In Memory of

Michael

Kelly

Fresvik

Obituary for Michael Kelly Fresvik

Don’t worry Dad, we won’t give away any of your fishing spots!

Michael Kelly Fresvik was born on March 6, 1944, in South Dakota to Selmer (Sam) and Geraldine (Gerry) Fresvik. He grew up in Garretson, a small railroad town outside of Sioux Falls. His parents and paternal grandparents ran the town’s general store. He worked with them, stocking shelves, running the till, and even scooping cod fish from a barrel. His maternal grandfather was a conductor on the Great Northern Railroad and Dad “rode the rails” with him during his childhood, traveling all over. Garretson molded Dad into the man he was and prominently featured in the endless stories he told his children and grandchildren. To us, it was a magical place, with Dad and his friends and cousins jumping from cliffs at Palisades State Park, falling into Devil’s Gulch (where Jesse James supposedly outran a posse), lighting off fireworks, hanging at the pool hall on Main Street, and playing baseball in the fields. His friends included not just contemporaries, but many older farmers. It is these farmers, as well as his uncle Theodore Fresvik, whom he credited with giving him his great joy in life besides family. They taught Dad how to fish on the Split Rock River.

Dad spent his teenage summers working as a dock hand at resorts in western Minnesota. He stocked cabins, rigged poles, found the best fishing spots, drove the boat, netted the fish, and then posed for pictures with guests who wanted to boast about “their” amazing catch. Dad attended South Dakota State University, earning his Master’s degree in Entomology. His outdoor adventures continued, including bee inspection and dragonfly research throughout South Dakota. He also proudly served in the ROTC for four years, but could not continue because of health issues.

Dad met Sharon Tschetter in 1969. Their first date was, of course, a successful walleye outing. Mom and Dad married in 1970. Together, they shared an amazing 50-plus year journey. Dad said often that Mom was his rock and marrying her was the best decision he ever made. Soon after the wedding, they moved from South Dakota to White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Not knowing the area, they simply chose a town with “Lake” in its name. Dad began his career with the Agronomy Division in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. He focused on soil health and pesticide regulation. Dad did not like change, so except for an eight-month job detour to Detroit which looms large in family lore, Mom and Dad remained in White Bear Lake through their entire marriage. He worked at the Department of Agriculture until his retirement. Mom and Dad joined First Lutheran Church (now Community of Grace) in White Bear Lake where they were blessed with life-long friends and nurtured in their faith.

During these years, Dad continued to fish with friends from Garretson, but his fishing circle expanded to include brothers-in-law, nephews, work colleagues, friends from church, neighbors, and even some of our teachers. His greatest fishing buddy, Theodore, was born in 1972. Dad had planned this name for years, after the uncle who taught him to fish. Mom agreed - as long as they called him Ted.

Ted was followed by Erin in 1975 and Anna in 1977. Our backyard was home to non-stop games of catch, with Dad ensuring that Erin and Anna had strong arms. You MUST step before you throw. We lived across from Bellaire Woods (not as fancy as it sounds) and Dad took us to pick wildflowers in the spring for Mom. In the winter, he took us sledding at “Dead Man’s Hill,” where Ted actually broke his collarbone. We continued to sled at the same hill for years. As our activities grew, Dad’s time mysteriously multiplied as he was always at hockey, baseball, and softball games. He attended band concerts, choir concerts, and piano recitals. He woke up early to take the bus to work so that Mom would have our one, usually not very nice, car during the day. When Mom went back to school to get her Master’s degree in Special Education, Dad took on even more responsibility with us kids.
And of course, there was fishing. Many vacations were spent on the same lake where Dad was a dock hand in his youth. On one memorable outing, Ted forgot to tether the anchor and the rope slipped off the boat. Dad (who was a very strong swimmer) jumped fully clothed into eight feet of water to retrieve the anchor from the bottom of the lake. Another time, Dad and Erin were fishing on White Bear Lake and she stepped into an icy fishing hole, soaking an entire leg. Since “the fish were biting” Erin was sent to the car to warm up rather than taken home. Simple car rides could even turn into fishing trips. Dad would pull off into random fields in South Dakota, just to try a new stream. Anna, maybe six years old, became impatient in one instance and started stomping back towards the nearest town. Erin repeatedly honked the horn, Ted and Dad reeled in their last catch, and we had to pick up Anna almost a mile down the road. Mom was not with us on that particular adventure. In all honesty, Mom was a reluctant fishing partner at times. We suspect that she enjoyed the quiet when we were all gone. It was not always quiet at home when Dad fished. He made many weekend fishing trips with friends, without us kids. Mom is particularly proud that she only had to call Dad home early from one fishing trip in all those years – she and us kids were sick with a stomach bug.

With the fishing, came the stories. Dad was a master storyteller. He had us absolutely convinced that a giant sturgeon escaped a fish hatchery by Lake Minnewaska and lurked in the waters, growing bigger every year. Or the legendary tale of “The Fish that Ate the Anchor” in which a massive walleye swallowed his anchor and pulled his boat halfway across Lake Mille Lacs. While these stories are obviously fanciful, Dad rarely exaggerated on the fish he actually caught. Because he didn’t have to. Because he was that good!

Dad followed true angler fashion of fiercely protecting his spots. He was known to play the novice, innocently asking a fellow angler what was biting, acting like he had never fished a particular lake or river. A boat would then leave HIS spot, frustrated at not catching anything, and Dad (lurking close by) would swoop in and catch his limit. While he did not want strangers to know his spots, Dad took untold numbers of friends and family fishing over the years. His exclamations of delight at their catches often echoed across the lake.

