Obituary of Arland H Papenfuss
Arland H. Papenfuss
August 23, 1943 – December 1, 2023
If there is one word to describe Arland it would be storyteller (if I’m being perfectly honest, bullshitter would be a more accurate word choice, but we’ll keep it PG). A stop to see Arland always included coffee or a drink and a story (or ten).
Arland, and his twin sister Arlene, were the babies of the Papenfuss family. Born in Corliss Township, Minnesota, they were welcomed onto the family farm by parents Emma and Herman and siblings Edward, Marie, Robert, and Erhardt. Farm life though, was not Arland’s path. At 17 he decided to enlist in the US Navy. His mother was confident that, due to rheumatic fever he had as a kid (during which time he learned how to cross stitch), he would fail the physical and be back in time for dinner. Arland called home on his way to basic training in California.
The USS Paricutin, docked in San Francisco, was Arland’s ship for the majority of his enlistment. He worked in the Radar division but his stories were never about his work, instead they were always about what he saw and where he went. While aboard, he saw Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and many other ports in the Pacific. He bought an 8mm camera and took reel after reel of film documenting his life and his experiences on board. He talked about going many times with his buddies to tattoo parlors but never got the courage to get one of his own. He told stories about spending time in San Francisco but never going over the Golden Gate Bridge, always under. He’d talk about being bored and making a game out of figuring out the backwards pronunciation of your last name. The last one is not the most exciting story, but I know how to pronounce Papenfuss backwards, all thanks to a few bored enlisted men.
After the Navy, Arland moved back home to central Minnesota and started working in road construction, eventually moving to Minneapolis. Though the companies he worked for were based in Minnesota, he traveled all throughout the country. He’d tell you about driving an oversided load through downtown Chicago on the way to Maine, and an Illinois State Trooper’s choice words for him. Working in Hibbing in the middle of a Minnesota winter outdoors in below zero temps, coming home just on the weekends only to wake up at 2:00 am Monday to drive back up and start all over again. And, my favorite, driving on I94 in Wisconsin heading home for the weekend when a honking car pulled up next to him and looking down he saw a bunch of girls waving at him. You could see him laugh when he realized it was my car and me and my friends. Want to know what equipment he worked on? All you had to do was look at the row of die cast models stretched across a long shelf in the living room and he could tell you a story.
In 1975, Arland married Judie Holman and, in 1979, they welcomed me to the family. Dad would often tell the story of the day I was born. He said I cried so loud the neighbors could hear me all the way from the hospital. When he came home that night those same neighbors cooked him a celebratory meal of boxed mac and cheese with hot dogs. Whether I liked it or not, there were many, many, many stories about me growing up that dad liked to tell. Even though he loved to tell stories about me, one of his regrets in life was that he wasn’t around much when I was growing up. He worked long hours, early mornings and late days, but it was to provide for his family to give us a more comfortable life than he had growing up.
Life changed for Arland and Judie after retirement. Judie was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy and, over the course of a number of years, her mobility declined. Eventually Arland had to become her caretaker and manage the household, a big change for them both. In 2018 they made the decision to sell the house so Judie could get more support through assisted living. Having been married for over 40 years, both of them with big personalities and strong opinions, there were a few bumps along the way, but they, eventually, figured out a new rhythm. In March 2022 after a short battle with cancer, Judie passed away. Later that same year Arland was also diagnosed with cancer. His hope was to beat the cancer, but his real wish was to be able to stick around and tell stories as long as he could, and he did. On December 1, 2023 he passed away peacefully with loved ones by his side.
Find a friend, grab coffee or a drink, and tell a story from your life. When you do, I hope you will think of Arland.
Arland is preceded in death by his wife Judie (2022), sisters Arlene and Marie, and brothers Robert and Edward. He is survived by daughter Janine (Jeff), cat Whiskey, and brother Erhardt (Carol). A private service will be held in December at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in St. Paul, MN.
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