Joseph Gerhard Vaage IIMay 12, 1926 ~ October 25, 2016 (age 90)
After a long life filled with laughter and faithfulness, Joseph Gerhard Vaage II passed away on October 25, 2016, in Walker, Minnesota. Joe was born to Pastor Joe and Ethel on May 12, 1926, in Minneapolis. The family lived in Farwell, Minnesota, where Joe II acquired his lifetime passions of fishing and hunting. Joe was joined by sister Ann (1931) and brother Jorgen (1934). In 1936, the family moved to Minneapolis, partly because Ethel feared that Joe’s Norsk accent was becoming too pronounced.
In North Minneapolis, Joe played football, baseball, and golf, at times whacking balls down the elm-lined boulevards with friends Bob Lee and Bob Weber, who would later marry Ann. After graduating from Patrick Henry High School in 1944, Joe joined the Navy and began learning to be a sailor at Farragut Naval Training Station on Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille.
Joe shipped out on the light aircraft carrier U.S.S. Cowpens (the Mighty Moo). He served as a signalman, communicating with other ships with light-flashing Morse code and hand–held flags. The men of the Cowpens fought their way from Wake Island to the Marshall Islands and on to Leyte Bay in the Philippines. In July of 1945, the Moo surprised the Japanese by skipping Iwo Jima and heading straight to Tokyo. Joe heard that the Japanese had surrendered even as his ship was under attack. On August 24, the Moo was sent into Tokyo Bay to see if the Japanese were serious about surrendering. His ship was spared and was later anchored next to the U.S.S. Missouri when
MacArthur received the final surrender.
Joe returned to the states and enrolled at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. A proud “holy Ole” (100% Norwegian Lutheran), he lived in the quonset hut barracks of Lincoln Court with other returning servicemen. Joe majored in economics and card playing. His buddies set him up on a blind date with Ruth Seleen, the former homecoming queen from Lakefield, Minnesota, and the woman with whom he would share the rest of his life. They were married on November 11, 1951, in Emmettsburg, Iowa, with the reception dinner highlighted by a pheasant dish, courtesy of the
officiant, Pastor Joe.
Also in 1951, Joe embarked on what was to be a 38 year career in banking, hiring on with Northwest Bank Corporation (later Norwest). He built a legacy as an honest and compassionate banker, never afraid to step out of the box to help deserving clients and co-workers.
Joe and Ruth began their life together in Brooklyn Park, MN. Daughter Karon was born in 1953, followed by son Joe III in 1954. They moved to Denison, IA, where the family continued to grow with the additions of Christine (1956), Jean (1958), John (1961) and Sharon (1963). Denison was home for over 30 years, with Joe and Ruth raising their kids alongside the families of many cherished friends.
Joe gave a lifetime of service to Lutheran churches. He acted as a trusted advisor, and was elected as the first president of Our Savior in Denison. His faith guided his actions and provided a
lasting source of comfort and courage.
In 1988, Joe and Ruth retired to a home on Leech Lake, where Joe had caught the big one, as usual, in the famous Portage Bay muskie rampage of 1955. They were blessed with 28 years on the lake, hosting friends and family, enjoying summer life in Walker and winters in Arizona.
Joe is reunited in the peace of the Lord with his parents, sister Ann (1975) and her husband Bob Weber (2001), brother Jorgen (2010) and his wife Joan (1986), and nearly all of his old hunting and fishing buddies.
He is survived by Ruth, his bride of nearly 65 years, and by the families of Karon McDonough (Kevin) of Bismarck, ND; Joe III of Casa Grande, AZ; Christine Vaage (Matt Powell) of Twin Falls, ID; Jean O’Donnell (Mike) of Lenexa, KS; John (Becky) of Orofino, ID; and Sharon Carlson (Dale) of Onalaska, WI; as well as 15 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in Walker next June. As a memorial, Joe would encourage you to support your church of choice. He’d also say grab a ball and play catch or take a kid fishing.
Joe will be fondly remembered for times spent at the old kitchen table with family and friends, reliving the day afield or on the lake, sharing a drink or two, and retelling stories with much joking and laughter. Rest in peace, Grandpa Joe: beloved husband, father, uncle, grandfather and friend. You and your goodness live on in all of us.