Dad’s vigorous support followed us through college, first jobs, and eventually welcoming Janelle, Nathanael, and Andy into our family. Their first times spent with him often included a game of cards, some party mix, and probably some of his crazy stories. This was a slow warm up to what would follow years later: 16 of us crowding into one small cabin.

Dad retired in 2003. It was a semi retirement as he continued in his long-standing role as the treasurer of the American Association of Pesticide Control Officials, where he made friends from around the country. He also worked part time as the secretary/treasurer of the Minnesota Pest Management Association. His retirement years saw a fulfillment of he and Mom’s lifelong dream. The bought a cabin up north. Because he would definitely NOT want its location given away in an on-line obituary (fishing spots, you know) we can only say it is in Cass County. However, so many friends and family have been there over the years that it’s not exactly a secret. His retirement years also brought he and Mom’s greatest joy – their amazing grandchildren. In rapid succession came Isaac, Clare, Lincoln, Eli, Sam, Henry, Lia, and Joey.

The cabin and the grandkids combined to create 19 magical years. There were four-wheeler rides, raspberry picking, pontoon cruises, tubing, home-run derbies, dragonfly catching, treasure hunts, bonfires, board games, and South Dakota style fireworks displays. There were successful and unsuccessful deer hunting weekends, large northerns caught ice fishing, toboggan rides on the frozen lake and lots of Dad’s chili. There were stories, the same ones told to us over the years, and new ones just for the grandkids. Garretson stories adapted with the times. In addition to the 1930’s professional baseball pitcher who would tend to get mad, throw out his dentures, and stomp on them with his feet, Garretson now included Batman and Ironman. Dad also regaled us with his cabin adventures such as when he fell into an icy bait-well in the middle of the winter and had to wait five minutes for someone to come along and pull him out. Or, the time he climbed on the cabin roof with a BB gun to shoot down tree branches that obscured his DirectTV feed.

And there was more fishing! Casts for sunnies off the dock. Early morning and evening runs for crappies and walleyes. He never said no if a grandkid asked to fish. The boat would be filled with grandkids, granddogs, and Dad. He would not have a pole for himself and would often return having been “hooked” by an errant cast. The chaos was immense and loud. But, those were the best moments of his life. He would walk up the stairs from the lake, find his stinky and stained fillet board and knife, and begin to clean the fish. Usually, kids and dogs would gather round to hear Dad retell the day’s adventures. Throughout the years, Mom and Dad would have endless people over for highly anticipated fish fries at White Bear Lake and the cabin so that even those who were never in a boat with him could share his passion for fishing.

Dad was born to be a Grandpa. As the grandkids grew, he drove to hockey games, cross country meets, school concerts, bike races, soccer games, and baseball games. He began a text chain with the grandkids where he amused them with funny videos during Covid. He always took their numerous phone calls, never caring if he was hearing the same stories. He and Mom planned epic Bingo games with prizes at Christmas. Most of all, Dad was so proud of them and excited for their lives to unfold.

Mom continued to teach for several years after Dad retired. Her retirement gave them more time together. They would begin the day with a cup of tea (for Mom) and coffee (for Dad). Or they went to breakfast at Shar’els Café. They played bingo at Quinny’s on Saturdays. They drove around the lake and got ice cream. They went on several trips south to escape the Minnesota winters. They were best friends. Mom’s tenderness and devotion to Dad in his last days is indescribable.

No tribute to Dad could be complete without mentioning dogs. His favorite childhood dog, Boots, starred in many of his famous stories. We only had two dogs growing up, but as we kids started our own families, the floodgates opened. Mom and Dad constantly dog sat for us. There could be up to eight dogs clamoring for his attention. He always carried treats to give them. He dozed with several on them on the couch or his bed – at once. He brought them to the McDonald’s drive thru to get cheeseburgers. Most of these dogs wanted to live with him full time. Dad charmed every dog he ever met.

Dad – we are so proud of the life you lived. Thank you for your devotion. Thank you for your passion for the outdoors. It is a gift for generations. Dad, you sought joy, laughter, and most of all love. Truly, the greatest of these is love and you loved like no other. Jesus knew a lot of fisherman, as well as how to catch some fish himself. He’s got a fishing spot prepared for you!

Michael Kelly Fresvik (F as in Frank, R, E, S as in Sam, V as in Victor, I, K) was preceded in death by his parents Selmer and Geraldine Fresvik and his brother Kevin Fresvik. He is survived by his loving wife of almost 52 years, Sharon Fresvik of White Bear Lake. He is also survived by his children: Ted (Janelle) Fresvik of Duluth, Erin (Andy) Pratt of Falcon Heights, and Anna (Nathanael) Bailey of Duluth. He had eight grandchildren: Isaac, Lincoln, Samuel, and Amilia Bailey of Duluth, Clare and Eli Fresvik of Duluth, and Henry and Joseph Pratt of Falcon Heights.

Visitation from 5 – 7 PM on Monday August 8th at HONSA FAMILY FUNERAL HOME East County Road E, White Bear Lake, MN. Memorial Service at 11 am on Tuesday, August 9, 2022 at COMMUNITY OF GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH 4000 Linden Street, White Bear Lake with a visitation 1 hour prior to the service.

Memorials preferred to the Church or the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), which Michael’s father in law was on the National Board of Directors.