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Brooklyn Center History
BROOKLYN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
HALL OF FAME
Located at City Hall
6301 Shingle Creek Parkway
These individuals have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Information below is noted on their plaque.
SHERIFF EARLE BROWN
BROOKLYN CENTER HISTORIC HALL OF FAME
Our historic Hall of Fame inductee for 1988 was Earle Brown, owner of the Earle Brown Farm since 1905. Brown became Hennepin County’s Sheriff in 1920. In July, 1918 some of his farm land was a military flight training field, Minnesota’s first commercial airport. His law enforcement success led to his draft to start the Minnesota Highway Patrol in 1929. After another draft, he ran to be Minnesota’s governor in 1932 but lost. At age 41 he married Gwen Foster. Actions to create the Village of Brooklyn Center took place on Brown’s farm in 1911. With no children, Earle Brown willed his farm to the U of M. Garden City and the Earle Brown Continuing Education Center resulted from its sale. Brown lived 1879 to 1963.
REPORTER MARY JANE GUSTAFSON
BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME, 1988
Our Hall of Fame inductee for 1988 was Mary Jane Sokolowski Gustafson. She was proud of her Polish heritage and was a world traveler. Mary Jane worked for many years at the Brooklyn Center Post as editor and reporter, reporting on Council meetings and the pulse of the citizens. She had a program on KUXL radio called “Things Polish” and was a founder of Polish culture groups. Gustafson pushed for the preservation of the Earle Brown Farm and enjoyed the grand opening on April 22, 1990. She helped write a book about the Farm’s history, published in 1983. She served on: the Charitable Foundation, Earle Brown Farm Ad Hoc Committee, B.C. All-American City Award Committee, CEAP, the Crime Prevention Committee, North Hennepin Community College boards, and she was founder and president of the Brooklyn Historical Society. Mary Jane died November 27, 1990 at age 60. She and her husband, Arthur, raised their three children in Brooklyn Center.
MAYOR PHILIP COHEN
BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME, 1989
Our Hall of Fame inductee for 1989 was Phil Cohen, Brooklyn Center’s Mayor from 1965-1977. He served on our City Council from 1963-65 and on our School District 286 Board for two-and-one-half years. Phil was on the staff of the Metropolitan Council 1978-79 and was Legislative Assistant to Senator Dave Durenburger for ten years, 1979-89; then he went back to Brooklyn Center’s City Council. Appointed May, 1989 to December, 1990, he was then reappointed to the 1991-92 City Council term. As of 1992, Cohen is Vice President of Goff-Wilkie & Associates, Brooklyn Park, St. Paul and San Francisco. Known for his clowning, Phil contributed a pink polyester suit as his memento for the Brooklyn Historical Society. In an Earle Brown Parade, he was at its head and also the rear. Phil and his wife, Beverly, have three children.
CAPTAIN JOHN MARTIN
BROOKLYN CENTER HISTORIC HALL OF FAME, 1989
Our historic Hall of inductee for 1989 was Captain John Martin, grandfather of Earle Brown and early Brooklyn Center area resident. With capital from a visit to the California gold rush of 1849, Martin came to settle in the infant Minneapolis area in 1855. He was born in Vermont in 1820. He was a captain of industry, involved in river freighting, flour milling and lumbering. In 1875 Martin bought 140 acres of the Earle Brown farm site in a bankruptcy sale. At first his family, including grandson Earle Brown, used the farm as a summer retreat. In 1905 Martin died and left the farm to Brown, who made it a landmark with white-trimmed red buildings, green pastures and grazing horses. For years, the scene was a treat for passing motorists. Now the farm is preserved as an inn, business and convention center, thanks to the City of Brooklyn Center.
