St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Eiler Ravnholt, Luck WI passed away

Full Obituary at Click for Obituary

Update: Visitation Friday from 4 to 7. Funeral at 11:00 on Saturday at the West Denmark Church (West of Luck, WI on Hwy N about 1 mile then south 1/4 mile on 170th Street).

Got this note from Dan Beal of the Luck area:
"We just received notice that Eiler Ravnholt of Luck died during the night - last night. A service of remembrance will be held at the West Denmark Church on March 17th- next Saturday."

Chuck Adleman of Luck Historical society gives Eiler (right) a history award.

Eiler joined the Polk Men's group in Luck a couple of years ago. That is where I met him, and got to know him. We get together and learn about some new topic, reminisce or maybe talk about contemporary issues. and in general get acquainted. Mostly we are aging liberals, discouraged with the recent right wing attempt to dismantle the social safety net and remove the restraints on big business to take over our lives completely. We really don't talk much politics or religion much, as we agree on most things already.

Eiler was fascinating to listen to. He was a foot soldier in World War II with many experiences from the foxhole point of view. After the war, he went to college under the GI bill. He was recruited into MN Senator Hubert Humphrey's staff through his wife who already worked there. They went to Washington with the Humphries where he got to know most of the folks in government in the 60s-90s.

He showed us his autographed copy of "Profiles in Courage" that John Kennedy gave him, trying to encourage Eiler to vote for Kennedy in the 1960 presidential campaign--but Eiler said he supported Humphrey then.

Eiler worked for many years as an aide and speech writer for Hawaiian senator, Daniel Inouye. Eiler's stories about politics and politicians were entertaining and gave us a glimpse into what politicians were really like (mostly nice rational folks in the 60s-90s).

Eiler often wrote letters to the editor of the local newspapers in response to other opinions. As a liberal, he supported the folks in society who need help and was literate in his efforts to explain that the government does have a role in keeping its citizens protected from businesses out to make a profit at any expense. His letters were civil, reasoned and appealed to people's better nature. His last letter appeared in this week's Inter-County Leader where he responded to Republican Mark Pettis' call to tax the poor so the rich can be relieved of their heavy burdens helping out others. You can read it at this link: Leader March 7

Eiler was from a large poor family. His ancestors came from Denmark in the 1800s to West Denmark (Luck area of NW Wisconsin). His great grandmother was the first buttermaker at the first cooperative creamery in NW Wisconsin. In retirement, he returned to his hometown area and lived in Luck, leading an active life right up to his death.

The illness of his father in the early part of the Great Depression forced the family to go on charity care -- living for a winter at the old school house on Little Butternut Lake at West Denmark. He understood what it was to be poor and to worry about the next meal and never forgot this, concerned all his life with helping the less fortunate make it in society.

He and his brothers and sisters were a very determined group, most of them going on to college and making their way into America and prospering. He remembered the help his family got from the government in the Depression, from neighbors, from the West Denmark Church and his government paid college under the GI Bill His life was evidence that with a helping hand even dirt poor folks can be successful in America.

Eiler Ravnholt was a great supporter of the local area giving his time and money to charitable and cultural activities. With his wide range of friends, his activism in the community and his knowledge of local history and governmental history he was a fascinating person to know and talk to.

Last year, I helped Eiler prepare slides for his talk on the history of the Luck cooperative creamery--the one commemorated by the sign on Highway 35 at Luck. He was very well versed in local history and a valuable member of the Luck Area Historical Society. Eiler took the time to see what I was doing on the computer, wanting to learn how to do it himself. He was active on Facebook, and fascinated by the progess of the Internet in bringing knowledge and people together.

It has been a hard time for many of us this winter, losing our friends Eiler, Edwin Pedersen, Tim Carlson, Darrel Kittleson and Bernice Abrahamzon, all people who made our neighborhood better and more interesting for their presence, all active in improving things around them. Margo and I will miss our old friends greatly. One of the hardest parts of getting old is how many of your friends pass on. That they leave you a better person for having known them is some compensation.

In remembrance of Edwin and Eiler, consistent voices for moderation and support for those in our society who need help, especially in their letters to the editor of the Inter-County Leader, I fired off my own letter this morning. It wasn't as well reasoned, as literate, or as educational, or passionate but I did it feeling that voices of moderation do need to balance those of the extremes now predominating in the political discourse. With Edwin and Eiler moving on to their next adventures, others will have to step forward if moderation and balance is to be preserved.

If you have memories of Eiler, please click the word "comments" at the bottom of this posting and add them. The advantage of an online column/blog is that you can respond to what you have read and add your own views. Russ

Click to go to Ravnholt Family History Website
To read about the farm foreclosure click

From that website a brief biography


Born 21 February 1923, Ravnholt Farmstead, Milltown, Wisconsin
Educational History
Public schools, Milltown, West Denmark, and Luck, Wisconsin, 1929 41; Niagara University, Niagara Falls, New York (ASTP), 1943 44; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1946 48, B.S. . (education) 1948; University of Southampton, 1949 50.

Employment History

Farm hand: Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, until 1941; Shipyard worker, Bremerton, Washington, 1942; U.S. Army, 1943 46; 104th Infantry Division, European Theatre of Operations, 1944 45; High school teacher/principal, Dover, Minnesota, 1948 49; High school teacher/principal, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, 1950 52; High School

In the photo of St Croix Falls teachers 1951, Eiler is seated third from the left. Click on the photo to make it bigger.

Teacher, Mankato High School, Mankato, Minnesota, 1952 62; Chairman, Blue Earth County Democratic Farmer Labor Party, 1960-62; Delegate, Democratic National Convention, 1960; Assistant to Hubert H. Humphrey, U.S. Senator, 1962 64, Vice President of the United States, 1964 68; Administrative Assistant to Daniel Inouye, U.S. Senator, 1969 80; Vice president and Washington representative, Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association, 1980-1995.


Married Edna Joyce Collis, 23 March 1947, West Denmark, Wisconsin. Children: Elizabeth Collis, b. 22 August 1948, Frederic, Wi; Ann Collis, b. 15 July 1951, Mankato, Mn; Margrethe Collis, b. 15 April 1954, Mankato, Mn;,Jane Collis, b. 6 December 1957, Mankato, Mn; Christopher Collis, b. 28 August 1964, Washington, D.C.

Ann m. Henry Bokelman Jr., 27 August 1970, children: Seth, Jessica.

Jane m. Gary Ellingson, 17 July 1981, children: Jana.

Margrethe, m. Christopher Hankin, 11 October 1981, children: Erik and Lars.

Elizabeth m. Michael Zipser, 8 May 1982.