Oscar Kristofferson had a life that could have read as a novel.
An immigrant from Norway, Kristofferson arrived at Ellis Island when he was 20. He was on his own in a new country where he did not speak or read English.
He built his life in an adopted country, volunteering for service in the Army during a great world war and becoming an elected city council member in Baxter.
A city park there now bears his name, an honor he humbly thought should have been given to someone more deserving.
Kristofferson died Saturday at 98.
Today he was remembered as a quiet, kind man who believed in fairness and who went out of his way to help others. Former co-workers remembered his stories of being in his mother's house and watching the ships come into the fjords.
He was born Dec. 31, 1904, in Stavanger, Norway. He arrived in the United States in 1924. About 15 years later, he arrived in the Brainerd area. He married Lorena Fryklind in 1942 in Little Falls. After serving in the Army during World War II, he worked in the construction field as a carpenter, contractor and construction superintendent.
Ron Kristofferson, former mayor of Baxter, said his father achieved success in life through hard work.
"He'd retire and then start working again," he said.
The tenacity of the generation was apparent with his father.
"I think that is really remarkable to travel to a new country at 20 years old and to start a new life on your own."
The elder Kristofferson taught himself to read and write English. He was still mowing his own lawn, partly by hand, in August. Ron Kristofferson said his father was a strong supporter of Baxter.
"Dad never did want any recognition. He just wanted the city of Baxter to be a great place to live and a great place to be in. He never had any bad words for anybody."
As a young man in New York City, Oscar Kristofferson handcut pieces for the dance floor at the Waldorf Astoria. Later he worked for the railroad and traveled west across the nation. He lost money in the Great Depression and started over. At 36, he volunteered for the Army during World War II. He served stateside. He worked as a superintendent on the Alaskan Highway and built bunkhouses for road crews. He worked 20-hour days for a year, sending money back to his family in Minnesota.
"He was kind," said Murriel Carlson, who worked with Kristofferson in Baxter City Hall. "He was always looking out for others."
Carlson remembered a young carpenter who needed a job and Kristofferson taking the time to help him get one. Kristofferson was a longtime Baxter building inspector. He served on the city council for 17 years.
"He was Mr. Baxter," Carlson said, noting his work to help Baxter grow. "He was a quiet man, but he looked out for other people."
Beva Olson also worked with Kristofferson. She remembered his dry humor and listening to stories of his youth and his arrival in the United States. She said he had a remarkable memory and could recall every detail of a building.
"He kept a lot of his records in his head, a very, very smart man," Olson said.
His love of building did not wane with the years.
"He loved to redo antique furniture," Carlson said. "He picked up old furniture and made it look like brand new -- like better than brand new."
Services will be 10 a.m. Wednesday at Lakewood Evangelical Free Church in Baxter with Pastor Dwight Johnson officiating. Burial will be in Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Brainerd. Friends may call from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home in Brainerd and one hour before services at the church.
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