Harold Ugelstad

Harold Ugelstad, 101, passed away peacefully at Hillcrest Assisted Living facility in Walker, Minn., Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019.

Funeral services will be held at Bethel Lutheran Church, 5232 Irvine Ave. NW, Bemidji at 11 a.m. Aug. 26 with the Reverend Mark Kindem officiating. Visitation will be for one hour before the ceremony. Interment will be in Greenwood Cemetery, Bemidji following the ceremony.

Harold was born on June 21, 1918, at Fargo, North Dakota to his parents Knute and Ragnhild Ugelstad, both Norwegian immigrants. He graduated from Fargo Central High School in 1936 during the Great Depression, studied accounting at Dakota Business College and worked in the billing department at Northern States Power. In 1940 he entered North Dakota State University (then NDAC) to study electrical engineering. He was able to obtain a job as a night switchboard operator at Northern States Power (NSP) which enabled him to earn his way through college and study at night while he waited for calls on the switchboard.  

In April of 1943, he was called up to service in the US Army and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry in 1944. On Thanksgiving Day, 1944, he departed for duty in Europe with E Company, 304th Infantry Regiment, 76th Division as part of Patton’s Third Army. While fighting in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany during the Battle of the Bulge, he earned the European Theater Combat Ribbon with three battle stars, a Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Returning home in 1946 he resumed his studies at NDSU, married Verna Walberg of Ada, Minnesota, and completed his degree in Electrical Engineering, while continuing his employment with Northern States Power Company in Fargo.  In 1955 he became a Registered Professional Engineer. At Northern States Power Company (now Excel Energy) he worked as Division Engineer in Fargo and St. Paul and also as Superintendent of Construction in St. Paul.

He had joined the North Dakota Air National Guard after World War II and was recalled to active duty during the Korean Conflict in 1951 and 1952, serving as a communications officer at Air Force bases in Georgia and California. He attained the rank of captain in the Air Force.

Upon return from active military duty, NSP transferred him to St. Paul. He retired from NSP in 1980 with 42 years of service. In 1985 Harold and Verna moved to Bemidji, Minnesota to live near family. Verna died in 1994 and Harold married Phyllis Reitmeier Swedmark in 1995.   Phyllis died in 2018.

Harold played the saxophone in the Fargo area as bandleader Harold Brooks and his Orchestra.   He loved to travel and made many camping trips around the United States with Verna and his children, and also traveled to the Holy Land, Scandinavia, Europe, Hawaii, Alaska and other destinations. He and Phyllis spent many winters in Arizona and also enjoyed traveling within the United States, especially with the “bank bus trips.”

In St. Paul, Harold was an active member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church serving as Sunday School superintendent, Building Fund chairman, on Church Council, adult Bible study teacher and liturgist. He continued his active church participation as a member of Bethel Lutheran in Bemidji serving on the Church Council and Bethel Foundation Board. He also served as the president of the Bemidji Sons of Norway Lodge No. 500, president of the Beltrami County Senior Citizen Council on Aging and belonged to the American Legion.

Harold devoted his life to his family. He was always available to read or play games and do projects with his children and grandchildren. He loved keeping busy, building a sailboat, two grandfather clocks, and many home improvement projects. He loved fishing, golfing, pool, card and board games. He would load up the family station wagon on Saturdays to take his daughters and neighborhood children to the public library and he loved taking his family to every historical and cultural landmark in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Harold is survived by his daughters Ellen Jackelen of Bemidji, Nancy (Terry) Hickman of Bend, Oregon, stepdaughter Beverly (Stan) Schultz of Stanwood, Wash., and stepson Allen (Doris) Swedmark of Bemidji; five grandchildren Anne-Marie (Paul) Nickel of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin; Jeffrey (Shannon) Jackelen of Chanhassen, Minn.; Timothy (Jamie) Hickman of Rio Rancho, N.M., Daniel (Amy) Hickman of Hillsboro, Ore., and Linda (Christian) Neufeld of Hillsboro, Ore. 17 great-grandchildren;  four step-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren;  nephews Mark (Karen) Ugelstad of Mapleton, North Dakota; Bruce (Sheri) Ugelstad of Fargo; and Donna (Wayne) Lystrom of Mesa, Ariz.; and many cousins in Norway.

Harold was preceded in death by his wives Verna Walberg Ugelstad and Phyllis Swedmark Ugelstad; daughter Linda Jean Ugelstad; son-in-law Stephen Jackelen; his parents; and his brother and sister-in-law Burton and Margie Ugelstad.

The family requests memorials to the Boys and Girls Club of Bemidji or Bethel Lutheran Church in Bemidji.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Olson-Schwartz Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Bemidji.

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