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Gunnar's Story

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Gunnar Frey, age 96, died Wed., November 29, 2017 at his home in Minneapolis, surrounded by family, caregivers, and Abbi, his loving companion beagle. A memorial service will be held 11:00 AM Mon., December 18, 2017, at Open Doors United Methodist Church, Wells, MN. Visitation will be one hour prior to service and 4:00-7:00 PM Sun., Dec. 17 at Bruss-Heitner Funeral Home in Wells. Bruss-Heitner Funeral Home is assisting the family. To leave an online condolence, please visit www.brussheitner.com
Gunnar was born in Des Moines, IA, on March 18, 1921 to Swedish immigrants Anny and Gunnar Frey, Sr. His mother died when he was a young child and he grew up with his father and other relatives throughout Iowa, New Mexico and Texas, graduating from High School in Austin, TX. Gunnar proudly served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 12th Air Force, during WWII, from 1942-1945. Upon returning from the war, he first attended Iowa State University in Ames, then graduated from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He later received his Master's degree from Mankato State University.
Gunnar married the love of his life, Ruth Ramona Carrothers, in Waterloo, IA on July 19, 1947. They had two children, David and Marsha. With the full support of his wife, he switched careers from accounting to teaching, knowing it was his true calling. He taught for 50 years, first in Emmons, MN, then in Wells. "Mr. Frey" taught Business courses and Spanish, from 1952-1984, then returned as a substitute for 18 more years, teaching any time he was needed (and on any subject). He could never get enough of those teenagers! He cherished his former students all his life. After moving to Minneapolis, he still gravitated to all the young people he met, neighbors, community volunteers, and caregivers. In 1969, "Mr. Frey" was named a Teacher of Excellence for the state of MN.
Ruth and Gunnar Frey and Mavis and Lyle Wright together opened the A&W Drive-in in 1960 in Wells. (Now the Dairy Queen). The original sign showing mugs of root beer for 5 cents lives on in the Wells Museum. Such a grand adventure with so many stories to tell by the school kids they employed and all those 'first dates' for many of you.
But, he was more than just a teacher and business owner. Gunnar and Ruth Frey were committed to Wells and gave countless hours as volunteers. An Albert Lea Tribune headline once stated, the "Frey's have Wells in their Blood". So true. Gunnar served as mayor for 13 years (overseeing the building of the Senior Hi-Rise, the Community center and the Public Library). He was a Utilities Commissioner for 12 years, became a Lions charter member (awarded the Melvin Jones Award), spent 50 years committed to the Chamber of Commerce, and was a lifetime VFW and American Legion member. He served on the Community Fund Board, the Golf Course Board of Directors and numerous community committees. He loved delivering Meals on Wheels. Gunnar was a lifelong member of the Wells United Methodist Church, serving as trustee, volunteering for many committees, driving the elderly to church.
Gunnar was named Outstanding Citizen in 1981 and had the pleasure of being Grand Marshall in the Kernel Days Parade twice - most recently just after his 90th birthday.
One of the most important descriptions of "Mr. Frey" is his passion for life and his capacity for seeing the good in the world. His quiet faith allowed him to gracefully embrace the last years of his life. He always said he wasn't afraid to die, but until then, he planned to live every day to the fullest. Many of you have memories of him playing bridge or whist, swimming, golfing, calling 'Bingo' games for the Lions, inviting people to the cabin and in recent years riding around town on his scooter or in his golf cart. He loved to travel with Ruth and then later with his children and granddaughter Mackenna. In later years, even with his mobility issues, he went to OR, TX, Mexico, AZ, and FLA. He swam with dolphins. He golfed with a disability golf cart. He rode roller coasters. Once he moved to Minneapolis and lived with his daughter Marsha and her partner Pat, he wanted a full life. It was always, "Where are we going today?" Twins, Vikings, Gophers, the State Fair, outdoor concerts, Farmer's Markets, nature trails, flower shows, riding light rail ... And if he couldn't get out, then just people-watching on the front porch, talking to neighbors or following his passion, watching birds in the back yard. He traveled everywhere in his power wheelchair, with his "co-pilot" Abbi on his lap. They were the hit of the neighborhood.
Gunnar is survived by his son, Dave and granddaughter Mackenna, Beaverton, Oregon; daughter Marsha and partner Pat, Minneapolis; companion beagle, Abbi; niece Marlys Woock, Iowa; nephew Tom Carrothers, Colorado; as well as numerous cousins and their children, living in the U.S. and Sweden. He was preceded in death by his wife Ruth in 2002, his sisters-in-law, his parents, and his nephew Doug Marshall in 2014.
Published on December 13, 2017
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