In Memoriam

Willi Volkmer

Wilma Castrup" Willi" Volkmer died unexpectedly, but peacefully, July 19 at her home at Summit Place in Eden Prairie.

Remembrances that have come to us since her death have highlighted her wit, her sincere interest in the people she met, and her welcoming and caring nature. She was those things and more. Willi was born and raised in Ripley, West Virginia and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at West Virginia University (Go Mountaineers!). She spent her working years as a counselor in community colleges, completing her 25-year career at Normandale. She was especially dedicated to the success of adult women and international students. She was a keen proponent of the unique opportunities community colleges offer and worked with her students to achieve them. Willi met Will at the wedding of her Alpha Phi sister and his Delta Upsilon brother. Lt. Volkmer was stationed in Alaska at the time, so romance blossomed through letters and audio tapes. Married June 8, 1957, they began their union driving from West Virginia to Alaska, after which they were sure their relationship would stand the test of time. It did, indeed, for 60 years during which they welcomed their daughter Susan; moved to Florida, Colorado, and Minnesota with Honeywell; traveled the world; motorhomed the U.S. and Canada; and boated every body of water they could find. All the while, they were making lifelong friends and wonderful memories that, along with their beloved family, sustained them for the rest of their lives. After Will died in 2017, Willi focused on maintaining friendships, reading, cherishing time with Susan and her family, and keeping a close and wary eye on the state of our nation (Vote!).

Willi was preceded in death by husband Will, infant daughter Pamela Ann, parents Grover and Lucille Castrup, and sister-in-law Iva Volkmer. She is survived by daughter and son-in-law Susan and Jim Ahrens, grandson Fred Ahrens, brother-in-law Eldon Volkmer, dear cousins in Minnesota and Texas, and cherished childhood friends in West Virginia. A life well-lived and well-loved has ended.

Please consider honoring Willi with a gift to the Minnesota Orchestral Association or the Music Ministry of Colonial Church. A small gathering of family and friends will be held in September.

Dennis Peterson

Dennis Walfred Peterson was born July 24, 1943 in Minneapolis. He died at the age of 77 on August 27, 2020 at his home in Prior Lake.

He was married to Maureen (Murphy) Peterson on December 30, 1972 and they were married for 47 years. Dennis worked as a parochial schoolteacher and in student services/admissions at Normandale Community College for 25 years. He enjoyed photography, oil painting, traveling, gardening, and bird watching. He also loved to spend time finding the best power tool deals at Harbor Freight, eating Chinese at a lunch buffet, or taking long road trips with his friends in the car. One of his favorites places to take his son and grandsons would be Richardson Nature Center. He was kind-hearted and loved to laugh. He was a devoted Catholic, articulate/engaging lector, and went to church every Sunday. He enjoyed relaxing in his recliner, wearing comfy slippers, and finding good car deals on Craigslist.

He was a beloved father and grandfather and will be greatly missed by all his family and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Vernon and Emmy Flasch Peterson.

He is survived by his wife, Maureen Elizabeth Peterson; one son, Matt (Hanna); and two grandsons, Liam (8) and Julian (6).

Aaze, Elvia "Bunnie" 

Aaze, Elvia "Bunnie" Age 90 of Bloomington. Passed away surrounded by love on May 15, 2020. Born April 27, 1930 in New York City. Co- founder of the Normandale Japanese Garden, Bunnie devoted over 53 years and countless hours to her beloved garden. Bunnie was a self-employed wedding florist for many years, an avid gardener and a member of Christ the King Lutheran Church. Bunnie loved life and was deeply proud of her family. She was indeed the original Energizer "Bunnie." Bunnie is preceded in death by husband, Clifford; parents, Roger and Tomy Arroyo. Survived by sister, Norma Roldan; children, Lynn Aaze, Roxanne (Tom) Senne, Karen (Brian) Holcomb and Drake Aaze; grandchildren, Caroline Senne (Adam Ackerman), Sarah Senne (John) Martin, Dan (Caitlin) Holcomb, Matt (Gina) Holcomb, Kelly Holcomb (Aaron) Bolduc, Vaughn Aaze-Wiitala, Grace Aaze (David Griffin) and 9 great grandchildren. A private service will be held. In lieu of flowers, donations preferred to Normandale Community College Foundation / Japanese Garden - Bunnie Aaze Memorial, 9700 France Ave S. Bloomington, MN 55431 or directly through the Japanese Garden by clicking Give Now.

