Eugene “Gene” Nordquist
CANBY – Services for Eugene “Gene” Nordquist, 88, of Canby, will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Canby with Rev. Janet Colby officiating. Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. today at the church with a prayer service at 7 p.m. and will continue Tuesday one hour prior to the service. Burial will be in Hope Lutheran Cemetery in Minneota. Military honors will be provided by Minneota American Legion Post 199. Arrangements are with Birk Funeral Home of Canby.
He passed away Friday, March 8, 2013, at Sanford Canby Medical Center after a long battle with cancer.
Gene was born on July 28, 1924, to Clvig and Esther (Cocking) Nordquist in Pelican Rapids.
After a short stay in Fergus Falls, Gene’s family had to move in with Fred and Ada Cocking on a farm in Pelican Rapids after his father died when Gene was 3 years old. He graduated from Pelican Rapids in 1942 and enlisted in the army in February 1943. After basic training at Camp McCoy, he was transferred to Foster General Hospital in Jackson, Miss., where he worked as a laboratory technician in a 1,500 bed hospital. He was soon in charge of the lab and worked in pathology, where he worked his way up to Sergeant. One evening, by a chance one-time meeting, he went to the USO club and met a young lady, Clovis (Danny) Dansby, and only six weeks later, on Sept. 16, 1944, they were married. It took a lot of convincing to have her move up North, but their marriage lasted over 63 years. After an honorable discharge, Gene attended Bemidji State for one year, followed by the University of Minnesota for mortuary science for two years. He graduated in the top 10 percent of his class in 1948. He took his apprenticeship at West’s Funeral Home in Detroit Lakes for two years.
He answered an ad for a funeral director position for Cassel Middleton, who had a furniture and funeral business in Minneota. But when Pastor Otto Dale found out that Joe Rehkamp wanted to sell his business, it was said that Otto couldn’t tell Gene fast enough. So Gene bought out Joe Rehkamp and partnered with Don Bourgeois in his furniture and funeral home business in Minneota, which lasted over 26 years. However, the army soon called Gene back for the Korean Conflict in 1950. Gene was stationed at Camp McCoy for one year and again was honorably discharged. He moved back to Minneota to settle down for good. Gene and Danny adopted two boys, Scott joined their family in 1953, and Dane in 1955. Following a fire in 1960, they expanded their furniture business to include two more buildings next door. And then again in 1963, they bought the theater building, and converted it into their funeral home business.
While in Minneota he was involved in many projects. He was a past commander of the Minneota Legion, in which he was a member for over 60 years. At the legion, Gene helped to start and then manage the bowling alley for many years. He was on the committee when Minneota wanted to start a new golf course and was the first Vice President of the golf course. But of all the sports, his love was baseball, and he was always promoting local town team baseball and just Minneota in general. He went so far as to buy t-shirts for the 7-12 year old little league players one year, hoping that other businesses might follow suit and buy the t-shirts the next year (but it never happened). He enjoyed watching his two sons play sports and followed them throughout their high school years. He served on the Minneota city council for two terms. As the local funeral director, he was also responsible for the local ambulance service for many years. He was the president of the Minneota promotional board when the Schott Corporation came to town looking for a place to expand their business. So he helped with the fundraising and getting them established in the Minneota area. Gene was also the sexton of the Hope Lutheran cemetery in Minneota.
In 1971 they sold the funeral home business to Joe’s sons, Jack and Paul Rehkamp. Gene and Don then proceeded to open another store in Canby. When Don decided to retire, Gene took over the Canby store and moved there in 1976. Gene partnered with his son, Dane in 1979 and they were in business together until Gene’s retirement. While in Canby, Gene was a part of the Chamber of Commerce, Centennial committee, vice president of OSL, and on the city zoning board.
Gene retired in 1987, so that he and Danny could enjoy RVing full time. Their travels took them to all 48 continental United States and half of Canada. They spent 10 wonderful years in Arizona wintering with friends that now spread across the U.S. While they were there, they started a Holiday Rambler Breakfast Club, which is still being run to this day. He was also the Minnesota state manager of the Holiday Ramblers for 2 years.
Gene had many hobbies over the years. Beginning at age 13, he started collecting stamps and had a mint set of stamps from 1900-2010. Always an avid sports person, he enjoyed bowling, golfing, and playing any kind of card game, including the Belgian game of Bein. The past several years he really enjoyed playing cards in Taunton twice a week with the Senior Citizen group. Other hobbies included collecting and selling Roseville pottery (at one time he had over 800 pieces). Gene tried his hand at gardening one time when he started to grow just irises. He won “Queen of the Show” at the Minneota Flower Show a few times, back when there weren’t any men that were showing Irises or flowers. At one time, he had over 300 varieties of irises in his back yard at his home. He went on to qualify as an iris judge and he judged a few flower shows in Sioux Falls, S.D. They also started collecting anything that had an iris on it, whether it was pottery, art, or pictures. He enjoyed watching and talking sports, whether it was the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings or golf.
Gene and Danny enjoyed doing everything together, whether it was RVing, antique collecting, or gardening. They enjoyed listening to and following Dane’s Jazz, Dixieland, and church bands over the years. They enjoyed their grandchildren and sometimes even the grand dogs!
In 2010, Gene was very honored to be able to take part in the Honor Flight to Washington DC to see the WWII memorial and other memorials. As a past veteran, he said that all the veterans on that trip were treated with great respect for their service and dedication to their nation.
Survivors include his two sons, Scott (Ruth) Nordquist of North Branch, Dane (Nancy) Nordquist of Canby, two grandchildren, Justin Nordquist of Starbuck and Nicole Nordquist of Moorhead.
Gene was preceded in death by his parents Clvig and Esther, his wife Danny, his brother Irvin Nordquist, and his sister Florence Heisler.