Harlin Elseth, 1926-2018
Published 1:00 am Friday, July 13, 2018
Harlin Percy Elseth of Albert Lea quietly passed away Monday, July 9, 2018, surrounded by his wife and children. His family invites relatives and friends to attend his memorial service at 11 a.m. Monday at Bayview/Freeborn Funeral Home. The Rev. Kent Otterman will officiate. Military honors will be accorded by local veterans organizations. Friends may greet the family one hour prior to the service at the funeral home Monday. A luncheon reception will follow at 1 p.m. at Green Lea Golf Course in Albert Lea. Online condolences are welcome at www.bayviewfuneral.com.
The fourth of seven children, Harlin was born Sept. 28, 1926, to Bernhard and Minnie Elisabeth (Nelson) Elseth of Strandquist. He attended school in Newfolden, graduating from Newfolden High School in 1944. As the highest-ranking boy in his class, he received a Prize Scholarship from the State Council of Minnesota Colleges to any of 12 private colleges in Minnesota and South Dakota. With the country embroiled in World War II, he chose instead to follow his two older brothers into military service.
Harlin served in the U.S. Army from April 1945 to November 1946, reaching the rank of sergeant E-5. He was assigned to the 13th Airborne Division — 326th Glider Infantry Regiment and then to the 82nd Airborne Division — 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. He received his Parachutist’s Badge, Glider Wings, Expert Infantry Badge, World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and American Campaign Medal.
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Following his discharge from the Army, Harlin married the love of his life, Betty Verna Engelsrud, in Newfolden on Sept. 25, 1948. As Harlin recently wrote, they “had an interesting and wonderful life together.” Among many proud accomplishments during their 70 years of marriage, Harlin and Verna raised four children and started three successful businesses.
Harlin began his career in 1947, when he joined Land O’Lakes in Thief River Falls, starting as a cashier. During his 25 years with the company he progressed through the ranks, working as an accountant, office manager and plant manager, and eventually helping to launch and manage the company’s egg division. His work with Land O’Lakes took Harlin, Verna and their growing family to establish homes in Lakefield, Fridley and Albert Lea.
In 1973 Harlin left Land O’Lakes to form his own egg processing and distribution business, Elseth Eggs Inc., which he owned and operated in Lakefield for 18 years. While there, he and Verna also purchased Loon Lake Golf, a nine-hole golf course in Jackson, which they operated from 1979 to 1985.
Eventually selling both the egg and golf course businesses, Harlin and Verna retired to Albert Lea, where they purchased Green Lea Golf Course, an 18-hole public golf course, in 1984, and he remained a shareholder until his recent passing.
During their marriage, Harlin and Verna owned two homes in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they enjoyed their winter months with family and friends. They were also fortunate to travel to many of the United States — including Alaska, as well as to the Bahamas, Canada, Norway and the Panama Canal.
An avid reader — particularly of American and world history — throughout his years, Harlin also enjoyed boating, golfing and working with stained glass.
He served as commander of Ecklund-Holmstrom Post 117 American Legion in Thief River Falls in 1956, and as president of the Lakefield Chamber of Commerce.
On May 21, 2011, Harlin joined nine other WWII veterans on the southeastern Minnesota Honor Flight to visit the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., A highlight of the trip for Harlin was the opportunity to meet and shake hands with his long-time hero, Sen. Bob Dole.
Harlin was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers Lester Elseth and Basil Elseth; and his sisters Lorale (Kenneth) Swenson and Marlys (Lenord) Swanson.
Harlin is survived by his loving wife of 70 years, Verna; and his children Connie Waks (Frank) of Seattle, Corrine Chessick of Rochester, Jeffrey Elseth (Denise) of Albert Lea and Kristine Riess (Dale) of Rochester. He is also survived by his eight grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and his brothers Bernard Elseth and Gerald Elseth, both of Crookston.
Harlin felt privileged to live for 91 years and to have enjoyed the love and company of his wife, Verna; his family, including his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; as well as his many friends throughout the years. He was a wonderful man — loving, honest, hardworking and always dedicated to his family and responsibilities. He will be missed.