City loses former mayor, so much more

MARSHALL – There was no question that Dr. John Feda believed in public service. A look back over his life and career includes military service, more than a decade of work for Marshall Public Schools and the city of Marshall, and a term as state commissioner of education. Beyond that, family members and local residents say they remember Feda as “a gentleman,” and the kind of person who didn’t hold grudges.

“It didn’t make a difference who you were, he had time to talk to you,” said Steve Ritter, Feda’s son-in-law. “That was his best trait.”

Feda, who served as Marshall Public Schools superintendent from 1970 to 1981, and Marshall mayor from 1988 to 1992, died Saturday. He was 88.

Feda was originally from the Alexandria area. As a young man, he joined the Army Air Corps and flew in 23 missions as navigator of a B-17 bomber crew during World War II.

He would later go on to a long career in education, including 11 years as the superintendent of Marshall Public Schools and three years as the Minnesota commissioner of education under Gov. Al Quie, from 1981 to 1983.

After that, Feda was elected mayor of Marshall in 1988.

Current Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said he remembered working with Feda when he was mayor and Byrnes was a member of the Marshall city council. Feda’s experience with the school board served him well in working together with council members, Byrnes said.

“He knew the importance of hearing everyone’s opinion, and then coming to a consensus and moving forward,” Byrnes said. “There’s a real talent to being able to guide a board,” he said, and Feda had it.

Even after retiring, Feda was still involved in community organizations like the Marshall Rotary and the Knights of Columbus. He often spoke about his military service at events like area Veterans Day commemorations. Feda also served as interim Lyon County administrator in 2003.

Through it all, Feda remained close to his family and values.

“Education was a big thing for him,” said Kelly Brunsvold, Feda’s granddaughter.

Feda earned his doctorate in education, and encouraged his grandchildren to pursue their own educations. Brunsvold said Feda also tried to pass on his Catholic faith.

“He was a very active grandpa,” Brunsvold said. “He loved sports,” she said, whether that meant playing ball with his grandkids or cheering for local athletes. He could often be found in the stands at athletic events, “even if he didn’t know the people playing,” Brunsvold said.

“He was really kind of a gentleman and a respected person to the end,” Byrnes said.

The man Feda succeeded as mayor of Marshall, Robert J. Schlagel, died in 2011. Dr. Charles F. “Bud” McGuiggan, who served as Marshall’s mayor from 1960-64, also died in 2011.