Traditionally, Grand Marshals are given an honored place at the head of a summer festival parade. The 2020 Flekkefest will have no parade, but long before that was decided, the Flekkefest Committee decided to honor three local World War II veterans, Ardell Bergrud, Orvin Amundson, and Harvey Huseth, as Grand Marshals during the celebration.
Instead of a traditional parade, you can honor the three during a drive-by thank you, as they sit outside the Grant County Historical Musuem in Elbow Lake. Line up, in your vehicle, near the fire hall between 4:00 and 4:15 for the reverse parade.
Ardell Bergrud served his nation twice. He was drafted into the Army in 1944, and served as an engineer in the South Pacific.
“We came in once the island had been secured and built roads,” Bergrud said.
The peace treaty with Japan was signed on Sept. 2, 1945, and by Sept. 10, Bergrud and his company were on a ship to mainland Japan, where he served another six months in occupation duty before being discharged.
Born and raised in North Dakota, Bergrud moved back to his home state and started a long career in the grain business. Ardell and his wife, Beverly, moved to Wendell in 1973, where he managed the elevator until going on the road to sell elevator supplies for another ten years, before retiring.
Along the way, Beverly and Ardell had four children, losing one to cancer, over 20 years ago. They have four grandchildren spread out between St. Cloud and Williston, ND.
After retirement, Bergrud started his second career serving the nation. Bergrud became the Grant County Veterans Service Officer for the next 22 years. It was only a part-time job, but it was a big part-time job.
“There were 17 million veterans of WWII, and the government was just starting to set up services for them,” he recalled.
Bergrud admits the job is much more complex now.
“These Vietnam and Iraq veterans have many serious problems. In WWII, we knew who our enemy was. These guys didn’t always know. I really feel sorry for them.”
Ardell Bergrud, 96, has also been a member of the American Legion for 75 years!
Orvin Amundson was born on June 28, 1925, on a farm south of Elbow Lake to Alfred and Sophie Amundson. He went to school, first in the Ashby-Dalton area, then finished up from grade 4 through high school in Elbow Lake. He graduated with the Class of 1943, at the height of World War II.
Before he could get drafted, Amundson enlisted in Naval Aviation and began training to be a pilot at Corpus Christi, TX. He also took training at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Gonzaga University, Spokane. St. Mary’s College in Oakland, and the Naval Air Station in Norman, OK. He was commissioned as a single engine fighter pilot Ensign, flying prop SNJs and N25s as well the big Dauntless, dive bombers, and assigned to carrier duty in the South Pacific.
But something happened before he could report to duty… the war ended!
‘They dropped the bomb (atom bomb on Japan) before I completed my training,” Amundson said. The war ended days later.
He returned home to Elbow Lake in late 1945, and continued in the Naval Reserve until 1956, when he was honorably discharged.
“I spent 13 years in active and inactive duty.”
After one year at Concordia College, Amundson started working as a janitor at First National Bank in Elbow Lake. He continued there for 30 years, ending his banking career as bank President.
Along the way, Amundson married Eljene H. Nelson, in August of 1947, and the couple had four children: Mark, Jeffrey, Julie, and Paul Stuart, who died in infancy. The couple have eight children and 13 great-grandchildren.
All the while, Amundson never stopped flying. He got involved in aerial spraying, private flying, and taking hunters and fishermen to northern Minnesota and Canada. He owned his own private plane for many years, taking trips to Texas and Arizona, as well as transporting auctioneers, attorneys, and veternarians, and patients to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
Amundson also became involved in insurance, trucking, and farming.
Amundson had always been interested in farming, starting at age 11. He learned to drive a steel wheel tractor with his brother Winfred, and farmed up until the age of 85, often driving the largest tractors and combines in the field.
He sold his interest in the bank in 1987.
Amundson spent several years caring for his wife until her death in October of 2018. He is planning to move in to the independent living apartment at Maplewood Manor the first of August.
Harvey Huseth, 93, was born and raised in Elbow Lake, and enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1945, while still in high school. Following basic training at Shepherds Bay, NY, he was assigned to guard duty at Ellis Island.
“While there, I saw a notice on the bulletin board that the Coast Guard Band was looking for a trombone player,” said Huseth. “I got the job and we performed concerts all over the East Coast selling savings bonds. We met Eleanor Roosevelt and several movie stars.”
Next, Huseth was sent to Yeomans school, to learn clerical work, and was assigned to Washington State, processing discharge papers for the Coast Guard. Having to find his own place to live, the bulletin board provided a solution when he saw a notice from a Rev. Sandgren, from Barrett, who was looking for someone to watch over his house in Washington.
“We got along great,” recalled Huseth.
Huseth eventually made out his own discharge papers and came home to Elbow Lake, where he farmed in the summer and took business classes at Moorhead State in the winter. In 1952, he married Marcia, and the couple had five daughters: Harlene, Jody, Sandy, Lori, and Linda. Huseth also served on the Grant County Board of Commissioners.
Times were tough farming so Huseth took a job at the bank in Wendell, hired by Donovan Olson. He worked there six years, then started at the lumber yard in Wendell and began making custom cabinets on his own. He was so successful that his daughter Sandy, who lived in Florida, talked the couple into moving to Florida, where Huseth started a long career with a company called Architectural Products, in Naples, and Marica worked as a nurse.
“We were there 20 years and they were the best years of my life,” said Huseth.
After Marcia passed away in 2015, Huseth moved back to Elbow Lake, and has found a home at Maplewood Manor.