Posted: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 7:22 am | Updated: 10:23 am, Tue Sep 3, 2013.
Written by: Gretta Becay, firstname.lastname@example.org Post-Bulletin Company, LLC
KASSON — It was a shock to family and friends when Lyle Tjosaas suffered a stroke in May. What wasn’t so much of a shock was what he was doing when it happened: He was at a Dodge County commissioners meeting. Tjosaas had served as a county commissioner since 2003, and the job was just one of dozens of public positions he held throughout his life. On Aug. 28, he suffered another stroke that took his life.
Family members gathered for lunch a few days after his death to reminisce. “Dad was always involved with the church, with the community, with his (dairy) industry,” his children said. “‘You don’t just half belong to something,'” he told his kids as they grew up. Tjosaas served on the boards of agricultural associations at the local, state, regional and national levels. He was appointed to the National Dairy Board under both President George Bush and President Clinton.
What made him so valuable as a public servant? “He was so easy to work with. He got along with people,” Dodge County Commissioner David Erickson said. “Lyle was very conscientious. He was always well prepared. He studied the issues.”
Former commissioner Don Gray didn’t hesitate to say, “He was the greatest guy I ever served with on a board.”
Former commissioner David Hanson knew Tjosaas for more than 40 years. Their friendship began when Hanson worked as agricultural agent for Dodge County and Tjosaas was running his dairy. Hanson remembers how Tjosaas never was afraid to take on challenges, “without any hesitation. He’d come back with reasonable suggestions that were helpful. He always looked at both sides of every argument.” During their time on the board together, the county experienced the growing pains of urban expansion, and Tjosaas’ background helped the board make fair decisions, Hanson said. “He wasn’t either pro-city or pro-country, but he understood both sides,” Hanson said.
County Administrator Jim Elmquist commented, “Lyle was a leader who had an innate ability to build consensus and to help others see the larger picture.”
Tjosaas and his wife, Carol, moved to the area originally so he could take a job as herdsman for Swiss Valley Farms near Mantorville. He worked there for 13 years — as manager for 10 — and then he and Robert Williams became partners on a dairy farm between Kasson and Byron. For 27 years, Tjosaas and his family worked on the farm until he retired in 2001. Retirement didn’t really mean anything to Tjosaas, his family said. “He went to coffee just one morning,” said Carol Tjosaas, and decided that wasn’t for him. “His idea of retirement was getting a part-time job for 40 hours a week,” his children said.
He worked at the cemetery, the Kasson elevator and as a volunteer driver for the SEMCAC Community Action Agency. Then he got his license to sell real estate, and, “He really liked that,” Carol Tjosaas said.
His work ethic was legendary. He rarely missed a meeting. When he suffered the first stroke, the commissioners were meeting at the Fairview Care Center in Dodge Center. Medical personnel immediately diagnosed the problem and offered to call an ambulance. “Oh, no, I don’t need an ambulance,” insisted Lyle and his son, Tim, drove him to the emergency room, where he walked in, refusing a wheelchair.
He taught his children, “You take care of the young, the old, and those who can’t take care of themselves,” and he lived this maxim in many ways. He was a volunteer driver for SEMCAC and then for the last decade served on the SEMCAC board.
“Lyle was an amazing community servant who was always giving back,” commented SEMCAC Executive Director Wayne Stenberg. “The board and staff will miss his warm smile, quick wit, leadership and wisdom.”
“You never know how long you have in this life,” Hanson said, “but the life Lyle led was exemplary.”
The county will hold a special election to fill the position held by Tjosaas. He represented District 2, which includes the central portion of the city of Kasson north of Main Street and south of 16th Street. The term runs through 2014.