Richard Brown

Brown, Richard E., age 77, of Burnsville. Passed away due to complications from ALS on June 20, 2020. Raised in south Minneapolis, graduated from De LaSalle High School, 1961. Attended University of Minnesota, majored in psychology. Served in the Minnesota National Guard and worked as a probation officer for Hennepin County until 2003, at which time he returned to school, earned two Master's Degrees, and embarked on a career teaching English at Normandale Community College. In 2016 he was the recipient of that school's Distinguished Faculty award, especially important in that it was a student-voted honor. Dick loved his family and friends, the pursuit of education, camping in nature, stargazing, bicycling, cross-country skiing, the poetry of Wallace Stevens, the Minnesota Twins, and a medium rare steak. His gentle, easygoing manner and calm intellect will be sorely missed. He is survived by wife Sandi, son Jason (Marta Sibirica), beloved granddaughter Nadine, brother Jerry Brown (Sue), sisters Carol Brown and Bridget Soja (Rick), mother-in-law Joan Spell, nieces, nephews and cousins. Date and time of a memorial gathering will be announced at a later date. Memorials may be directed to the Normandale Foundation, or to the National Park Service at

Larry Jodsaas

Jodsaas, Larry Elvin Age 84, lost his battle with Alzheimer's April 27, 2020 in the peacefulness of his Summit Hill home in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  

Larry's life story was remarkable from the beginning. His family moved several times after he was born due to his parents' work in road construction; he attended 27 different schools before they settled back in Lisbon when he entered seventh grade. Larry's father died a short time later and he was mentored by his uncles, Robert and Reuben Jodsaas. Larry left high school at the time of his father's death as well, at age 15, to help support his mother and their family. Larry acquired adaptive resistance and intuitiveness for work at an early age. In 1954 at the age of 19, Larry enlisted in the US Navy as a submariner electrician's mate while at the same time earning his GED. After serving in the Navy, Larry entered a 2-year pre-engineering program at the North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton, where he also sang in the college choir. He then completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of North Dakota in 1962. That same year, Larry began his career at Control Data with an engineering position. During his 25 years there, he discovered he liked managing electrical engineers better than being one himself and became the Senior Vice President of Quality and Operations Effectiveness.

In 1988 Larry became President and CEO of VTC, Inc., a subsidiary company of Control Data, and two years later, he purchased VTC from Control Data for $1 plus it's added financial encumbrance. VTC (Value The Customer), a semiconductor manufacturing business, grew to capture 65% of the worldwide market share of the microchip industry under the direction of Jodsaas. In 2000, Larry sold the brand, sales and marketing portions of VTC, but kept the manufacturing portion and launched his own company - PolarFab - the only privately held semiconductor foundry in the United States. Jodsaas retired in 2005, but his already established noble investments and lifework of generosity continued to change lives. In business, Larry dedicated himself to leading his employees "bull-headed and big-hearted". He was known as a tenacious and fair CEO who inspired those he led in both work and fun. Larry set clear and direct expectations and rewarded his employees for performance. Attrition in his company was exceptionally low; during his time as owner of VTC, he gave away millions of dollars through profit sharing, calling it "giving the sleeves out of your vest."

Larry wasn't only a hero in the realm of science and technology, he also served as an affiliate on the Board of Directors for a myriad of organizations over the years, most of which he chaired and/or was president of at one time or another. These include: The University of St. Thomas Foundation; Normandale Community College Foundation; American Electronics Association; Alzheimer's Association - National, Minnesota/North Dakota, and Minnesota Lakes Chapters; Minnesota High Technology Association; Paralon Technologies, Inc.; People Net Communications Corporation; Norwest Bank; Centronics; Engineering Technologies Associates, Inc.; Progeny Venture Capital; University of Minnesota TTAC; and University of North Dakota School of Engineering Advisory. Larry was key advisor for two Presidents at Normandale Community College. Larry has been honored with numerous awards through the years. His pivotal philanthropy and significant business innovation have contributed back to organizations and colleges in many ways. His monetary and educational contributions continue to transform the industry, aid students learning math and science, benefit his community roots, and create a pathway to opportunity in engineering through learning.

