Neil Albert Bjurstrom
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Neil Bjurstrom was born in Chicago, an only child to George and Violet Prevar Bjurstrom. He graduated from Lane Technical High School in 1946. He finished his coursework the year before and joined The United States Air Force as a French Horn player and was stationed in Washington, D. C. Following his military service he played in the Glenn Miller band under the direction of Tex Beneke for a year. He returned to Chicago where, with the help of the G.l. bill, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Northwestern University in music (French horn, string bass) and music education. Along with teaching in the New Trier School District, he played in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner and in the Chicago Lyric Opera. Also he played string bass in a society band for nineteen years. He enrolled at The University of Iowa in 1964 and earned a Ph.D. in music/music education. In the next decade he taught music and education courses at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, developed a successful music program at Kennedy High School, and played with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. In 1980 he moved to Ames, Iowa, where he taught music-related classes and conducted the Cardinal Keynotes at Iowa State University. He also represented music extension for the state. He received numerous awards including recognition for dedicated and enthusiastic work with the Iowa Farm Bureau Women's Choruses 1980 to 1990 and in 1994 The Faculty Citation award from the Iowa State Alumni Association for long, outstanding, and inspiring service.
His activities changed after he retired in 1994. In addition to managing the tasks of a hobby farm, he especially enjoyed caring for rescue animals (sheep and goats). Also, he had a lifelong love of gourmet cooking and enjoyed creating new recipes. Another hobby was model trains. Each Christmas he set up a large display representing a complete Christmas village. He traveled often in the United States specifically to see opera performances, especially Richard Wagner's Ring cycles. The culmination of his travels was a trip to Bayreuth, Germany, to tour Wahnfried, Wagner's home, and Festspielhaus, designed by Wagner for his own operas. His other major pleasure was visiting with neighbors, friends, students, and colleagues and watching their children develop into great citizens for this country.
He was preceded in death by his parents, George and Violet Bjurstrom and by his much loved French horn teacher and mentor, Philip Farkas.
Survivors include his wife of 46 years, Dixie; and from an earlier marriage, two daughters, Karen (Werth) and Kathy (Letarte), two grandchildren, Jennifer (Mroch) and Michael, and one great-grandson, Christopher.
As per his wishes he will be cremated, and there will be no services.
He lived a full and interesting life and will be greatly missed.
Donations may be made to "Huxley Fire and Rescue, 104 E. 4th St., Huxley, IA 50124.
Published in Des Moines Register on July 18, 2013