John Edward Shelstad


John Edward Shelstad passed from his earthly life at Luther Haven Nursing Home in Montevideo, Minnesota on March 5, 2024, at the age of 98 years and 9 months. John Shelstad was born at home in Doran, Minnesota on June 3, 1925, to Edward and Myrtle (Kerch) Shelstad. He was baptized and confirmed at Vukku Lutheran Church in Foxhome, Minnesota. At the time of his death, John was a member of First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenyon, Minnesota.

John spent one year at Morris West Central Agriculture School before graduating from Breckenridge High School in 1943. After attending Augsburg College for 2 years, he graduated from North Dakota Agricultural College (North Dakota State University), in 1951 with a degree in Agriculture. When John’s long-term substitute teaching position in Mayville, North Dakota became full-time, and he stayed two more years teaching Agriculture. In 1953 John accepted a position in Kenyon, Minnesota teaching Vocational Agriculture. His storied career as a teacher and Future Farmers of America (FFA) Advisor spanned four decades and lasted until his retirement in 1990. John earned a Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota in 1962.

During his years teaching in Kenyon, John’s students won many awards at the state and national level; his students won the Minnesota State Premier Exhibitors Trophy numerous times. John received many individual awards including the Minnesota Vocational Agriculture Teacher of the Year (1987); induction into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame (2004); and Minnesota Livestock Breeders Hall of Fame (2013). He was awarded the Minnesota State Fair 50 Year award (1989) and received National, District, and Minnesota FFA Honorary degrees; John was also recognized with the Minnesota Pork Producers Swine Honor Roll Education Award; WCCO Good Neighbor Award (1987); and Kenyon Citizen of the Year (1988).

John met the love of his life, Norma Jeanne Twait, in 1946 at a softball game, and they were married New Year’s Day, 1949. John and Norma had seven busy children. In 1971, a move to their farm north of Kenyon allowed him to do a little farming and raise hogs. John loved a party, and that farm was the scene of many large gatherings over the decades as they entertained family and friends. John adored children and enjoyed having his grandchildren visit, all of whom retell stories about their adventures playing around the barn, feeding the hogs, shooting pheasants, being snowed in at the farm over Christmas 1978, and playing hide-and-go-seek in the large house with many rooms and secret places. John and Norma were rarely apart; they were only separated by her death in 2013 after 64 years of marriage.

John never met a stranger and talked to anyone who would listen. He was as quick with a laugh as he was a story; a great storyteller, he endlessly spun yarns for children and grandchildren’s entertainment. John was a voracious reader, especially of local news and sports, and had a memory like a steel trap; he could recite stories from family gatherings decades in the past with exceptional detail. John had a competitive spirit and could frequently be found winning a game of cards, cribbage, or backgammon; sometimes in the middle of the night when he and Norma couldn’t sleep they could be found playing Skip-Bo at the kitchen table. They enjoyed countless games over the years. John enjoyed food, and with Norma’s help made sure everyone who visited his home was well-fed. John was an avid fisherman and took annual fishing trips with the FFA as well as with various friends. He also enjoyed hunting with friends and relatives. John was a sports fans his entire life, loved watching his grandchildren’s games and rarely missed a televised game when available for viewing.

After his retirement in 1991, John and Norma purchased property on Otter Tail Lake, the lake held great memories from John’s youth. His dream was to make the same kind of memories for his children and grandchildren. John was very proud of his location for prevailing winds, sandy beach, and access to walleye. Like the farm, the lake became a gathering place for family and friends and fun times. His early summer birthday offered a great excuse for a party and one of his favorite annual cabin events was putting on an impressive fireworks show the Fourth of July.

John is survived by 3 daughters: Koreen (Dale) Harstad, Weimar, Texas; Kaia (Bruce) Bergeson, Montevideo, Minnesota; Karla (Jeff) Siem, Falcon Heights, Minnesota; and son-in-law Scott Hilleren, Duluth, Minnesota. John was Grandpa to thirteen grandchildren: Brian (Tammy) Harstad, Kirk (Lisa) Harstad, Kaaren (Paddy) Magliolo, Jill (Jeremie) Oliphant, Cindy (Dave) Ackley, Amy (Mike) Ratajczak, John (Taylor) Hilleren, Heidi (Mike) Dockery, Mark (Brittany) Hilleren, Bryant (Rachel) Bergeson, Darin (Keri) Bergeson, Todd (Emily) Bergeson, and Brett (Courtney) Bergeson. He is survived by 30 great-grandchildren and two great great-grandchildren. John is also survived by brothers Roger (Eunice) Shelstad, Kenneth (Roxanne) Shelstad, sisters Marlys Jackson and Carolyn Ellingson, numerous nieces and nephews.

John was preceded in death by his parents, wife Norma, daughters Kerry Hilleren and Kirsten Shelstad, sons Daniel Shelstad and Rolf Shelstad, sisters Irene Henjum, Eleanor Burgett, and brothers-in-law Reynold Ellingson, Arnold Henjum, William Burgett, and Dale Jackson.

Funeral Service will be held at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kenyon, Minnesota, at 11:00 am, Wednesday, March 13, with visitation one hour preceding the service. Internment will take place at 11:00 am, Thursday, March 14 at Vukku Lutheran Church Cemetery, Foxhome, Minnesota. Memorials may be sent to First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 309 Forest Street, Kenyon, MN, 55946.