Merrill Bruce Gustafson, 79, died in Northfield, Minnesota, on Sunday, December 22, 2013, after a period of declining health related to lung disease. He had moved to Northfield in 2009 after farming in the Stanton area for most of his life. He had been residing at home through early November but in recent weeks had been in the Northfield Hospital and, most recently, in the Three Links Care Center where he was together with his wife Ruth.
He was born in Dennison, Minnesota, on February 26, 1934 to Oscar and Lillian (Cleland) Gustafson. His family moved to a farm in the Stanton area, and he and his older brother R.F. (Bud) Gustafson began milking cows on another farm on Hwy. 56 close to the intersection with Hwy. 19 while he was still in high school. He would help with the milking in the morning and then catch the bus to school.
After graduating from Randolph High School, he attended St. Olaf College for one year. He later said that he had not found anything that he would rather do than farm. Shortly after leaving college, he enlisted in the Army, rather than waiting to be drafted, and served in the Chicago area. He reported that his most harrowing experience was an ambulance ride across town for an emergency appendectomy.
After returning home, he married Ruth Rosenwald, whom he met at a dance at the Prom Ballroom in the Twin Cities. They were married on August 6, 1960 in Norwood, Minnesota, in the Methodist Church. Because the Methodist church hall was under renovation, the women of the Catholic Church located across the street from Ruth's childhood home hosted the wedding reception.
They went on to raise a family on the farm, and Merrill continued to farm with his brother Bud. After getting out of the dairy business in 1987, he continued to farm and drove a delivery truck for Lamperts Lumber in Northfield and later drove school bus for the Randolph School District. He was a long-time member of Stanton United Methodist Church, serving nearly twenty years as the financial secretary. He was also known to plow snow out of the church parking lot when needed.
His pleasures included fishing at the lake cabin that Ruth's father built. He enjoyed casting for bass early in the morning, and would bait hooks patiently for children at any time of day. He enjoyed fresh fish, fresh sweet corn, fresh blackberries, good lefse, caramels, and many kinds of chocolate. He took pleasure in playing with his great grandchildren, Peyton and Daelyn, who were with him along with other family on Halloween. He was pleased that the family farmhouse went to his grandson Bryce Kieffer, who now lives there with his family. He believed in living within limits: he was not a fan of irrigation and avoided doing fieldwork past sunset. He only traveled by plane to please his family. He preferred to stay home on what he believed was the most beautiful farm in Minnesota.
Surviving, in addition to his wife Ruth, are his three brothers, Russell (Shirley), Bud (Joan), and Delbert (Arlene) Gustafson; three children: David (Christine) of Houston, MN; Karen (Al) Kieffer of Dennison; and Loren (Sarah Bell) of Lewisburg, PA; six grandchildren; two great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Oscar and Lillian, and also by John Robinson, whom Lillian married in retirement.
Funeral arrangements are by the Bierman Funeral Home in Northfield.