Obituary for John Lygre
John Gerhard Lygre of Lakeville/Northfield, MN, died May 7, 2019 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. His family was blessed to be at his side. John was born March 19, 1944 in Omaha, Nebraska, to Rev. Gerald and Esther Lygre. He grew up in a very musical, Lutheran missionary family. He was very proud that his maternal grandfather L.O. Fossum had opened the first Lutheran mission field to the Kurds in Persia in 1907 and later translated the entire New Testament into the Kurdish language. Following in that missionary tradition, when John was only 6 months old, his family sailed through […]
John Gerhard Lygre of Lakeville/Northfield, MN, died May 7, 2019 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. His family was blessed to be at his side.
John was born March 19, 1944 in Omaha, Nebraska, to Rev. Gerald and Esther Lygre. He grew up in a very musical, Lutheran missionary family. He was very proud that his maternal grandfather L.O. Fossum had opened the first Lutheran mission field to the Kurds in Persia in 1907 and later translated the entire New Testament into the Kurdish language. Following in that missionary tradition, when John was only 6 months old, his family sailed through the Panama Canal in route to South Africa where John’s father established a mission church in Untunjambili. Because it was during WWII they were delayed in Buenos Aires for 6 months waiting for passage. The delay became a blessing because John soon became very ill requiring mastoid surgery on his ear which would have been life threatening aboard a ship. After living three years in South Africa, they returned to serve their congregation in Omaha, and the family often sang hymns in the Zulu language such as “Peace Like A River” to senior citizens and other church communities. In 2005, John and his siblings made a spectacular return trip to the Untunjambili mission sites in South Africa.
John spent much of his youth and teenage years in Yankton, SD, and Montevideo, MN where his dad served as senior pastor at two different Our Saviors Lutheran Churches. While at Montevideo High School, as student body president, he was nicknamed “Electric” due to his wit, warmth and quick sense of humor. John and his close buddies were dubbed the “Magnificent Seven” and remained lifelong friends. At Luther College in Decorah, IA, John sang bass in the Nordic Choir and in many performances of Handel’s “Messiah.” He majored in Classics and also minored in German. He was a Tri-Omega brother and Honor Council President. John graduated with honors in 1966. That same summer, he married his college sweetheart, Jeanne Robinson of Mt. Horeb, WI, who he spotted in chapel and became his beloved wife of 53 years. The newlyweds lived in St. Paul, MN for three years while John attended Luther Seminary. John’s love of languages and biblical studies led him to Princeton Theological Seminary where he studied New Testament theology under Dr. Bruce Metzger. With incredible strength and determination he received his Ph.D. while simultaneously earning his MEd from Rutgers University.
John accepted an offer from Dr. Lloyd Svensbye to join St. Olaf staff as registrar in 1972. For 32 years, John served St. Olaf College as a loyal administrator, teacher and advocate for the liberal arts. His academic, administrative, classical and theological training fit John uniquely for relating faith and life to the college’s statement of mission. He held positions of college registrar, associate dean for academic resources, director of academic internships, and senior stewardship officer. John taught interim New Testament courses for the religion department. He published in administrative and biblical journals, focusing on the Gospel of Luke. He especially enjoyed helping students fit their coursework into alternative academic programs. John was active in the National Registrars Association, chairing its committee to help women enter managerial positions. Some special campus accomplishments were introducing on-line registration and chairing the planning committee for the Ditmanson addition to the Rolvaag Library.
John was truly a renaissance man in the sense that he had so many passions, interests and skills in life. He served as President of the Northfield Arts Guild and was a founding member of the Northfield Area Foundation. He was an active member of St. John’s Lutheran Church serving as President, chairing several boards, and was often cantor at worship services. John served on the Board of Lutheran Mideast Development founded by his grandfather, L.O. Fossum, and Rev. M.O. Wee. He enjoyed stamp collecting, “literary club”, following his beloved Twins team, rounds of golf at Northfield Golf Club, noon-time tennis, table tennis, and reading all forms of literature. John loved listening to the works of Bach and Handel and occasionally rocking out to Elvis and The Big Bopper!
By far John’s biggest passion was being a family man. Sara and Anne remember him planning road trips down to the last detail, designing blue-ribbon winning costumes for them for the annual Defeat of Jesse James Days parade, sharing his love for tennis and “shooting the moon” in the game of Hearts. John and Jeanne loved attending plays and concerts, taking long evening walks, and traveling around the U.S. as well as Norway and other European countries.
Always cherishing time spent with his four grandchildren, John was one proud grandpa! His attendance could be counted on at tennis matches, soccer and basketball games, and dance competitions. He enjoyed taking them to the theater and on annual trips to Kavanaughs Resort. These outings were extra special when topped off with a scoop of ice cream or John’s famous popcorn! He loved sharing his time and energy with his “grands.” John wanted them to enjoy life and to value the truth that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone. Both family and friends felt that John left a lasting legacy of a life that inspires others with his love, kindness, and integrity. “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23).
John is preceded in death by his father, Rev. Gerald Lygre, father and mother in-law, Lloyd and Alverna Robinson. He is survived by his wife Jeanne, two daughters, Sara (Wade) Johnson of Eden Prairie, MN, and Anne (Josh) Kutzler of Lakeville, MN, four grandchildren, Emily and Alexa Johnson, Benjamin and William Kutzler, mother, Esther Holte of Peoria, AZ, brother, David (Laurae) Lygre of Ellensburg, WA, sister, Carol Sherfesee of New Castle, NH, sister, Lois (Carlton) Mitchell of Spirit Lake IA, sister-in-law, Anita Nagle of Fitchburg, WI and many nieces and nephews.
A celebration of John’s life will be held on Friday, May 17 at 11:00 a.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield. Visitation will begin one hour prior, with a reception immediately following. Interment will be at OakLawn Cemetery.
Memorials are preferred to the Parkinson’s Foundation (parkinson.org), Luther Seminary (luthersem.edu), or donor’s choice.
Arrangements are with the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home. www.northfieldfuneral.com