks, 69
Jan. 21, 1945-June 3, 2014
Longtime Albert Lea City Manager Paul Sparks was known for his dedication to the city and his family.
Sparks and his first wife, Judith, moved to Albert Lea in 1978, when he started as city manager. He worked there until 2004 and became executive director of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency until 2007.
In addition to his role in city government, he was active on many state and local boards.
He was president of the Minnesota City Managers Association and served on the board of directors of the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust. Locally, he served as chairman of the Freeborn County Communities Foundation and was a key part of the effort to get the Albert Lea Art Center into the Freeborn National Bank building.
During his funeral in June, many people remembered him for his faith and his role as a mentor.
“Paul has had such an impact on my life, and he has made me who I am today,” said Freeborn County Engineer Sue Miller, who started out working with Sparks in city government.
The Rev. Tim Reker of St. Theodore Catholic Church described Sparks as an active parishioner.
“His legacy will live on in various ways,” Reker said. “Paul recognized that every good gift comes from God.”
Josephine Boerner, 38
Feb. 19, 1976-June 11, 2014
A nursing assistant at Thorne Crest Retirement Community before working at Brown Printing in Waseca, Albert Lean Josephine Boerner, 38, suffered her first cardiac arrest at the age of 29.
She was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition her mother also ultimately died from at the age of 36. It causes the heart to become weakened and enlarged.
Her younger two children were also found to have the condition.
During an interview with the Tribune in October 2013, Boerner said she dreamed of the day she could receive a heart transplant and be able to take part in simple activities such as riding a bike. She was being cared for by her husband, Anthony, of Albert Lea.
She was set to be put on the transplant list of February of last year. It is unclear if she ever was.
Randall Jensen, 57
Jan. 29-1957-Sept. 12, 2014
An employee of Freeborn County for 33 years, Randall Jensen died early Sept. 12 at St. Marys Hospital after he was reportedly stung by dozens of wasps the weekend prior near his garage.
Jensen reportedly went outside near his home and was later found in his garage, having suffered from heart failure. Doctors later discovered the wasp stings.
During his time working for the county, Jensen served as maintenance director, and it is there he met his fiancee, Gina Gullickson.
Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said Jensen would be missed as both a person and an employee.
He was a member of East Freeborn Lutheran Church and loved the outdoors. He could often be found in his deer stand, a fishing boat or splitting wood. His top priority was spending time with his family, particularly his grandchildren.
Jeff Laeger-Hagemeister, 58
Aug. 2, 1956-Oct. 3, 2014
Serving as a Lutheran pastor in a handful of cities before coming to Albert Lea, Jeff Laeger-Hagemeister became chaplain at St. John’s Lutheran Community in 2003.
He served at the nursing home until this past summer when his health no longer allowed him to continue.
Known for his role at St. John’s, Jeff and his wife, Mary, were also a part of several community efforts.
Jeff gave to the community through the Noon Kiwanis Club, 4-H, Habitat for Humanity, Semcac, and Grace Lutheran and Salem Lutheran churches, helping with confirmations and choirs.
Though Jeff was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2012 — and the couple knew the odds were not in their favor — they made it a priority to remain positive.
The first weekend they found out about the cancer, they began a list called “Lessons Learned.”
In an interview in October 2012, the couple said that instead of questioning their experience or being pessimistic, they gained a renewed faith and made it a priority to learn from it.
Ralph Peterson, 92
Aug. 26, 1922-Oct. 13, 2014
A longtime Albert Lea resident, Ralph Peterson, 92, was a distinguished lawyer who gave back to the community in several different ways.
Peterson started “Peace and Power” with Bob Bonnerup in January 1979 at First Lutheran Church as a way to have worship services available for people who couldn’t make it to church.
One of the founders of Lea College, he also helped establish Albert Lea Vocational Technical College, which today is known as the Albert Lea campus of Riverland Community College.
He was a charter member of Jobs Inc. and Albert Lea Industrial Development Corp., was a 50-plus year member of Rotary and chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party. He also served as president of the Minnesota State Bar Association and the Minnesota Board of Education.
In his work as a lawyer, Peterson focused on estate planning, probate, trusts and corporate law. He was involved with Wilson & Co., Edwards Manufacturing Co., First State Bank of Emmons, Albert Lea’s Security Bank, Bridon Cordage and other firms as legal councilor and corporate board member.
In the 1950s Peterson was the attorney for Wilson & Co. during the strike.
He died after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Simon Dup, 47
April 5, 1967-Dec. 19, 2014
The first South Sudanese refugee to move to Albert Lea in 2003, Simon Ter Dup was a kind-hearted man who loved his community, according to people who knew him.
Dup served as pastor of Sudanese congregations at Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lea and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Austin, but most people in the community knew him through his prior employment at Walmart, Home Depot and Hy-Vee over the year, where many say he always offered a smile.
He played a major role in helping organize the Sudanese people when they began moving to town and helped people both in and outside of his role as pastor to obtain services as needed.
In an interview in July, Dup said he had returned to Sudan six times since he first left, the most recent time in 2013. He took donations of about $10,000 to build a school for the children of Malual in South Sudan, which had been destroyed.
He and his wife, Mary, had eight children.
His death, after a battle with lymphoma, was met with an outpouring of support to Dup’s family and community.
Jan Reed, 78
Aug. 2, 1936-Dec. 20, 2014
Recognized for his decades of dedication to the Freeborn County Fair, Jan Reed was an avid promoter of the 4-H program.
Reed, former owner of fertilizer business Hi-Yield Products, played an active part in the fair’s livestock sale for 40 years, helping it become one of the best in the state.
He was on the advisory board of the Shellrock 4-H Club and FFA.
The fair board announced in September it would rename the building used for 4-H livestock auctions as the Jan Reed Livestock Arena.
In addition to his involvement with agriculture, Reed served on the advisory board of the Salvation Army and the Freeborn County Planning and Zoning Committee.
He served in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1958.