CEAP FOUNDER MADELEINE ROCHE
BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME, 1990
Our Hall of Fame inductee for 1990 was Madeleine Roche, founder of the Community Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP). The idea started in 1968 when she and friends saw unmet human needs and responded to them. Soon church groups, volunteers and committees all joined hands. In 1975 CEAP incorporated. Madeleine saw her dream in ashes when the first CEAP building burned in 1976, but with fund-raising and a land donation, a new building arose. She served CEAP 1970-1980 and then worked to develop the Minnesota Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program under Governor Quie. Born in St. Andre-Avelin, Quebec, October 22, 1927, Madeleine was educated in French. Welcoming guests and a happy heart are part of her clan heritage – traits that helped inspire CEAP and her family. Brought to the U.S. by her Navy pilot husband, Joe, in 1949, Madeleine became a naturalized U. S. citizen. The Roches have eight children.
COUNCIL PRESIDENT MERTON LANE
BROOKLYN CENTER HISTORIC HALL OF FAME 1990
Our historic Hall of Fame inductee for 1990 was Merton “Mert” Lane, who served as president of the Brooklyn Center Council March 13, 1917 to March 8, 1921 and again, January 1, 1939 to 1950. In 1951 the term “mayor” replaced “president.” He was also active in the Vegetable Grower’s Association. Lane was born in Cooper, Maine in 1880. He married May Creamer of Baring, Maine, and the newlyweds moved to Hennepin County. They had nine daughters and one son. Their vegetable farm was on the west side of Brooklyn Boulevard (the old Osseo Road) at 62nd St., where Bridgeman’s is currently. Lane’s brother, Dan and sister, Mrs. Everett Howe, lived nearby.
GWEN FOSTER BROWN (MRS. EARLE BROWN)
BROOKLYN CENTER HISTORIC HALL OF FAME, 1991
Our historic Hall of Fame inductee for 1991 was Gwendoline Ida Foster. With family roots in Maine, Gwen Foster was born in S. Paul but her family soon moved to Minneapolis. She met Sheriff Earle Brown while she was a secretary at the Radisson Hotel and married him at his Brooklyn Center farm n 1921. Gwen Brown was on the Board of Asbury and Maternity Hospitals, Minneapolis, and the Jean Martin Brown (Children’s) Home, St. Paul, where she served for 25 years. Some of her causes were: orphans, working women, unprotected children, the “Old Trails” chapter of the D.A.R., the Republican Workshop, Woman’s Club, P.E.O., North Methodist Church. Gwen died in Vermont in 1947.
DOCTOR DUANE L. ORN
BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME, 1991
Our 1991 Hall of Fame inductee was Dr. Duane L. Orn, who has served as Brooklyn Center’s Community Health Officer for many years. A popular Master of Ceremonies, Orn has been an officer and/or board member of: The Ad Hoc Committee to develop the Earle Brown Farm, CEAP, Northwest Community Television Board, local Chamber of Commerce, Hope Ministries, Peacemakers, Crime Prevention Fund, North Hennepin Leadership Committee, Northwest Human Services, the Autism Home and the Brookwood housing development. Over the years the Doctor has been actively involved with Brooklyn Center High School and has been their physician. Also, Doctor Orn is a charter member of Brooklyn Center’s Rotarty International. He is a senior partner at Northport Medical Center, Ltd., in our town. Doctor and Karen Orn have one son.
BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME, 1995
Our Hall of Fame inductee for 1995 was Kermit Klefsaas. Klefsaas taught at Brooklyn Center High School for 32 years and coached football, golf, jr. high basketball, and varsity track for 25 years. For 18 years he taught summer school. He also worked at Camp Nathaniel, a Christian Service Brigade boys’ camp. He is now retired. Klefsaas came to the new Brooklyn Center High School in 1961 and was hired while working overseas at the American Community School in Beirut, Lebanon. Education: attended University of Minnesota, football player 1950 and 1952; National Guard activated 1951; North Central Bible college; M.S. in Physical Education at Mankato State (graduated 1967). Fans say he is a quiet giant, with the gift of accepting people where they are and then encouraging them to grow. His willingness to help people is based on his belief that “Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” He is remembered by many of his students as an outstanding mentor who helped them on the way to productive lives. His contributions will have a lasting effect on our community, and mold the future - our children. A member of the North Brook Alliance Church, Kermit and his wife, Marilyn, have five children.
