Donald G. Rusness, Jr.


Donald G. Rusness, Jr., 80, of Fargo, ND, passed away peacefully on Thursday, January 26, 2023, at Bethany Retirement Living on University. Don was born November 8, 1942, at St. Luke’s Hospital in Fargo, ND, emerging at a mere 3 lbs 12 ½ oz, to Donald “Babe” and Audre (Houglum) Rusness. He grew up in a well-established local family with strong community ties, including his dad who was Clerk of Court, and attended school in Moorhead, graduating from Moorhead High School in 1960 after being a part of the first Moorhead High Carolers group. He continued his education at the newly renamed North Dakota State University, where he participated in music, was an active member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and received his BS degree in Chemistry. Don then went on the receive his Master’s degree in Chemistry from Moorhead State University. He married Barbara Ronningen in 1967, and together they moved to Madison, WI, where they both worked on graduate and post-graduate degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They returned to Fargo/Moorhead and Don began his career as a Biochemist in 1969 with the Biosciences Research Laboratory (BRL), Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center (RRVARC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the USDA. In 1978, Don and Barb adopted their daughter, Ana.

Over the years Don co-authored 58 scientific publications in various fields of his research. He enjoyed his work and friends made at the lab until retiring in 2001.

He always enjoyed spending time at the family lake home on Little Pine Lake, which has been in the family since 1928, and was known to initiate gatherings with friends and neighbors while there. He loved trains, music (especially jazz), classic movies, and his beloved dogs.

Don is survived by his daughter Ana Rusness-Petersen (John); aunt Emily Houglum; and cousins Frank (Judi) Hollands, Doroles (Merle) Johnson, Debra (Joel) Haugen, Chuck Thorne, and Sandy Thorne.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, parents, ex-wife, and two black poodles, Claudette and Chloe Clarice.

Visitation will be held on Thursday, February 2, from 10:00 - 11:00 a.m., followed by the memorial service at 11:00 a.m., and light refreshments following at Wright Funeral Home in Moorhead.

Interment will be at Riverside Cemetery in Moorhead, MN.

Video tribute and online guestbook at

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