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Leslie Clarence Haack transitioned to eternal life and was reunited with the love of his life, Betty Ann, on Sunday, January 6, 2019 at the age of 91 years, three months and one day following a week-long stay at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, MN. Les was born on October 5, 1927 in Polley, Wisconsin to Natalia Deutschlander Haack and William Haack. He was the youngest of eight siblings. At age five, he moved with his family from Polley to Silver Creek Township outside Two Harbors, MN.
Les attended schools in Silver Creek and Two Harbors and although he did not complete the eighth grade, he loved to read and studied things that interested him. He had the brilliant, creative mind of an engineer and could jerry rig or fix just about anything. He was the quintessential tough guy—strong, independent, honest, humble and hardworking. During his mid-teens, Les worked as a heavy equipment operator in the construction and logging industries with his older brothers.
Les enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and did his basic training in San Diego, CA. He served one year on the USS Alabama-(BB60). This battleship is now dry docked in Mobile, Alabama so he and Betty were able to tour it. Following an honorable discharge, Les returned to Two Harbors where he married the love of his life and best friend, Betty Ann Rafn. At age 13, while riding the school bus, he had turned to his buddy (Ken Udenberg, Betty’s first cousin) and announced that he was going to marry that girl one day. Les did exactly that. On May 24,1947, he and Betty were united in love, for life, in Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Two Harbors.
Together, they redefined the word, “team.” Every step of the way, they worked and played, side-by-side. They built their first home at Crow Creek. In the midst of construction and at age 21, Les was drafted by the Army to serve during the Korean War. He felt fortunate to have remained stateside to serve as a night baker while stationed at Ft. Eustis, near Newport News, Virginia. Betty was able to live with him on base until his honorable discharge two years later.
Les was always the picture of great health and peak fitness, one of superior physical condition, strength, agility and athletic ability. Noteworthy, while in the Army, he was pulled out of the kitchen one morning and escorted by his CO to the football field. There he was asked to remove his boots and in his stocking feet, sans any proper warmup, ran the 40-yard dash and 100-yard dash, as well as other drills. Upon completion he learned that it was all a trial and that his stellar performance had earned him an invitation to play on the Army football team. After much consideration, he respectfully declined because it would have meant traveling the country without his greatest fan, Betty, by his side. Upon return from Virginia, Les and Betty put the finishing touches on their home and settled in.
In 1946, Les and his brother, Ben, formed Haack Brothers Construction and worked side-by-side for 35 years. They built roads in the three-county area—too numerous to mention. They helped create the Knife River Marina and did work at the Two Harbors Airport, UMD, etc. In the mid-1960’s, Les and Betty purchased, rebuilt, and operated the A&W Restaurant in Beaver Bay.
Les and Betty were blessed by the arrival of their son, Vincent, in 1957, daughter, Victoria, in 1959, and grandson, Leslie Christian, in 1982. He referred to his family as “his whole world.”
When Les retired in 1981 at age 54, he and Betty began building their second home at Crow Creek on a 90-foot cliff overlooking Lake Superior. They hand-selected rocks from Alaska to the Rio Grande and hand-split them with a sledge hammer for use as trim on the cabin, sidewalks, and dry-stacked rock walls. They followed the logging trucks down rough and twisted roads at Hovland in order to harvest cedar logs that would have otherwise gone to waste. Les designed and built a saw that split all the cedar shakes for the cabin and garage.
Les was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed hunting and every form of fishing—brook trout and German Browns caught in area streams, lake fishing for trout and coho salmon, portaging to and ice fishing on Clearwater, Bearskin, and Rose Lakes along the Gunflint Trail. He and Betty even survived a fly-in fishing trip to Canada. He’d look forward to spring fishing for trout, walleye, and northern pike on Stormy Lake in Ontario.
In 1970, Les and Betty purchased their beloved “house on wheels”—a 25-foot Kayot motorhome. In it, they crisscrossed the United States, Canada, and even made it to Alaska where they caught enough King Salmon to can 100 jars of filets.
Les and Betty lived joyfully and contently in their cabin on the cliff from 1986 until the time of Betty’s passing in 2002. Les continued to live and thrive there until one week prior to his passing.
Les loved country music, big band classics and hits by his favorite crooners. Every day, upon returning home from a hard day’s work, you could hear him whistling one of his favorite tunes—“Young at Heart”—all the way from his truck to the house. Movie classics like his favorite, “Casablanca,” brought a smile to his face. He’d encourage each of you to listen to Sinatra’s "My Way” and Tom T. Hall’s “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine.” These lyrics, as well as the poem entitled, “You Tell on Yourself” (author unknown) define his life.
He loved weed whipping and mowing his park-like yard as well as shoveling and plowing snow up to age 90. He took great pride in maintaining his property and was a supreme steward of all things in nature. Everyone knew that Les could talk to his beloved “pets”—the deer, the gray fox, Peregrine Falcons, and birds of all kinds. They will surely sense his absence and miss his earthly presence. All God’s creatures, great and small, brought immense joy to each and every day of his life.
Les was preceded in death by Betty, his wife of 55 years; parents; siblings Ernest, Carl, Henry, Herman, Clara, and Christine Biser Thayer.
He is survived by his brother and business partner, Ben Haack of Two Harbors, MN; children, Vincent (Cindy) of Brainerd, MN, Victoria (Bob) Reuter of Lakeville, MN, and grandson, Leslie (Kortney Simmons) Haack of Winsted, MN; nieces Joni Haack Olson and Cindy Haack South; nephews Giles Dalbec, Kenneth Biser, and Mitchel Biser.
Les lived a remarkable life and will be forever missed and deeply loved by all who came to know him—his family, his extended family at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Castle Danger, and special friends along the North Shore, especially Ruth and Don Wagner, Lavonne Christensen, Barb and Tim Lemke, Nancy and Gary Grammens, and Kirk Haldorson. Memories of Les will reside in the deepest part of our hearts. Special thanks to Dr. Shawn McMahon, Amanda, and Brad Alm, as well as all the Lake View Clinic and Hospital staff that cared for Les so lovingly. Additional thanks to St. Luke’s Hospital doctors, nurses, staff, and hospice, especially Dr. Tyner, Dr. Patel, and Brian Butkus, PA-C. As per Les’ request, there will be no funeral service. A private graveside ceremony and celebration of life will be held at a later date.
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