SIGURD “SIG” EDLING
BROOKLYN CENTER HISTORIC HALL OF FAME, 1995
Our historic Hall of Fame inductee for 1995 was Sigurd “Sig” Edling (June 11, 1903-December 23, 1974). He was very proud of Brooklyn Center and served on the Brooklyn Center Council and Planning Board for many years during the time the city emerged from an agricultural community into a vibrant residential and commercial city. As a member of the original Planning Committee (later, Commission), from June 1942 to 1960, he was on the “cutting edge” of Brooklyn Center’s progress during 1954-59, the peak home-building period. The Edling farm was located on the site of the present-day Marquette Bank of Brooklyn Center around 57th and Brooklyn Boulevard. Sig was a vegetable farmer and truck gardener until his farm and others nearby were sold to the Dayton Company for Brookdale Center. He helped put the Brookdale deal together during the lengthy planning stage from 1955-1960 and saw the new shopping mall through its opening in 1962. Edling was one of the charter members of the Brooklyn Center Fire Department and made many lasting friendships among the fighters. Described as “wise and kind,” he also served on the Board of the Brookyn United Methodist Church. Sig and his wife, Sylvia, had two children.
1996 BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME
Dean Nyquist has given his time, energy, money and most importantly, vision to the city of Brooklyn Center. Not only as Mayor for thirteen years, but as a dedicated resident, he instilled in the community a “can do” attitude. Dean led the committee vying for and winning the distinguished award of All American City, an honor to be celebrated into the future. As Mayor, Dean was instrumental in creating the Brooklyn Center Community Prayer Breakfast. Now in its eighteenth year, it is the longest running prayer breakfast in the state. Dean has been a leader on the committee since its inception. Dean’s ongoing commitment to families and youth has been proven numerous times by the list of organization he has either founded or been instrumental in starting. These organizations all focus on helping families survive or giving someone a second chance. The Dean’s List includes: Peacemaker Center, Brooklyn Center Mediation Project, Juvenile Diversion Program, Family Conflict Resolution and the Brooklyn Center Charitable Foundation.
1996 BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME
Tom’s spirit of volunteerism has touched thousands of community members. The uniqueness of it is that the effects have been appreciated by youth and adults alike. Thirteen years ago Tom became a member of the Brooklyn Center Lion’s Club. During this time Tom served as Lion Director, Treasurer, Vice-President and President. In 1993 Tom received one of the highest awards given to a Lion member, the “Melvin Jones Fellowship Award”. This year Tom was elected to become Vice-Governor of District 5M5, overseeing 43 Lion’s Clubs in Minnesota. Tom’s twenty plus years with the B.C. Little League, along with numerous volunteers, has transformed the program into one of the finest little leagues in the state. Through Tom’s effort with the city, a former ball park is now Centerbrook Golf Course. In turn two fields, a concession stand, playground and a parking lot were built for the league. In 1991 Tom was honored for his commitment to youth. One of the fields was renamed “Shinnick Field”. Tom has served on the Brooklyn Center Park and Recreation Commission for seven years. He currently serves on the District 286 School Board.
