Dad, you finally made the paper!!! You’ve checked the paper daily for your obituary, and here it is!!! We love you, Pops! ~Annie & Sara
CALEDONIA, Minn. — After being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in early October, Dean Richard Kalash, 86, of rural Caledonia spent his final weeks playing poker and cribbage, riding his ATV in his woods, visiting friends, looking for deer on his front porch, and even sneaking in a quick trip to Vegas. On Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, when the hospice nurse said he’d likely pass away within 24-48 hours, his competitive spirit must have said, “Time Me!” He passed away three hours later at his home surrounded by his daughters while listening to the Navy Hymn and some of his favorite swing dance music.
Dean was born Sept. 15, 1933, in Lakefield, Minn.,, to George and Lois Kalash. His stories of his childhood (smoking corn silk wrapped in newspaper, floating on empty gas tanks in the dump after a hard rain, swimming next to the sewage plant, and all the others that ended in: “I still have the scar”) always kept us laughing. After graduating from Lakefield High School third in his class (third from the bottom, he’d laugh), he joined the U.S. Navy and was a Signalman and Quartermaster on the USS Exploit Minesweeper during the Korean War. He graduated from Mankato State University in 1960 with a BS Degree in industrial arts and in 1965 with his Master’s Degree. Dean taught Industrial Arts at Mabel-Canton High School for 32 years. Many of his students still have the shelves they made in his class, and he was proud that he and all of his students never lost any of their fingers.
Dean married Lillian Larson of Jackson, Minn. Dec. 20, 1958, in Mankato, Minn. They established their first home in Mabel, Minn., where they raised their two daughters. During his daughters’ high school years, he especially enjoyed running the Kalash Family Lunch Wagon at local fairs and celebrations—mostly to keep his daughters off the street (mostly Ann). Dean was a great swing dancer, and his daughters always had epic battles to dance with him. He was part of the Mabel Methodist Church where his “fake stumble” while carrying a hotdish for the potluck was met with gasps from the church basement ladies. He was a Driver’s Education Instructor, a Firearm’s Safety Instructor, and an EMT on the Mabel Ambulance Crew. He got his Private Pilot’s License at age 56 and was a member of the Red Baron Flyers in Caledonia. He was also an active member of the Mabel Lion’s Club, American Legion, National Wild Turkey Federation, and Ducks Unlimited. He was a 50 year member of the “Big Winnie Fishing, Card, and Social Club”—a motley crew that enjoy an annual fishing trip to Lake Winnibigoshish.
In 1995, Dean and Lil moved to their farm outside of Eitzen where Dean’s personal workout program included picking rocks, setting gopher traps, and clearing fence lines. Dean loved having his own land for deer hunting, spending time at his boathouse in Brownsville, and fishing and duck hunting on the Mississippi River. He was known for his jokes, his poker playing skills, his constant teaching (What did you learn from that?), and reminding his kids and grandkids to keep paying into Social Security.
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Survivors include his daughters (and the two men brave enough to date and marry them), Ann (Scott) Sanness of rural Spring Grove, and Sara (Tim) Theisen of Rochester, Minn.; his grandchildren, Gregory Sanness and Benjamin Sanness of rural Eitzen, Minn, Joshua (Bailey) Theisen of Chanhassen, Minn., Hannah (Jeremiah) Saunders of Rochester Maria Theisen of Indianapolis, Ind., and Elizabeth Theisen of Rochester; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Lil; and three brothers, Darrell, Dwight, and Duane.
Dean requested that his body be donated to Mayo Clinic for the advancement of science—he always thought he’d make an interesting specimen. A private family burial will take place at a later date at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Preston, Minn. The family would like to thank the Mayo Clinic La Crosse Hospice Program for their wonderful care.
There will be an Open House to celebrate the lives of both Dean and Lil Kalash at the Mabel Community Center from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23.