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Morrie L. Evenson, 81, of New London, died Wednesday, November 8th at CentraCare Rice Hospital in Willmar. His memorial service will be 2:00 pm, Friday, November 17th at Peace Lutheran Church in New London. Visitation will be one hour prior to his service. Burial will be in Lake Andrew Cemetery in rural New London. Memorials are suggested to the Michael J. Fox Parkinson's Foundation, Peace Lutheran Church, Bethesda Foundation/Chaplaincy, the Shriners Children's Hospital, or donor's choice. His service will be livestreamed on the church's Youtube page ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKFwy8UYMsk )Arrangements are with Harvey Anderson Funeral Home in Willmar, www.hafh.org
Morris Lee Evenson was born November 17, 1941, at home in Albert Lea, MN. He was the fourth child born to Morris and Anna (Johannsen) Evenson, and their first son. He was a brother to three sisters who were 11, 16, and 20 years older than him. Morrie was eight years old when his father died. His oldest sister, Irene, and her husband, Alvin, farmed and needed extra help in the summers, so Morrie learned how to drive the horses pulling the hay wagon, and worked hard to do various chores assigned to him.
Graduating from Albert Lea high school in 1960, Morrie enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After basic training he was assigned to the Air Force Base in Lincoln, NE as a crew chief on B52 bombers. The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 found Morrie in a bomber loaded, in the air, and ready to head to Cuba. Luckily things ended peacefully. During this time period Morrie was married and they had a son, Michael Lee Evenson.
Willmar was the destination for the family after Morrie was honorably discharged in 1964. He sharpened his writing and photography skills as the "Area News Coordinator" for the West Central Daily Tribune. During this time, he was a Boy Scout leader at Vinje Lutheran Church, active in the junior chamber of commerce (the Jaycees), and the family lived in the upstairs apartment of the historic Sperry House (now a museum). Morrie spent many free hours in conversation with Brian Sperry. He also completed his A.A. degree at Willmar Community College (now Ridgewater). The family then moved to Bemidji where Morrie would get his B.S. degree in Social Studies and Psychology Education. He drove snow plow and worked for the Beltrami County Highway Dept. until the spring of 1971, when he was hired by the Willmar Public Schools to teach 9th grade social studies. The family moved to an 80 acre farm near Lake Florida where in the summers Morrie enjoyed life on the farm, working the land. But these were challenging times and the marriage ended in divorce. In 1975 he and son Michael experienced a horrible barn fire, saving all the horses boarded there, but losing almost everything else.
Gradually Morrie began to rebuild his life and the farm. Daphne Eklund came to teach music at Willmar Junior High in 1976. In 1979 they were married at Bethel Lutheran Church in Willmar. The building of their "forever home on earth" began that summer, with the help of three teacher/friends. He had drawn the original floor plan when he was a senior in a high school architectural drawing class in 1960.
Granted a five year leave of absence, Morrie was able to farm full time. The cow/calf herd had become more than an after-work hobby. However, a day spent at an elk farm convinced Morrie and Daphne that this was the direction they should go. Most of the cows were soon sold. Joining the Minnesota Elk Breeders and the North American Elk Breeders in 1995 and buying their first elk was life changing. Summers were spent putting up 8 ft. fences, having elk calves, and meeting other elk breeders. That first fall Morrie went back to teaching, but now at Willmar Senior High, until he retired in 1999. Being the coordinators for the Minnesota Elk Breeders booth at the Minnesota State Fair consumed the last 12 days before Labor Day for many years.
After retirement from teaching Morrie was elected to the Lake Andrew Township Board. He was happy when he was chairman, that the township was able to find a home for the old school house and build a new township hall in its place. All paid for without raising taxes! He retired in 2014 from the board when speaking loudly and clearly became a challenge. His Parkinson's had been diagnosed in 2008. He was determined to "keep going and doing" as much as possible. During this time, he was director/ manager of the New London Creamery Board. Traveling to elk conventions, to visit family and friends and going on trips with the Willmar High School music department took us to almost all of the fifty states, Mexico and Canada. In 2020 we had just come home from a trip when Covid caused everything to shut down. From then on Morrie became more home bound. After a hospital stay and three months of rehab in nursing homes, Morrie returned home. His fervent wish was to never leave again. He was home for 14 months until his last day when he went to the hospital and died there that night.
Morrie held life memberships in three organizations: the American Legion (51 years), the North American Elk Breeders and the Minnesota Elk Breeders (since 1995) and the Retired Educators Association of Minnesota (since 1999).
Morrie is survived by his wife Daphne; his son Michael (Jodi); his grandson, Zackery (Cassandra) their children Mackenzie, Eliza, and Cecilia, his granddaughter Samantha (Jeremy) Westbrock and their children Avery, Gage, and Jacob Pederson, and Josephine. Also, special nephews and nieces and their children and grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his immediate family and Daphne's family.
* to Jeff & Maureen Barbour who made it possible for Morrie to come home
* to friends Neal & Julene Haugen who have shared "Wednesdays with Morrie"
* to neighbors Lyle Bengtson, Danny, Jason, Jessalyn, Devon Lien, Andrew Cors & Loren Hjelle who came whenever called to help
* to nephews Donn (Deb), Terry (Val) and David (Julie) for their special times with Morrie
* to our Winona "family" headed by Pat & Rita Prodzinski
* to the VA of St. Cloud that generously provided equipment and home health services
* to Peace Lutheran Church for live streaming services so we could "attend" church at 9:00 am on Sundays