John Carlisle Estrem was born the oldest child of Charles and Elizabeth Viste Estrem on Feb. 13, 1937. He was born in Waukon, Iowa, delivered by the same doctor who had delivered his father and would later deliver his son, LeAllan Estrem ‘81.
As a child, John loved roaming the wooded areas on the Estrem farm usually accompanied by the family dog, Ivan. His mother often said that she never worried about John as long as Ivan was with him. He began his education at the one room country school Frankville #7 which sat on land donated by the Bakke and Estrem families. As a boy he was an active 4-H member showing cattle and sheep. He loved the farm life and was his father’s close helper. John was also active in Luther League at Washington Prairie Lutheran Church. After graduating from 8th grade, he attended Decorah High School from which he graduated in 1955. Surprisingly, John was a very quiet teenager whose only extra-curricular activity in high school was going out for wrestling his junior and senior years.
John married his high school sweetheart, Marilyn (Johnston) Estrem ‘60, on Aug. 24, 1958. They were blessed with four children. After graduating from Luther College in 1959, John took education classes at Mankato State and then taught high school English at St. Francis, Minn., for four years. John then felt a call to ministry and attended Luther Seminary, St. Paul, being ordained in 1967.
John’s first parish was as a co-pastor at St. John’s Lutheran in Jamestown, N.D. After four years, he accepted a call to the four churches in the Sheyenne Lutheran Parish. He also served on local, regional, and district boards and committees. Marilyn was diagnosed with MS in 1978, which progressed rapidly, requiring total care by 1985, when John accepted a call to Zoar-St. Ansgar Parish in LaMoure, N.D., where he served for 22 years. During this time he developed many creative confirmation programs and took many classes on retreats to Reservations, backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, canoeing in the Quetico and Boundary Waters, and sailing in the Apostle Islands National Park on a 37-foot sailboat he owned in partnership with others.
In 2008, John retired from parish ministry and he and Marilyn built an accessible home in Mahtowa, Minn., adjacent to the Munger Trail. He did supply preaching and helped out at several area churches. He was also active in the Lions Clubs of LaMoure and Carlton, and Carlton County Restorative Justice. John found great joy in serving others whether through his pastoral duties or his community involvement, making friends wherever he lived.
John enjoyed gardening, baking, jogging, and biking, including riding the Habitat for Humanity 500-mile bike ride several times. John and Marilyn traveled extensively, attended plays and concerts, took classes at the Fond du Lac Tribal College in Cloquet and enjoyed other local activities. They cherished their life together, including the last precious moments of his life here on earth.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Marilyn (Johnston) Estrem ‘60; children LeAllan Estrem ‘81 (Beth); Karla (Mitch) Estrem Booth; Jonis (Mary) Estrem; daughter-in-law Karla Estrem; grandchildren, Julie Estrem, Eric and Angela Kraft, and Ashton Booth; sister, Lilah (Estrem) Aas ‘67; sisters-in-law Doris (Johnston) Brooks ‘55 and Lois Estrem; nieces, nephews, and cousins.
John was preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Elizabeth Estrem; parents-in-law Stanley and Gladys (Chalmers) Johnston ‘52; son Ethan; brother Paul Estrem ‘63; brothers-in-law James Brooks and Gordon Aas; and nephew Peter Estrem.
Memorials are suggested to Salem’s Mahtowa Hall or Bethesda Lutheran Church Youth and Family Ministry in Carlton.
John lived life to the fullest and never stopped learning.
Visitation was Dec. 8, 2016, at the Salem Lutheran Church in Mahtowa. Memorial service was Dec. 9, 2016, also at Salem Lutheran Church. John will be interred in the North Washington Prairie cemetery of Decorah at a later date.