Don Bargen, the energetic Deerwood resident with great faith in the lakes area's future, died Monday from complications with pancreatic cancer.
He was 65.
Bargen gained prominence in the area as a meeting facilitator for everything from joint city council discussions to area comprehensive planning workshops. He was involved with the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce and the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation. With those groups, he played a significant role in leadership training.
"I don't train those people, what I do I kind of start the jazz band going -- I start playing 'Sweet Georgia Brown' and they kind of jazz it," he said in an interview this fall. "... I helped them play their own song. I just started the tune."
Bargen said, in that fall interview, he was more energized by the people he worked with in leadership and community building than he was able to give to them.
Diagnosis on Aug. 4 of inoperable pancreatic cancer came as a shock. Chemotherapy treatments began on Sept. 10.
Even as he was getting a chemotherapy treatment in Brainerd, just thinking about his work made him smile. "I loved it," he said.
Bargen was born in Missouri in 1938. He was an ordained Roman Catholic priest and spent 23 years in the priesthood before leaving in 1987. Kay and Don Bargen married in 1991.
With the onset of winter, the Bargens left their Placid Lake home near Deerwood for the warmth of Arizona.
A memorial service is planned in a few weeks in St. Paul. Details are expected online at the Web site -- www.caringbridge.org/mn/donbargen -- that chronicled the days since the diagnosis in journal entries.
Lisa Paxton, Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce chief executive officer, said news was especially sad after it appeared chemotherapy treatments were having an effect in Bargen's cancer battle.
Today Paxton said: "He still had things he wanted to do."
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