Charles “Chuck” Austad died peacefully on Jan. 23, with Ann, his wife of 57 years, at his side. He was 79.
Memorial services were held Jan. 29, 2017, at First Lutheran Church in Bemidji with Rev. Linnea Papke-Larson officiating. Visitation was at the Cease Family Funeral Home in Bemidji.
Chuck was born in La Crosse, Wis., to Clarence and Lillian Austad. Chuck’s fondest memories of his childhood were in Zumbrota. He spoke often of his first job delivering milk and newspapers from his red wagon with his dog Mopsy. He also attributed many of his values and beliefs to becoming an Eagle Scout while he lived there. When his parents moved to Rushford where he started 10th grade he met his high school sweetheart, Ann. Chuck and Ann were married at Highland Prairie Lutheran Church, Peterson, Minn., on June 13, 1959, after they had both graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
After college, Chuck was a teacher in Cambridge and at Winona State University and was a counselor at North Branch and Moundsview. Chuck received his M.S. degree at the University of Minnesota. In 1969, Chuck received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. On his last day of school, Chuck and Ann packed up all their belongings in their ’64 Buick Special, with their young children, Chris and Jana, in the backseats. Chuck dropped off his dissertation on the way out of town, and they all made their way north to Bemidji, Minn., where Chuck got his first professorship. Chuck was a professor at Bemidji State University for 23 years. He was Chair of the Education Department. He had a passion for teaching teachers and had a distinguished career. His students over the years found him to be dedicated and caring. His co-workers and wife would say that Chuck had what you might call a polite persistence in making changes in how things were done.
Polka played a prominent role in Chuck’s life. He played cornet with the Just Because band for 27 years. He told his family he had to play the “band jobs” so many weekend nights to put food on the table. Truthfully, the band was very close, and Ann would often travel along when they played as would the other spouses. To the very end, music ran through his veins, often humming or singing one Just Because’s signature songs “In Heaven there is no beer.”
Chuck was heavily influenced from his involvement with First Lutheran Church and the local Parkinson’s Support Group. Chuck loved to be around people. He loved to make people laugh, although sometimes he thought his jokes were better than his audience did.
In the weeks before his death, Chuck and Ann had moved to WindSong an assisted living facility in Bemidji. They still spent time at their home of 45 years, on the North end of Lake Bemidji, which made Chuck very happy. This was truly where Chuck considered home. Chuck joked over Christmas that he and Ann were pretty lucky to have two homes. He smiled when he said it had to be his Norwegian brain when they finally decided to be snowbirds, they chose their second home in the same town not to mention that the weather didn’t seem any better at WindSong.
Chuck is survived by his wife Ann (Ferden) Austad ‘58, sister Louise Bell, son Christopher, Rushford, Minn., daughter Jana, Brainerd, Minn., and son Jim (Erica), Baudette, Minn.; grandchildren Jake (Megan), Elise (Rocky), Ericka, Carina, Ava, Joe and Odin; great-grandchildren Eric, Sammy, Lars, Sloan, and Ava, nephews Wes, Steve, Keith and Mark Bell.