George Ehrhardt, 1926-2018
Published 1:00 am Saturday, August 11, 2018
George Rohn Ehrhardt died peacefully at home Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. He was 91.
A visitation with the family will take place at Bayview/Freeborn Funeral Home from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 21. A memorial service is planned for a future date, and there will be an announcement ahead of that event. Online condolences are welcome at www.bayviewfuneral.com.
A family reunion was held the first week of August, and George was able to visit, embrace, sing songs and celebrate with his two sisters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, daughters and sons-in-law, and extended family. In his own words, “I think it’s time to kiss everybody good-bye.” And so he did.
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George was born in Albert Lea on Oct. 4, 1926. His parents were Lou and Elisabeth (Wedge) Ehrhardt. He graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1944 and went into the U.S. Navy with an honorable discharge in 1946 as “an expert navigator” (according to him). He attended Carleton College, where he met Anne Reed, his wife of 61 years.
George began working for his father in the seed business in the early ’50s. Anne and George raised five children. After 60 years in the seed business, people asked him why he didn’t retire, and he told them “How can I retire? Lou is still working.”
He served on many local boards, including the YMCA and Norwest Bank. He traveled to India to hike and climb, reaching the base camp of Annapurna — the fifth highest mountain in the world. He fought against Imperial Chemical on Highway 13 and helped force them to clean up their hazardous waste site. He was an Eagle Scout with Bill Sturtz, Ed Wolverton, Paul Kepple and Earl Jacobson. He took many trips into the BWCA and Quetico with family and friends. George was an integral part of establishing Wintergreen Food Co-op. in the early 1970s, helped Lea College get established in 1966 and helped expand the size of Myre-Big Island State Park. He loved to downhill ski, taking his first lessons at Sun Valley with Anne in 1949. The entire trip with train ride, hotel and lessons cost $98.
His biggest regret was not buying a two-lot parcel at the bottom of Little Nell in Aspen in 1967. Oh well.
George was on the Albert Lea school board two times. He wanted to have Albert Lea High School stay downtown because it was “important to have kids and adults share the same space.”
He never had a bad word about anyone. The worst he ever said was “Your acting like an unbroke pony.” He was deliberately fair and generous.
Albert Lea Seed House was the focus of his working life. He loved joshing and dealing with the local farmers, and making deals and buying and selling farm and field seed. He enjoyed his employees (though he argued with them, and many of his management techniques would not be politically correct today). He loved a good party and practical jokes.
He often said it was hard to appreciate other people’s success, but you should figure out a way. Things that he wanted to have happen often did not happen, so he worked harder.
In the mid ’70s he would drive his VW van down to “the other side of the tracks” and pick up a group of boys who were described back then as “disadvantaged” — maybe 10 kids. They would go bowling or to Helmer Meyer State Park, or visit some interesting place nearby. He made time for them as he did for many other people. When the Lakeside Cafe closed, he kept buying pies from the lady who made the pie for Lakeside.
George could laugh at himself — out loud. He loved problems that made people grimace to solve. He was a poor carpenter — not good with tools, but managed to work with his Seed House staff in the offseason and fixed up more broken buildings in Albert Lea than can be counted. He read Ezra Pound and TS Eliot out loud. He listened to and loved watching birds, planting trees and watching musicals — especially “Pirates of Penzance.” He never missed one of Anne’s ACT plays and, if it was a musical, went every night. He enjoyed playing charades and the dictionary game. He never knew all the lyrics of a song but would sing anyway.
He could be mean and generous and kind all at the same time with different people. He hated unfairness but could be unfair himself. He collected many stories over the years and wrote them down. When computers came on he called them “a fad.” He slept outside in the tree house behind his house (even in winter), because the air was better. He planted thousands of trees over the course of his lifetime. He was a great admirer of Sir Ernest Shackleton — the Antarctic explorer, and loved the adventures found in “Desert Road To Turkestan” by Owen Lattimore.
Survivors include his children Peter Ehrhardt of Kenai, Alaska, Anne Todd Wilbur (Tom) of Minneapolis, Margaret Ehrhardt of Albert Lea, Tom Ehrhardt (Sarah) of Albert Lea and Mac Ehrhardt (Sophie) of Albert Lea; plus grandchildren Britt, Kirsten, Reed, Dylan, Isabel, Sam, Andy, Clyde and Rohn; sisters Mary Person of Santa Cruz, California, and Elisabeth Atwell of Wasau, Wisconsin; plus many nieces and nephews.
George was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Anne.
The family thanks Hospice and Embrace of Albert Lea for their thoughtful caretaking. A special thanks to Catalina Huerta and family.
The family encourages memorials be sent to Nature Conservancy — Attn: Treasury, 4245 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203; or Environmental and Energy Study Institute at eesi.org or — EESI, 1020 19th St. NW, Suite 650, Washington, D.C. 20036.
They are appreciated to recognize George’s concern about climate change.