Nov. 7, 2022

Kenneth Russel “Russ” Bjorhus, 93, passed away Nov. 7 in Monticello. Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at Johnson-Hagglund Funeral Home, 125 Armstrong Ave. S. in Litchfield. Celebration of Life service will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at Zion Lutheran Church, 504 Gilman Ave. N. in Litchfield with visitation one hour before the service.

He was born on a farm outside of Driscoll, North Dakota on July 29, 1929, the eighth of 10 children. Russ grew up in a close-knit farm family that moved to Ulen, Minnesota when he was a teenager. Optimistic and outgoing, his natural self-confidence showed up early in life. Standing just 5-feet 8-inches, he enthusiastically played football, basketball and baseball through high school, and was a leader in 4H and FFA. After high school, he joined the US Air Force and served a short time in Iceland as an armament crew chief with a fighter squadron, where he earned enough money playing poker to buy a new Chevrolet. He turned down flight school to attend the University of Minnesota on the GI Bill, and after graduation, began a long career in agriculture that reflected his deep love of people and of farming, and his innate drive to make things a little better.

He worked as a University of Minnesota Extension agent for decades, first in Douglas and Grant counties, and then moving to Litchfield in 1964 to serve Meeker County. He and Marjorie raised their three daughters in Litchfield and were active in their church and the community for decades.

Russ loved to work, and he brought a lot of creativity, energy and innovative thinking to his role as county agent. He wrote weekly newspaper columns, organized education and training programs and helped farmers solve their problems. He supervised Meeker County’s large 4-H program. He also spearheaded the development of many area parks and helped lead the effort to build the Forest City Stockade.

In the middle of raising a family, Russ decided to earn his master’s degree in agricultural education. He took the family to Tucson twice for the winter quarter, and he and Marjorie would spend the winter months in Arizona after he retired.

Always interested in politics, in the late '70s he decided to run for Congress in Minnesota’s Sixth District. He won the Republican party’s endorsement in 1978 and campaigned hard but lost to DFLer Rick Nolan in a close race. The loss was a big disappointment, but the experience opened a new door. In 1981, he was named state director for Farmers Home Administration. Back in 1943, the forerunner of FmHA, then called the AAA, made a loan to his father that enabled him to buy the family farm. Russ was proud to head the agency that had helped his own family prosper.

He led the agency for 13 years, helping farmers manage through the farm crisis as small family farms were replaced by larger operations. He concluded his career working as economic development director for Meeker County, bringing several businesses to the county.

In retirement, he finally did become a pilot, bought a single-engine plane with a couple of friends, and had a lot of fun flying throughout central Minnesota. He and Marjorie also took trips around the world. He could fix up anything and loved working on improvements to the family’s lake home on Lake Sylvia. He cherished time with his daughters and their families and enjoyed golfing, hunting, fishing and keeping up with politics. An avid newspaper reader, Russ was always eager to discuss the events of the day.

Russ was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2015. It has been heartbreaking for his family to see him lose his many capabilities, but his joyful spirit and love for his family remained with him until the end.

He is survived by his wife Marjorie; daughters Kari Bjorhus (Kenneth Carlson), Lori Johnson (David Johnson) and Jennifer Bjorhus (Ranjit Kesha); six grandchildren; four great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents and all of his brothers and sisters.

Memorials are preferred to the National 4-H Council and The Alzheimer’s Association.