Eugene Ralph 'Gene' Panzer, age 95, a longtime Crookston, MN resident, died peacefully Thursday afternoon, February 21, 2013, at the Fair Meadow Nursing Home in Fertile, MN.
Gene was born in Crookston on January 31, 1918, and was the son of Frank and Mabel (Johnson) Panzer. He attended Crookston Public Schools and graduated from Central High School in 1936. Gene excelled at sports while in high school, and as a star athlete he captained the football and basketball teams during his junior and senior years. He also won a Crookston City Tennis Championship, defeating his brother, Roger, in the finals to claim the trophy.
Gene’s favorite sport was always hockey. He played on a Crookston city team in those days because hockey was not offered as a high school sport. His natural talent for the game was discovered, and he was offered a place on a junior college hockey team in Sacramento, CA. His hockey playing days in Sacramento came to a halt when he was drafted into the US Army Air Force on October 3, 1941.
During WWII Gene served as a wire chief and power lineman with the 3rd Tactical Control Group in the Pacific Theater of Operations. He took part in allied actions in the East Indies, Papua, Bismarck Archipelago, and New Guinea. His patriotic service to his country earned him the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, 5 Overseas Service bars, a Presidential Unit Citation, and the Good Conduct Medal. After his honorable discharge on September 6, 1945, Technical Sergeant Eugene Panzer returned to Crookston.
On July 31, 1948 he was united in marriage to Betty Tiedemann in Crookston. They became the very proud parents of two daughters, Nancy and Patti. Gene worked on the construction of the American Crystal Sugar Company factory in Crookston in the early 1950’s. He was employed by Crystal once it opened and spent 30 years with the Company, retiring on October 1, 1982. He was active in the BCTGM Union of the AFL-CIO and for many years served as the union’s secretary-treasurer. He was a longtime member of Trinity Lutheran Church, VFW Post 1902, Nels T. Wold American Legion Post 20, and Eagles Aerie 873.
For a few years after retiring, Gene cooked breakfast every morning for his grandchildren, Kelly, Laura, and Alex, and drove them to school every morning and picked them up when school was over. He looked forward to seeing them every day.
Gene, Betty and family loved spending time at their cabin at Union Lake, near Erskine, MN. He looked forward to ‘working’ there, doing lots of fishing, and always finding time to swim with his kids and grandkids.
Betty passed away on May 20, 1995, and as Gene’s health began to fail he looked forward to being with her again. May God bless the memory of Gene Panzer.
Left to mourn Gene’s passing are his 2 daughters and sons-in-law, Nancy and Dave Paquin of Maple Lake near Mentor, MN, and Patti and Murray Tiedemann of Crookston, MN; 6 grandchildren, their spouses, and 12 great-grandchildren: Kim and Tim Larson and their children-Sydney, Payton, and Cami; Karin and Chad Braun and their children-Mason, Dylan, Katie , and Jakob and; Jodi and Dan Lene and their children-Preston and Jordyn; Kelly Tiedemann and her children- Mckinley and London; Laura and Keith Troutman and their son-Jackson; and Alex Tiedemann; and several other relatives. In addition to Betty, his beloved wife of 46 years, Gene was preceded in death by his parents, Frank and Mabel; and brother, Roger.
The funeral service for Eugene Ralph Panzer will be celebrated at 10:30 am, Tuesday, February 26, 2013, at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Crookston with The Rev. Greg Isaacson, officiating. Visitation will be at the Stenshoel-Houske Funeral Home on Monday from 5-7 pm (no prayer service) and at the church for one hour prior to the funeral. Military Honors will be provided by the Crookston Veterans Council. Interment will be in the Crookston’s Oakdale Cemetery in the spring.