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Rolf Skrien, 97, Grand Marais, died peacefully on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 at North Shore Care Center, with his family at his side.
He was born on February 18, 1921 to Albert and Charlotte (Skalet) Skrien in Ulen, Minnesota. Rolf graduated from high school in Morris, then attended West Central School of Agriculture and San Diego Vocation School. Rolf worked at Solar Aircraft in San Diego from 1942-1943 and then served in the US Coast Guard (Navy) from 1943 to 1946 during World War II.
In 1929, Rolf’s father brought him and his brothers on a life changing adventure by driving a Model T from Morris up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Grand Marais and camping along the way. This trip made a great impression on Rolf, so after the war, he convinced his buddies to join him at the end of the Gunflint Trail for an early spring canoe trip. When they returned, their outfitter, Al Hedstrom, owner of End of the Trail Lodge, asked Rolf to stay on and work as a fishing guide.
From 1946 to 1954 Rolf guided fishing and canoe trips on Seagull, Saganaga and other lakes in the US and Canada. He purchased a log cabin on Seagull after WWII and lived there for many years reinforcing his love of the wilderness. He eventually sold the cabin to the US Forest Service when the area was designated as the BWCA in 1964. While working as a guide at End of the Trail Lodge, Rolf and his future bride who also worked there, were introduced and went fishing on their first date.
He married Gail Hunter on February 13, 1954 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hovland, MN. They lived and worked at Taconite Harbor for a few years then moved to the end of the Gunflint Trail where they leased and purchased Way of the Wilderness from Cal Rutstrum. They owned and operated the canoe outfitters together from 1957 until 1976. Rolf also worked as a carpenter for Isaak Hansen and Sons from 1968 until his retirement in 1989. His carpenter work remains in many places across Cook County including Gunflint Trail cabins, resorts, and homes and villas along the North Shore.
Rolf was a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church and served two terms on the Church Council. He was also a member of the Gunflint Trail Association, Cook County Civic Council, REA Board of Directors for 6 years, and Taconite Fire Department for 2 years.
At age 75, Rolf took a canoe trip to the BWCAW and Quetico Provincial Park with friends. Rolf passed along his passion for the outdoors to family and friends that will live on for many generations to come.
During retirement years, Rolf and Gail spent many winters traveling across the US in a motor home. Eventually they settled down as snowbirds in Apache Junction, AZ with a beautiful view of the Superstition Mountains. They enjoyed exploring the lakes and wild areas around the desert.
Rolf was proudly independent and entered the care center at age 95 where he quickly made new friends, enjoyed sharing stories and playing bingo.
Rolf was preceded in death by his wife, Gail; a son Stan; great-granddaughter, Harmony St. John; and 6 siblings.
Rolf is survived by his children, Sandy (Wayne St. John) Skrien, Stuart (Cindy) Skrien, Susan Skrien, and Sally (Doug) Derginer; grandchildren, Danny St. John, Tyler Derginer, Jensen Derginer, Monroe Chumklang, Ella, Ruby, Juel, and Ole Skrien; sister-in-law, Dee Skrien; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be from 1 PM until the 2 PM memorial service on Sunday, January 20, 2019 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Marais.
In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to Bethlehem Lutheran Church or Gunflint Trail Historical Society for the Chik Wauk Museum.