Larry's notable awards include: 1996 Minnesota High Technology Special Achievement Award; 2006 North Dakota Business Innovator of the Year; 2006 UND Center for Innovation Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Inductee; 2007 Normandale Community College Connection Award; 2008 Minnesota Science & Technology Hall of Fame Inductee; 2008 MN High Tech Association Tekne Award for Lifetime Achievement; and 2008 UND Alumni Association Sioux Award. School scholarships in Larry Jodsaas's name are given annually at the University of St. Thomas and Hope Academy, and Larry has given sizable donations to The Works Museum and the Lisbon Opera House. In 2003, Larry's generous gift to Normandale Community College, as well as his work for their "Creating Futures...Changing Lives" major gift campaign opened the 43,000 square foot Jodsaas Science Center, a state-of-the-art science learning and teaching facility. In 2008, Larry's generous gift to the UND College of Engineering & Mines opened the Jodsaas Center for Engineering Leadership and Entrepreneurship, a teaching and research building, and supports SEED (Society for Engineering and Entrepreneurial Development) which assists the development of student-lead ventures in business technology.

Alzheimer’s research was of the utmost importance to Larry. After he watched his grandmother and mother both pass away from Alzheimer’s, he became involved in the work and vision to someday cure the devastating disease. He is an Alzheimer’s Association Zenith Society Member and wrote a compelling business journal article on the cost of the disease and our aging nation. Larry was honored at the Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum in Washington D.C. for his work in helping to create AIM (Alzheimer’s Impact Movement) which drives policymakers to invest in Alzheimer’s research, enhanced care for patients, and improved support for caregivers. Larry donated his brain to the Mayo Clinic for Alzheimer’s research. Larry’s work passion was to pioneer and drive the unlimited profit potential in electrical engineering semiconductor advancement. A Star Tribune article over 20 years ago quotes Larry, “We’ve seen a tremendous change in the impact of technology on the economy. Just look at; they are restructuring how to deliver product to the market.” Larry’s life passion was his vision of having unlimited potential in world-wide global boating adventures. A 2012 Yachts International article describes in detail Larry’s 102 ft. custom momentous exhibitioner, and quotes Larry, “I want to be able to go anywhere in the world, and to stay any length of time, in any port."

Rex gaskill

Gaskill, Rex William 77, passed away the morning of April 10, 2020 at home. Rex was originally from Kansas and a long-time resident of Minneapolis, MN.

Rex was born on December 21, 1942 in Hutchinson Kansas to Floyd M. Gaskill and Betty Jane (nee) Kuntz.  He was raised by his grandparents and graduated from Hutchinson High School in 1960.  He received his Associate of Arts degree from Hutchinson Community College in 1962 then transferred to Fort Hays State University.  While at Fort Hays he was active in Forensics and Debate.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 1964.  He attended the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, earning his Master of Arts in Communication in 1969 and completing coursework toward a doctorate at the University of Minnesota.

He taught at several colleges and universities, ultimately beginning a long career at Normandale Community College in 1973.  He was a faculty member in Speech Communication and the Director of Forensics.  Rex coached many national champions and award winners in forensics and was awarded Phi Rho Pi's Distinguished Service Award and the Outstanding Contribution to Speech and Theatre by CTAM. While a faculty member, he served as president of the faculty.  He became Dean of Liberal Arts in 1999.  He also served as interim dean of business on several occasions. 

He is survived by his husband and life partner of 34 years, Paul John Strandberg. They were married in January of 2016.

Rex will be remembered for his dedication to the college and higher education, his love of travel, his commitment to anything that he participated in.  He didn't just join, he was active, serving on committees, taking leadership roles, and welcoming others.  He was active in the Minnesota Community College Faculty Association and the National Communication Association.  He served as chair of the Community College section of the National Communication Association and he was the recipient of the Community College Outstanding Educator Award in 1997.  Even after officially retiring from Normandale, he continued to volunteer regularly in the Normandale Foundation office and served on the Foundation Board.

His love of travel was lifelong.  He and his former wife, Gayle Gaskill enjoyed traveling the world.  He traveled for work, and he traveled for pleasure.  He and Paul traveled extensively and frequently.  He encouraged others to travel, see the world, and get new perspectives.

Rex volunteered at First Universalist church, as well as the MSP Airport Commission in the Travelers Assistance Program.  He was also an active member of St. John's Episcopal Church, serving in a variety of roles.  His dedication and involvement in anything that he participated in will long be remembered.  His calm demeaner and warm personality resulted in friends traveling around the country, mentioning Normandale only to be asked if they knew Rex Gaskill.  He was memorable.  He always made people feel important and at ease.

He is preceded in death by his parents and his grandparents.  He is survived by his husband Paul, brothers Marvin L. Gaskill (Ms. Marti Dole) and Terry L. Gaskill of Kansas, numerous nieces and nephews and many devoted friends.