THE HALL OF FAME Inductee FOR 1998
As a youth, Henry Dorff worked on Brooklyn Center garden farms. He swerved his country and community in World War II, 17th Airborne Division. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1949 and, as a CPA, became Administrative Manager for Packaging Corporation of America. He retired in 1985. From 1961-64 Henry was our Village Clerk. He served 11 years on the Charter Commission during Brooklyn Center’s transition from village to city, and he served 10 years on the Conservation Commission. Henry provided leadership for 16 years on School District #286 Community Education Advisory Council, playing a major role in Kaleidoscope. He chaired a unique City/School committee to install lights on the high school tennis courts. Affiliations -- Charter member of: Brooklyn Center Chamber of Commerce, Citizens for Better Government, Brooklyn Center Rotary, and Tennis Club. Member Knights of Columbus Council #435; American Legion Post #0251; Cub Scout Troup #147; North Suburban Kiwanis; Earle Brown Days Festival Committee -- (since 1986 -- Chairman since 1995); and many other groups, serving with a positive effect on our town. A member of St. Alphonsus Church. Henry and his wife, Emily, have four children.
BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE FOR 2003
Edwin Matthew Theisen (1930-1999)
Described as a man of “quiet demeanor, but forceful presence,” Ed had people skills such as mentoring young people on how to lead and organize. He had a unique ability of bringing people together on controversial issues and getting the job done. Organizations he was involved with were the Brooklyn Center Jaycees, CEAP, St. Alphonsus Church, and politics, such as delegate to conventions, party chairman and campaigns. As chairman of the Brooklyn Center Capital Improvements Review Board, he led actions to build the new City Hall, Community Center, Fire Station and City Garages. This was big progress for the growing community. His career at NSP grew from an entry-level position to retirement in 1994 as President and Chief Operating Officer.
BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE FOR 2003
Anthony “Tony” Kuefler
Tony was born in Wadena, Minnesota on October 31, 1933. For the past thirty-plus years, Tony has served Brooklyn Center in community and national organizations, such as Earle Brown Days events, B.C. Year 2000 Party, A Day at the Farm and on the board of the Brooklyn Historical Society (where he contributed his writing skills to the Society’s book publication The Brooklyns). Tony was on the Charter Commission for eleven years, member of the Taxpayers’ Association and a three-term City Council member. He was active in St. Alphonsus Church and served as President of the Parish Council there. CEAP benefited from his guiding hands in the 60s and 70s. His ability to find and encourage others to become leaders has helped lay a solid foundation for Brooklyn Center.
BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME 2008
Earl Simons is honored for his 50 years of volunteer service in Brooklyn Center for his care and concern for residents, business, the children and those in need. He was involved in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in the development of housing, commerce and industry in Brooklyn Center, and he continues today with city leaders to help renew the community. Earl served on the Village Council in the 1960’s and co-founded the BC Chamber of Commerce. From 1961-1990 he was active with Citizens for Better Government, CEAP, Taxpayer’s Assn., sponsored and wrote for “The Brooklyns”
His numerous awards include the BC Junior Chamber’s Distinguished Service Award, the Lion’s Melvin Jones Fellow
Award, Lion of the Year, the Hearing Research Fellow Award – all working for the good of the community.
“Earl Simmons, during five decades of giving of himself to his community, sets a magnificent and almost untouchable
record of ongoing dedication in so many venues that very few people can ever hope to achieve.”
BROOKLYN CENTER HALL OF FAME 2008
Leone Howe’s thousands of hours of volunteer work as board member, historian and author have served as a crucial
Piece in preserving the history of Brooklyn Center and the greater community. She served for six years on the Earle
Brown Committee during the time when decisions were made about, if and how, to develop the Earle Brown Farm.
Brooklyn United Methodist Church has been blessed to have her as a life-long active member. Her role as a leader benefited the League of Women Voters, the Twin Lakes PTA and the Brooklyn Park Historical Eidem Farm.
Leone, as one of our most knowledgeable historians, is author of “Album of Brooklyn Center”. ( 1854 – 1954) which
includes the history of Mound Cemetery and “Once Upon a Farm”. She co-authored “History of Earle Brown Farm”
And “A Church Grows in Brooklyn”. Her stories and information of the area’s past appear in “The Brooklyns”, by
The Brooklyn Historical Society. Through her books, we consider Leone our “history maker and preserver”
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