John Maakestad

John Maakestad, age 83 of rural Nerstrand, Professor Emeritus in Art at St. Olaf College where he taught for 37 years, died Tuesday, April 10, 2012 in Little Rock, AR following a brief illness. Funeral Services will be 2:00 pm Saturday, April 21st at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield with a visitation Saturday 1 hour prior to Services at the Church. A reception will follow the Services.

John Norris Maakestad was born December 12, 1928 in Whitehall, WI, son of Reverend Norvald and Agnes (Linnevold) Maakestad. He grew up in Rochester, MN and graduated from Rochester High School in 1946. He then attended St. Olaf College, graduating in 1950 and was then drafted into the Signal Corp of the 31st Dixie Division during the Korean Conflict and was discharged in 1953. He and Barbara Shefveland were married in 1951.

After the Army he spent 3 years at the University of Iowa in Iowa City where he received his Masters of Fine Arts degree and went on to teach in the Art Department of St. Olaf College from 1956 until the time of his retirement in 1994. During those years he taught the full range of studio art classes and helped to develop a major in Art History. He was long time chairman of the Art department and was involved with hiring cornerstones of the current department. He was also deeply involved with college matters and served on many committees and posts.

He lived his whole professional life southeast of Northfield in the Valley Grove neighborhood and was very involved in helping to save the Valley Grove Church and establish the Valley Grove Preservation Society and see the two churches entered into the National Historic Registry. The Valley Grove region was the source of inspiration for his early landscapes and he found joy in planting trees on his 83 acres, hoping that one day the mile between his land and the Big Woods State Park would return to the forest that once ran all the way to Mankato. He was the first landowner to become part of the Forest Legacy Program in Minnesota.

Serving on the summer faculty of Holden Village in Washington State fostered a love of mountain hiking becoming an annual event soon overshadowing his residence at Holden Village and led to hiking the Ptarmigan Traverse, climbing Glacier Peak and Mt Rainier. Such adventures prompted him to make intricate drawings from his mountain hikes. To keep in shape for summer hikes he began cross country skiing which inspired him to ski in thirteen Birkebeiner cross country ski races in Telemark, WI, often with his sons Tom and Jon.

Long distance biking was another pursuit he enjoyed, completing several bike rides across Nebraska, biking on Jim Klobachar treks plus a ride from Washington State to Minnesota. Later in life he and his wife Bobbie traveled to or camped in every state of the United States including Alaska-all in their little Scamp. John continued to produce art his whole life and in 2010-11 had shows at the Northfield Arts Guild, Owatonna Art Center, the Northfield Senior Center and St. John’s Lutheran Church.

He is survived by his wife Bobbie (Shefveland) Maakestad; sons Erik of Conway, AR, Jon (Bev Turbin) and grandchildren Ben and Maria of Excelsior, MN, Tom (Anna) and granddaughter Drew Elizabeth of Marine on St. Croix, MN, and Rolf (Nancy) and grandchildren Kai and Collin of Minneapolis; sister Solveig (Richard) Beckmen of Northfield; cousins, nieces, nephews, and a throng of former students who made his life as a teacher a continuous joy. His parents and sister Joanne Holz preceded him in death.

Memorials suggested to the Valley Grove Preservation Society, Northfield Arts Guild, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Olaf College, or to the donor’s choice.

Arrangements by the Bierman Funeral Home of Northfield.


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