“Minnesota Nice” and Better – John Skogmo

Minnesotans are known for Minnesota Nice, a phrase that describes Minnesota’s Scandinavian culture of civility. Sometimes Minnesota Mean lies just below the surface. Other times civility and gentleness pervade a person’s character. John Skogmo was Minnesota Nice at its best. There was no meanness in him.

Minnesotans also don’t like fanfare. That Minneapolis is called “the little apple” refers not only to the city’s size compared to “the Big Apple” but also to Minnesotan’s disdain for big splashes, big stages, and floodlights. ‘Ego’ and ‘Minnesotan’ belong together in the Thesaurus as antonyms.

Working back stage behind-the-scenes is what Minnesotans are about at their best.  John Skogmo’s obituary, laced with subtle humor, is a great tribute. John was a man without guile; his faith was the foundation of the quiet stature universally recognized by his family, friends, church, and work colleagues.

Obituary, published April 12, 2015 [highlights added by VFTE]

John Gunderson Skogmo died April 4, 2015 of cancer. Born in Fergus Falls, MN, July 15, 1947, to James Bertram and Joyce Shirley Skogmo.

John found his calling at age nine, reading his father’s issues of Kiplinger’s financial magazine. He became fascinated with compounding interest and saw the benefits of delayed gratification. As a teenager he ran a concession that sold popcorn, cotton candy, and caramel apples at local events. At the end of the day he laundered money-at the kitchen sink, to get the sugar and grease off his cash intake. He used his earnings to buy shares in the Security State Bank of Fergus Falls and was frequently excused from school to attend shareholders’ meetings.

After graduation he left for the Cities to attend Macalester College, where he received a treasured liberal arts education. He earned a J. D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1972 and went to work immediately in the three-person legal department at Northwestern National Bank. Except for a summer at the Cornell University School of Business as a 1978 Bush Foundation Fellow and the bank’s temporary displacement by the 1982 fire, John spent his entire career at the corner of 7th and Marquette, as NWNB became Norwest and then Wells Fargo. He was fortunate to work in several departments before finding his true home in 1989 in Wealth Management, where he applied his stellar relationship skills to helping individuals and families. He was set to retire in June 2015 after 43 years with the bank.

John Skogmo’s volunteer work, much of it behind-the-scenes, helped assure the solvency and stability of some important organizations. As a trustee of Macalester College, he reinvigorated the Alumni Fund at a critical juncture. He worked with Artspace to maintain affordable housing and workspace in gentrifying neighborhoods and was instrumental in establishing the Cowles Center. He served as president of the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library and was appointed by the city council to the Minneapolis Community Development Agency.

His proudest achievement was his long-term service to Westminster Presbyterian Church as a deacon, trustee, elder, and treasurer. John’s was the voice of prudence in many crucial financial decisions, and his steadfast leadership earned respect for Westminster’s endowment as one of the most wisely managed church funds in the country.

He was predeceased by his parents and a grandniece, Lily Irene Martyn, and is survived by Tom Morin, his partner of 32 years and husband of 1 year; his sister, Shirley Nelson; niece Sharri Martyn and her daughter Claire; nephew Trevor Steeves (Jana) and his children, Elizabeth (Kyle) and Joshua; half-brothers Phillip Skogmo (Yukiko) and David Skogmo (Linda); two aunts and many cousins. Memorial service on Friday, May 1, 2015, at 3:00 PM, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1200 Marquette, Minneapolis. Reception following at the Minneapolis Club. Memorials preferred to Westminster or donor’s choice. No Flowers Please. www.Washburn-McReavy.com Edina Chapel 952-920-3996.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 13, 2015

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