Miller Funeral Home - Downtown
507 South Main Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57104
(605) 336-2640
Memorial service
Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020
2:00 PM
Miller Funeral Home - Downtown
507 South Main Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57104
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Arnie Stenseth

Arnie Stenseth Obituary
Arnie Stenseth

Sioux Falls - Arnie Stenseth, an actor, living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, passed away on February 7, 2020, following a short illness. He was 82. As Shakespeare said: "All the world's a stage. And all the men and women are merely players". The world, and the stage, have lost a great man and a wonderful actor with his death. He was bigger than life and lived life to the fullest. He traveled the world and brought part of that experience into his mind and outlook and was always looking for the next adventurous trip or opportunity. He never stopped planning what would be his next experience. Arnie had plans and new goals until his death.

As an actor, he landed a part in the pilot movie of Twin Peaks. He played a Norwegian, and director David Lynch picked him for the part because he was a Norwegian and passed the test of answering Lynch's first question in Norwegian. Lynch said: "You've got the part". Those were Arnie's favorite words in his life—"You've got the part". Acting was his passion, his dream, and he acted on both screen and stage. In a training film on farming, he played Roger the Farmer, which could not have been further from his real life, always having lived in cities, but he was an actor, and everyone thought he was in fact a farmer from the video. He performed in Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and kids on the street would then recognize him. When he played parts in America's Most Wanted, he had to carry an official card saying that he was not that person. He lived in Washington, D. C. when filming that series and was frequently stopped by the WDC police because he looked like "The guy on America's Most Wanted". On stage, he was primarily a Shakespearean actor, and in Sioux Falls, he acted primarily with the Community Playhouse and was the director in 1971. He was a member of SAG/AFTRA for actors in stage and film.

Arnie was a first generation Norwegian. His parents both came from Norway, and Arnie and his brother John (now deceased) were born in the United States. He also had two half-sisters by his father's previous marriage. One is deceased, but Vi Dnistran is living in California, near her daughter Paula Varblow and family.

Arnie was born in Tyler, MN, but the family moved to Sioux Falls, shortly after that. His mother, Ruth Sorlie, taught German at Augustana College (now University) in Sioux Falls, and he grew up in Sioux Falls, starting kindergarten at Mark Twain in 1942. His first trip abroad was on the Queen Mary to England in 1952, with his family, brought about by his mother having received a Fulbright Scholarship. They lived in Norway for a year, and then he returned and graduated from Washington High School, downtown Sioux Falls, in 1956.

Arnie started college at Augustana College and joined the Marine Corps Reserve. Finding the latter more interesting, he joined the Army in 1957 and was in Army Intelligence. He returned to Augustana in 1960 and graduated from Augustana in 1966 with a BA in theatre and acting. He met Connie Herseth at Augustana, and they were married in 1963. From that marriage, he has two daughters--Calli Brick (Kevin) and Mari Lingle (Darrell). His children grew up in Pierre, while he served as the Bicentennial Director for the State of South Dakota, in the mid-70s. Calli has two children—Seth and Shannon—and Mari has two children—Brooks and Madeline.

Arnie was divorced in 1980 and spent the 1980's on Whidbey Island and in Seattle, WA. In 1989, he returned to Sioux Falls to direct the Community Playhouse and act. He re-met an Augustana College acquaintance—Rosemary Erickson, class of Augustana 1964. They were married in November, 1990, and moved to Washington DC, where Arnie acted, and Rosemary received her Ph.D. and continued her research and consulting with her company—Athena Research Corporation. The company does research and consulting in studying, understanding, and preventing violent crime.

For this work, Arnie received his Certified Protection Professional Certification (CPP). As part of the Athena research, he went into 26 prisons across the country and surveyed over 600 robbers to determine why they do what they do, which resulted in a book in 1996 and furtherance of a program for convenience stores all over the world in what to do to prevent robbery in their stores. About his prison research, he would say: "She (Rosemary) sends me into prison, but I keep coming back".

He continued his work with crime prevention until the end of his life. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, on the day he died, a lawyer was on the phone with Dr. Erickson and asked about a violent crime civil case, from seven years prior. While he was on the stretcher, he reiterated to her what the case was, and then passed away just a few hours later—lucid and still working on preventing crime to the end.

Arnie loved travel and adventure and had traveled world-wide. His favorite place was Belize, and he still wanted to make a trip there just a month before he passed away. Rosemary and Arnie, in their 29 years together, lived in Georgetown, WDC; Seattle, WA; San Diego, CA; Coral Gables, FL; and Swan Lake (Viborg, SD). They returned to Sioux Falls in 2016 to be with family.

His daughters talk of what an amazing dad he was. He delighted in teaching and adoring his two daughters. Arnie and Calli graced the stage singing and acting together. His beautiful and amazing singing voice was passed on to his daughters and his four grandchildren, and it will continue on through them.

Arnie supported several causes through his donations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their motto, which was his greatest cause, was: "Fighting Hate; Teaching Tolerance; and Seeking Justice". May he rest in peace, knowing he lived a full and giving life and did his part to make this a better world.

His final words before he passed were: "I know I am not going to make it, but I am not afraid". He is survived by his wife Rosemary; his older sister Vi; his daughters Calli and Mari; his grandchildren: Shannon Brick, Seth Brick, Brooks Jordan, Madeline Jordan; his niece Paula Varblow, nephew Mark Dnistran, and Rosemary's nieces and nephews—Her brother Russell's children: Karen Iversen and Tessa Sugahara; and her brother Dean's children: Sandra Erickson, Doug Erickson, and Jeff Erickson and his informally adopted granddaughter Jae Csongradi.

Memorials are suggested in Arnie's honor to go to his mother's scholarship fund: "Ruth Sorlie Stenseth Endowed Scholarship" at Augustana University.

The memorial service is Saturday, February 29, 2020 at 2 PM at Miller Funeral Home at 507 S. Main Avenue in Sioux Falls, SD.
Published in The Argus Leader from Feb. 12 to Feb. 23, 2020
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