Willard Arthur Brunelle, 89, of Crookston, MN, passed away Friday morning,
March 13, 2020, at the Villa St. Vincent, comforted by his loving family who were
at his side.

Willard was born on his parent’s farm near Crookston on December 19, 1930, the
son of Joseph and Melvina (Brule) Brunelle. He was baptized and confirmed in the
Catholic faith and began his education at the Louisville Township country school
also attended by his father before him, and his son, Mike, after him. Willard
would later graduate from the Northwest School of Agriculture in Crookston with
the Class of 1949. He then began farming with his father, making it a 3rd
generation farm. Willard was united in marriage to the love of his life, JoAnn St.
Marie, on April 14, 1952 at Red Lake Falls, MN. He enlisted in the US Air Force on
November 18, 1952 and received his basic training at Parks AFB in Alameda
County, CA before being transferred to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, TX. JoAnn
was able to join him there and later at George AFB in Victorville, CA. In November
of 1953 Willard was sent to Korea in support of the 13th Fighter Squadron during
the Korean War. He returned 18 months later to the Sioux City Air Base in Iowa
with JoAnn once again able to join him. For his service to his country a grateful
nation awarded him the National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal,
United Nations Service Medal, and Good Conduct Medal. Willard was honorably
discharged from the Air Force on March 17, 1957, and he and JoAnn returned to
the farm with their newborn son, Mike. Willard resumed farming until his

Willard was very active in leadership positions with the Cathedral of the
Immaculate Conception in Crookston, and previously at St. Dorothy’s Catholic
Church in Dorothy. He had served on the boards of several organizations
throughout the years including St. John’s Hospital in Red Lake Falls, Crookston
Cenex, Polk County Corrections Center, Red River Basin Planning, Huot Dam Fact
Finding and Bridge Committees; helping veterans and their families of the Iraq
War through the Family Readiness Group and Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
Organization; and the list goes on. He and JoAnn were honored with the Farmer
and Homemaker Award from the Red River Valley Development Association.
Willard received the “Top Aggie” NWSA Alumni Award presented by the
University of Minnesota-Crookston and was a past recipient of the Veteran’s
Recognition Award as part of Crookston’s Ox Cart Days celebration. Several years
ago when the agricultural community suffered great losses due to the economy of
that time, Willard became instrumental in providing his fellow lovers of the land
with assistance, guidance, and emotional support in dealing with the hardships
and difficult decisions they had to make. He founded, chaired, and otherwise
provided boundless energy to a myriad of associations and programs created to
advocate for solutions to the serious problems faced by the farmers of northwest
Minnesota and throughout the entire country. He was featured in the book
“Breaking Hard Ground”, a Time Magazine article, and was on ABC’s Night Line
with Ted Koppel regarding his work with fellow farm families. He continued with
this mission almost to his last breath as his strength and health were leaving him.
The lighter side of Willard was characterized by his enjoyment of the unofficial
title of ‘The Mayor of Huot’; going out on his land trapping gophers; mowing the
lawn; and assisting JoAnn with their famous Christmas light show. He was
‘Chairman and Chief Inspector’ of all buildings and landscaping on the farm, and
covered many, many miles on his golf cart making sure everything was in its place.
Willard was devoted to JoAnn, and their family, including several foster children
they parented. He was extremely proud of all their many accomplishments and
loved being at the center of what could best be described as controlled

Willard is very lovingly survived by JoAnn, his beloved wife and soul-mate of
nearly 68 years; their 6 children: Michael and Kelly Brunelle of Rogers, MN, Mary
and Will Simmons of Princeton, MN, Pam and Bill Sullivan of Crookston, MN,
Diana Hermreck of Grand Forks, ND, Danny Brunelle of Crookston, and foster
daughter, Carol and Rick Altepeter of Brainerd, MN; 23 grandchildren; 34 greatgrandchildren; sister, Leona Gary of Bemidji, MN; JoAnn’s siblings; and many
nieces, nephews, other relatives, and a host of friends. He was preceded in death
by his parents, Joseph and Melvina Brunelle; sister and brother-in-law, Elaine and
Lyle Desrosier; brother-in-law, Roland Gary; and parents-in-law, Joseph and Dulice
St. Marie, and Clarence Davis. Blessed be the memory of Willard Arthur Brunelle.

The Mass of Christian Burial celebrating the life of Willard Brunelle will be held at
11:00am, Friday, October 16, 2020, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate
Conception in Crookston with The Very Rev. Vincent Miller, presiding. Everyone
will be required to wear a mask and social distancing will be observed. Visitation
with the family will begin at 10:00am followed by the sharing of memories at
10:45 am, just before the Mass begins. The Mass will be live-streamed by going to
www.crookstoncathedral.com and clicking on the prompt anytime after 10:40 am.
Military Honors will be provided by the Grand Forks AFB Honor Guard and the
Crookston Veterans Council. Memorials are preferred in lieu of flowers.

Online registry: www.stenshoelhouske.com


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