Joel Richard Anderson, of Marshall, MN, formerly a resident of Lake Crystal, MN, passed away with his wife and daughter by his side on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, at the Prairie Home Hospice-McLaughlin House in Marshall, MN. He had reached the age of 74 years, 7 months, and 1 day.
Joel was born on June 1,1949 in Springfield, MN, to Elmer and Leona (Dagner) Anderson. He grew up in Lamberton, MN where he spent much of his youth outdoors; he often told stories of fishing in the local rivers, searching for snapping turtles and hunting with his dad. Joel was an honor student, excelled at track and graduated with the class of 1967.
Joel began college at Mankato State University with the intention of becoming an engineer, however, he realized that the outdoors suited him better and later transferred to the University of Minnesota where he graduated with a degree in Wildlife Biology. Before starting a career he headed West and became a self-proclaimed “ski bum” for a period of time, often sleeping in the back of his pickup and enjoying his time skiing in the mountains.
Joel met Shirley Flieder of Canby, MN, while she was working as a nursing home social worker in Lamberton; the couple married June 14, 1980. They made their first home in Forest Lake, MN where Joel began his career with the Department of Natural Resources as a wildlife technician at the Carlos Avery Game Farm; there he helped to raise and distribute pheasant chicks throughout southern Minnesota. In 1982, Joel and Shirley moved to Milan, MN where they welcomed their daughter, Alyssa. Joel worked as Assistant Manager of the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area during the days when it was a mecca for thousands of geese. In 1991, the family moved to Lake Crystal, MN after Joel accepted a position as Area Wildlife Manager for the south central region of MN. There he and his staff maintained numerous wildlife areas in seven counties. It was always especially satisfying for him to be able to assist with the acquisition of new wetland and wildlife areas for the state.
Throughout his life, Joel enjoyed a number of pastimes including fishing, hunting with a good dog, birdwatching, woodworking, wildlife wood carving, reading and photography; he even handcrafted a race-winning cedar strip canoe. He was a self-taught handyperson, a creative and confident problem solver who often said, “If it can be done, I can do it!” In 1989, Joel and Shirley bought lake property and built a cabin north of Grand Marias, MN, where Joel completed most of the work on the cabin and property. Up North was his refuge, and the family spent as much time there as possible. At the cabin, Joel worked to perfect his skills as a lumberjack and voyageur. He canoed and portaged area lakes, walked the woods with his beloved dogs in pursuit of grouse and enjoyed many evening sunsets trolling the lake for walleye.
Following retirement from the DNR in 2009, Joel spent time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and working seasonally with a controlled prairie burn crew. He was a longtime member of the Lake Crystal Lions Club, Pheasants Forever, and Ducks Unlimited. Joel continued to enjoy the slopes, spending most winter mornings at Mount Kato with fellow retirees. He and Alyssa made annual mountain ski trips, often taking the train to their favorite destination, Whitefish, Montana. A special highlight for them was skiing the Olympic slopes at Lillehammer, Norway.
Joel was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 64 and for the next 10 years he faced his disease with fortitude and grace. He found that music brought him comfort. More than anyone else he lovingly offered the gift of song to his young grandchildren. Joel and Shirley joined the Singing Hills Chorus of Mankato, designed for those living with dementia; members of the choir knew that Joel was always “ready to sing.” The Chorus community provided him with joy, support and purpose.
In 2021, the couple moved to Marshall, MN to be closer to their daughter and her family. It was there that Joel entered memory care followed by hospice care. Throughout his lifetime, Joel was known for his easy-going and fun-loving personality. Even after he was well into the late stages of the disease, his cheerful and witty demeanor frequently came through, bringing a smile to his family and caregivers, even into his final days.
Joel is survived by his wife, Shirley of Marshall, MN; daughter, Alyssa (Nathan Roberts) Anderson of Marshall, MN; 2 grandchildren, Owen and Elizabeth Roberts of Marshall; siblings, Marlene (Dan) Boyce of East Grand Forks, MN; Ron (Linda) Anderson of Seattle, WA. Joel was preceded in death by his parents, Elmer and Leona Anderson.
Thank you, Joel/Dad for enriching our lives beyond measure. You will always be dearly loved and forever missed.
A celebration of Joel’s life is being planned for the spring. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Prairie Home Hospice of Marshall, MN; the Singing Hills Chorus (attn: Twin Rivers Arts Council of Mankato, MN); or the Nature Conservancy of MN.