Rex's desire was to be cremated and interred at the Columbarium at St. John's Episcopal.  While he didn't wish to have a funeral, there will be a celebration of his life when people can again gather safely without fear of Covid-19.  Memorials may be sent to Normandale Community College. To donate online, please click HERE

shirley huskins

Age 92, of Edina Passed away Friday, December 27, 2019 Shirley was preceded in death by her husband, William E. (Bill) Huskins, Jr., in 1985. She is survived by daughter Deborah Huskins (Alex Andrea), son William Charles Huskins (Diana Carey), three grandchildren Alyssa Andrea (Takashi Hatta), Kellen Andrea and Estelle Huskins, a great-granddaughter, Hiori Hatta, nieces and nephews, and their children. She has led this wide family network for generations. Shirley was born on December 26, 1927 in Cosmos, MN and lived there with her parents and sisters. She graduated from Litchfield High School and attended Gustavus Adolphus College and the Univeristy of Minnesota. She worked at Northwest Airlines, where she met Bill. They married on June 24, 1950. They lived in Tokyo, Japan in the 1950s and 60s, where Bill held several successive positions with Northwest.

Shirley volunteered in a variety of organizations including: the Japan America Society of Minnesota, from which she received the Mondale Award for Japan-Minnesota Partnership in 2009; the Normandale Japanese Garden, serving on its Board; and, Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, serving as Council Secretary for many years, cooking at Cathedral of the Pines camp, and volunteering at Rolling Acres home for children with disabilities. Shirley and Bill loved the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and built a family cabin near Ely, which continues to be a legacy of family activity and appreciation of the wilderness. Shirley lived her life with grace and dignity, guided by the values of her faith and her respect for all people. She had a loving, kind, generous, humble, engaging and adventurous spirit that was recognized and appreciated by all who knew her. 

In keeping with Shirley's passions, donations are preferred in lieu of flowers to Mount Olivet Cathedral of the Pines Camp, Friends of the Boundary Waters, or the Normandale Japanese Garden. Edina Chapel 952-920-3996. Donations can be made HERE.

Jennifer Isaac

Jennifer had been a part of the Normandale community for over 29 years and has impacted many lives.

Jennifer was an award-winning educator who affected her students in amazingly positive ways. As a faculty member she helped to create Student Success Day and the wildly successful Human Library. Jennifer was also an award-winning storyteller who worked with Story Arts Minnesota to bring a Storytelling Festival to campus last year. Jennifer believed that stories help us to understand one another. The study abroad trips that she co-sponsored sought to help students understand other cultures through their shared narratives. By engaging students in travel programs with a focus on stories and storytelling, she forever enriched the lives of her many students. For her work, along with colleagues Aimee DuBois and Chad Kuyper, she received the 2018-19 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Award for Innovation in Global Education Award.

If you would like to make a donation in her honor, Jennifer asks that you please give it to the CareyOn Study Abroad Scholarship. Donations can be made HERE.

bill mcguire

McGuire, William W. age 76 of St. Louis Park, passed away unexpectedly on October 2, 2019.

Bill was born on August 8, 1943 in Minneapolis to Clarence and Beatrice McGuire. Bill is survived by his wife Judy, his children Jennifer, Meghan and Ned, grandchildren Alana, Liam, Bridget, Nicholas and Luke, his brother Tom, as well as many sisters-in-laws, brothers-in-laws, nieces and nephews. His son Chad and 2 granddaughters Rowan and Mariah preceded him in death. Bill's greatest joy was his family. He dedicated his professional life to his students and colleagues at Normandale Community College.

Bill will be buried at his legacy lake property. Memorials preferred to the St. Vincent de Paul Society at the Basilica of St. Mary or the H.M. Faulkner Scholarship at the College of St. Benedict. If you would like to make a donation to the Foundation in Bill's name, please click HERE.

mary ellen seth

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of former faculty member Mary Ellen Seth. You can find her obituary here.

In her twelve years of teaching Accounting at Normandale, she left behind a legion of friends, including both students and faculty. She is fondly and warmly remembered. Mary Ellen wished to set up an endowed scholarship for Normandale students, and you may make a gift in lieu of flowers here, as the family has requested.

joe poell

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of former faculty member and Japanese Garden Committee member Joe Poell. You can find his obituary here.

Joe served as the Director of Life Science at Normandale Community College. from 1997 to retirement. Joe enjoyed working, traveling, cultivating plants and flowers, being a committee member of the Normandale Japanese Garden, volunteering at the church and spending quality time with family and friends who he dearly loved. 

A memorial fund has been established for Normandale Japanese Garden. Contributions can be made HERE. Please designate your gift in Memory of Joe Poell.

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