Residents remember Albert Lea man for dedication to city

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A business-minded man with a giving heart is being remembered this week for his efforts to make Albert Lea a better place.

Claire Vermedahl, former CEO and CFO of Alamco Wood Products, died Sunday after a battle with lung cancer.

Claire Vermedahl

Claire Vermedahl

Vermedahl, 79, was part of multiple community organizations, including the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, the Naeve Hospital Foundation, United Methodist Church of Albert Lea and Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis, among others.

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“He was a very, very generous, very kind and welcoming man,” said Mary Anne Wolesky, director of foundations and development for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin. “He had a keen business mind, and he wanted the very best for his community. He demonstrated that by his involvement in the organizations in Albert Lea that he thought really helped the community.”

Vermedahl was born in Lake Mills and started work in Albert Lea at Rilco, which later became Weyerhauser and then Alamco.

Albert Lean John Forman said he worked with Vermedahl at Weyerhauser before he, Vermedahl and eight others purchased the plant from Weyerhauser and it became Alamco.

Forman said the company had a philosophy of giving back to the community.

“He was very good at his job,” Forman said. “He was a very giving and caring guy. He was always concerned about the employees, and he was really a family man.”

Vermedahl retired in 2009.

He and his wife, Ruth, have two grown children.

Wolesky said Vermedahl served as chairman of the Naeve Health Care Foundation board for several years in Albert Lea and was named as an emeritus trustee in earlier this year.

“He cared deeply about the Albert Lea medical community,” she said. “He wanted to help keep the tradition of great medical care close to home for Albert Lea and the surrounding communities.”

At the United Methodist Church of Albert Lea, Vermedahl served as chairman of the finance committee.

Harriet Kallemeyn, office manager at the church, described him as “a very Christian, loving, caring and concerned man.”

“He just always cared about everyone,” Kallemeyn said.

She said Vermedahl loved to give hugs and would step out often to greet strangers. He loved being a part of any kind of fellowship in the church, as well as the music. He also was on the administrative council for several years.

“There wasn’t a function that happened here that he and Ruth didn’t come to,” she said.

He had been a member of the church since 1958.

Randy Kehr, executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, said Vermedahl was named a lifetime member of the chamber for his commitment the community and organization.

“The chamber has lost a good friend,” Kehr said. “Our hearts go out to Ruth. He will be missed.”

Dick Kary, who attended the church with Vermedahl and who also served with him in the Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club and Albert Lea Economic Development Agency, described Vermedahl as a good person who was friendly and outgoing.

Kary and fellow Kiwanian Leo Osbeck said Vermedahl served in many offices in the Kiwanis club, including as lieutenant governor of the district. He was also involved on an international level and received the prestigious Hixson Award three times for his involvement. He had perfect attendance at club meetings for 35 years.

Kary said Vermedahl always participated in Kiwanis projects, including selling peanuts and working at the Freeborn County Fair.

“We were just good friends,” Kary said.

A celebration of life is planned at 11 a.m. Thursday at United Methodist Church in Albert Lea. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Read Vermedahl’s obituary on Page 3.