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Elmer L. Andersen

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Andersen, Elmer L. - Of Arden Hills, Minnesota, passed away in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 15, 2004, of natural causes. Mr. Andersen was born in Chicago, Illinois, on June 17, 1909, a son of Arne Andersen, a Norwegian immigrant, and Jenny Olivia Johnson, a native of North Muskegon, Michigan. His family, including two brothers, Arnold Andersen and Marvin Andersen; and one sister, Caroline Andersen, moved to Muskegon, Michigan, several years later. It was in Muskegon that Mr. Andersen attended elementary school, high school, and two years of college. He first came to Minnesota in 1928 as a salesman for the G.T. Sheldon Company of Muskegon, Michigan. Combining sales work and his college education, he graduated from the University of Minnesota with an undergraduate degree in business. In 1934, he joined the H.B. Fuller Company, a manufacturer of adhesives and chemicals. He served as president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the Fuller Company for many years, establishing the company nationally through a pioneering philosophy that honored four tenets: serve customers, respect employees, build share holder return, and support communities. Mr. Andersen continued this philosophy in establishing ECM Publications, Inc., a group of weekly newspapers and publishing products and services, located in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Always eager to assist young business people and their companies, he was a Rotarian, achieving the role of district governor in 1954. Through the years, he served on various corporate boards. Additionally, he developed a distinguished herd of Holstein Cattle at Deer Lake Farm. Throughout his life, Mr. Andersen sought to strengthen democracy, maintain its institutions such as public education and libraries, and enhance the lives of all citizens, regardless of race or creed. One way he did this was engaging in Minnesota's political life. He served as a legislator from St. Paul, Minnesota, from 1949-1958, sponsoring bills directed at social welfare: to create the State Human Rights Commission, to aid juvenile treatment and chemical dependency programs, to provide nursing scholarships, to fund the Metropolitan Planning Commission, and to initiate Minnesota's first special education and civil rights legislation. He also served as governor of the State of Minnesota from 1960-1963. A notable achievement of these years was the economic revitalization of northern Minnesota by means of the Taconite Amendment. Another way he served democracy and its citizens was to tirelessly participate in organizations. He was a scout master, President of the Minnesota Historical Society, Chair of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, President of the University Foundation, national board member of the Child Welfare League, a founding board member of the Sugarloaf Interpretive Center Association, a board member of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and a participant in numerous other organizations. With fellow volunteers, he successfully championed Voyageurs National Park both in Minnesota and Washington D.C. and achieved the establishment of the park in 1971. Books--their publishing, collection, preservation, and accessibility to the public in libraries--was a focus of Mr. Andersen's life from childhood to his last days, at 95 years of age, when he was planning and writing his fourth book. His own previous books included an autobiography, 'A Man's Reach,' a book of essays, and a third book of speeches. In earlier years, he joined with Professor Leon Snyder and others in the establishment of a horticultural library at the University of Minnesota Arboretum; worked with the citizens of Princeton, Minnesota, to build a new public library; was a founding board member of the Minneapolis Center for the Book Arts, and enjoyed membership in the Grolier Club of New York. He was deeply appreciative that the new archival library on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota was named in his honor. In the eyes of his family, friends, and even of political opponents, Mr. Andersen represented decency, honesty, fidelity, generosity, grace, intelligence, dedicated citizenship, and the enlightened conduct of politics and business. He greeted all people with unfailing courtesy, good humor, and gentle wit. He is survived by his wife of 72 years, the great love of his life, Eleanor; by sons, Tony and Julian (Jamie); by daughter, Emily; by grandchildren, Amy (Tim Wilson), and Nathan and Benjamin Andersen; by great-grandchildren, Shelby Katherine and Caleb James; by nieces and nephews and their families; by cousins and their families in the United States, Norway, and Sweden; and by his cherished friends and work associates. Mr. Andersen's remains will lie in state in the State of Minnesota Capitol Rotunda on Thursday, November 18, 2004, during the hours 4-8PM; a public memorial service will be held at CENTRAL LUTHERAN CHURCH, 333 S. 12th Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Saturday, November 20, 2004, at 2PM; a family service and a private interment will occur at Hillside Cemetery. Memorials preferred to the Andersen Libraries of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, the Voyageurs Park Association, and the Jankofsky Fund of the University of Minnesota Duluth. Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapel 612-377-2203.
Published in Pioneer Press from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, 2004
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