John Maakestad, age 83, of rural Nerstrand, Professor Emeritus in Art at St. Olaf College where he taught for 37 years, died Tuesday, April 10, 2012, in Little Rock, Ark., following a brief illness.
John Norris Maakestad was born Dec. 12, 1928, in Whitehall, Wis., the son of the Rev. Norvald and Agnes (Linnevold) Maakestad. He grew up in Rochester, Minn., and graduated from Rochester High School in 1946. He then attended St. Olaf College, graduating in 1950 and was then drafted into the Signal Corp of the 31st Dixie Division during the Korean Conflict. He was discharged in 1953. John and Barbara Shefveland were married in 1951.
After the Army he spent three years at the University of Iowa in Iowa City where he received his Master's of Fine Arts degree and went on to teach in the Art Department of St. Olaf College from 1956 until the time of his retirement in 1994. During those years he taught the full range of studio art classes and helped to develop a major in Art History. He was longtime chairman of the Art Department and was involved with hiring cornerstones of the current department. He was also deeply involved with college matters and served on many committees and posts.
John lived his entire professional life southeast of Northfield in the Valley Grove neighborhood and was very involved in helping to save the Valley Grove Church and establish the Valley Grove Preservation Society, seeing the two churches entered into the National Historic Registry. The Valley Grove region was the source of inspiration for his early landscapes and he found joy in planting trees on his 83 acres, hoping that one day the mile between his land and the Big Woods State Park would return to the forest that once ran all the way to Mankato. He was the first landowner to become part of the Forest Legacy Program in Minnesota.
Serving on the summer faculty of Holden Village in Washington State fostered a love of mountain hiking. This became an annual event soon overshadowing his residence at Holden Village and leading to hiking the Ptarmigan Traverse and climbing Glacier Peak and Mt. Rainier. Such adventures prompted him to make intricate drawings from his mountain hikes. To keep in shape for summer hikes he began cross-country skiing which inspired him to ski in 13 Birkebeiner cross-country ski races in Telemark, Wis., often with his sons, Tom and Jon.
Long distance biking was another pursuit he enjoyed, completing several bike rides across Nebraska, biking on Jim Klobachar treks and a ride from Washington State to Minnesota. Later in life he and his wife, Bobbie, traveled to or camped in every state of the United States including Alaska - all in their little Scamp. John continued to produce art his whole life and in 2010-11 had shows at the Northfield Arts Guild, Owatonna Art Center, the Northfield Senior Center and St. John’s Lutheran Church.
John is survived by his wife, Bobbie (Shefveland) Maakestad; sons, Erik of Conway, Ark., Jon (Bev Turbin) and grandchildren Ben and Maria of Excelsior, Minn., Tom (Anna) and granddaughter Drew Elizabeth of Marine on St. Croix, Minn., and Rolf (Nancy) and grandchildren Kai and Collin of Minneapolis; sister, Solveig (Richard) Beckmen of Northfield; cousins, nieces, nephews and a throng of former students who made his life as a teacher a continuous joy.
His parents and sister, Joanne Holz, preceded him in death.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21, 2012, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield, with a visitation one hour prior to services Saturday at the church. A reception will follow the services.
Memorials are suggested to the Valley Grove Preservation Society, Northfield Arts Guild, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Olaf College, or to the donor’s choice.