Arnold ‘Arnie’ Gabrielson, 89
Published 10:32 am Thursday, October 20, 2016
Arnie “Arnie” Gabrielson, 89, formerly of Austin, Minnesota, passed away on Oct. 13, 2016, in Burnsville, Minnesota.
Arnie was born Aug. 6, 1927, on his family’s farm outside Luverne, Minnesota, the seventh and youngest child of Ole and Avilda Gabrielson. His parents had emigrated from Norway, settling in southwest Minnesota. As a child, Arnie was fascinated by his father’s tales of prospecting for gold in the Klondike Gold Rush, where Ole and his brothers found enough of a stake to buy lush farmland near Luverne.
Arnie very much enjoyed a recent trip to Alaska where he was able to trace some of his “Pop’s” steps on the quest for gold.
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Arnie started working at a very young age (ten years old), working as a printer’s devil (sorting type) for a local newspaper, as a pinsetter in a bowling alley, and as a paper boy. At age 14, he and a buddy jumped freight trains and rode from Luverne to St. Louis, where they worked with a prison chain gang stringing telephone wires and cable on top of new telephone and telegraph poles.
At age 17, Arnie convinced Ole to sign papers allowing him to enlist in the Navy during World War II after one of his high school friends was killed in action. He trained at Wold Chamberlain and was stationed in Oakland and San Diego, California. He was about to ship out to the Pacific theater when the war ended. He and his Navy buddy flipped coins to determine whether to stay in the Navy or return home. His friend’s coin toss left him in the Navy, while Arnie’s coin toss sent him back home to Luverne to finish high school.
While in high school, he met adorable Mickey Thorson, who was working as a roller-skating carhop at the local drive-in. With a “Hey beautiful, where have you been all my life?” Mickey was smitten, and they dated throughout high school, got married and had six lucky children. The family moved to Austin, Minnesota, in 1950, where they lived until Mickey’s death in 2002.
Arnie was creative and clever, a bit of a dreamer, with a desire to use common sense solutions to solve problems. He worked for the phone company, sold insurance, steel buildings, and eventually started working on alternative fuel projects. He invented an engine adapter to allow diesel engines to burn part diesel and part low-grade alcohol made from corn or waste beer. He would not have considered himself to be an environmentalist, but he was an early pioneer in making farm equipment, big trucks and Mississippi tugboats burn alcohol in their existing diesel engines using a converter that he invented, built and installed.
Arnie served as Commander of American Legion Post 91 and was active in veterans’ affairs. He drove veterans to medical appointments, worked as a driver for the Sheriff’s Boys Ranch and Mower County Social Services, and as a reserve bailiff. Arnie and Mickey started a program connecting at-risk kids with adult mentors in the community. Both loved working with kids, and had complementary skills and personalities that truly connected with young people.
He frequently traveled to the Twin Cities, Georgia and California to spend time with his kids and grandchildren, and he brought his curious, fun-loving and adventurous personality with him, making friends everywhere he went. Arnie moved to Burnsville in 2012 to be closer to his kids. Because Mickey died young, people would eventually ask Arnie if he was looking to meet someone new. He would either respond that he had already had the best wife and no one else could compare to Mickey, or that he had a beautiful redhead in California, referring to his grandchildren’s golden retriever Rosie. Arnie and Rosie drove many hundreds of miles exploring Northern California’s redwoods, coastline and vineyards, and always came home with tales of adventures on the road, many of which were true.
Arnie is survived by his sister, Clara Gabrielson George of Newington, Connecticut; his children,Tim Gabrielson (Diane) of Austin, Tom Gabrielson (Dawn) of Minneapolis, Sue Bjerke (Scott) of Eagan, Mary Jacobson (Scot) of Cumming, Georgia, Janny Tansil (Mark) of Sebastopol, California, and Randy Gabrielson (Katey) of Stillwater; 12 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren. We will all miss him greatly.
Arnie lived his life with joy and easy laughter, true patriotism and a perpetual sense of adventure and curiosity. He loved nothing more than being surrounded by his family, and he was throughout his long, meaningful life.
A memorial celebration of Arnie’s life will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, at Berean Baptist Church, 309 E. County Road 42, in Burnsville, Minnesota.