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Editorial: Community leaders gone, but their legacies will live on

The communities of Perham and New York Mills have recently lost three well known and well respected, long-time leaders, who leave behind many friends, family, and fond memories.

They also leave behind their own unique legacies, as each one of them was an outstanding member of the community, giving back in a myriad of meaningful ways.

They are Bob Kinlund, Jack Bishop and Harley Karvonen.

Those who most closely knew these men will remember them intimately as their fathers, brothers, husbands, neighbors.

The community, as a collective whole, will remember them less intimately, but with no less regard. They’ll be remembered for the good deeds they did while here, and for the lasting impact they’ve made on the people and places they’ve touched.

One of the many things Bob Kinlund will be remembered for is his development of Perham High School’s award-winning gymnastics team. He was instrumental in getting the varsity program started about 15 years ago, and quickly turned it into a record-breaking eight-time state champion team.

For a number of years prior to that, he led the Chipettes, a traveling aerobic performance group out of Perham.

Kinlund also started the Perham Police Reserves in the early 1970s, and for a long time was active with the Perham Chamber of Commerce.

In 2002, he won the Chamber’s Hall of Fame Award for his many community involvements.

“He had his nose in everything,” said Kinlund’s long-time friend, Dale Wright. “He was a fun-loving person. And he was very strict about always doing the best he could possibly do.”

Kinlund passed away May 22 at the age of 70, a husband, father to four, grandfather to 12, and role model to many.

Jack Bishop will be well remembered as a man of many diverse talents and interests – salesman, pilot, karate instructor, mechanic, logger, golfer, reader and car enthusiast, to name a few.

He’ll also be well remembered as the owner of the former Hilltop Homes (now Homark Homes), along Highway 10 in New York Mills, where he was known to smile and strike up a conversation with anyone who stopped by.

His decades of experience, performance and leadership in the home selling business resulted in his induction into the Minnesota Manufactured Housing Hall of Fame in 1997.

A long-time school board member and chairman, Bishop made a positive difference in the lives of students, teachers and many others in New York Mills.

Jan Parta, who served on the school board with Bishop for many years, said, “He was an excellent chairman. He could work well with everybody. He was a great leader, as far as being able to bring people together… a very diplomatic person. He loved kids, and was always very supportive of anything for kids.”

Jan’s husband, Mike, a long-time friend of Bishop’s, described him as, “a very gentle person” who “never said a bad word about anybody” and provided leadership in “that quiet, gentle way of his.”

Bishop passed away on June 10 at the age of 74.

Harley Karvonen will be missed and remembered in both Perham and New York Mills, where he was equally active in just about everything that there is to be active in.

A member of the New York Mills City Council in the late 1930s and early ‘40s, Karvonen was also a long-time leader at the Perham hospital and, later in life, at Perham Lakeside Golf Course.

Passionate about athletics, he refereed at high school football and basketball games for 20 years, and played baseball with the New York Millers for that same amount of time. He also helped organize the HI-10 Baseball League, and was a long-time board member with the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Association. In addition, he was instrumental in bringing the Kowabunga Skate Park to Perham.

A Navy Yeoman earlier in life (during which time he earned a Purple Heart and various medals), Karvonen later became Commander of both the American Legion and VFW in Perham, and was a life member of many military organizations, as well as a number of civic and community groups.

He and his wife, Velma, established trust accounts to ensure long-term funding for youth reading programs in Perham and New York Mills, as well as for maintenance to cemeteries in the Mills area.

Karvonen was also well known to this newspaper, as a frequent writer of thoughtful and spirited letters to the editor.

He passed away on June 10 at the age of 96.

It’s men like these that set a good example for us all. An example of how to lead, how to give back, and how to live life to the fullest.

Bob Kinlund, Jack Bishop and Harley Karvonon made lasting impressions in Perham and New York Mills. Future generations will continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor  – girls will continue to have the opportunity to compete in gymnastics, for example, and skateboarders will have a place to ride for years to come.

Because of the people they were and the things they achieved, each of these men will be sorely missed, but not forgotten. Their legacies will live on.