Hundreds of area community members gathered Friday, Aug. 23, to celebrate and remember the life of Oscar Anderson, who died Monday, Aug. 19, surrounded by his beloved crops on the 120-acre family farm he operated for nearly 60 years just north of Foreston.
The 83-year-old farmer, husband, father and combat veteran was a local icon in the agricultural and veteran communities.
John Otten of the Foreston Coperative Creamery remembers Anderson for his skill at farming and his tenacious personality.
“Oscar — I always considered him a stubborn man, but he was a proud man,” Otten said.
It was the pride he took in a hard day’s work and the back-breaking effort it required to maintain his corn, hay and other crops that made Anderson the go-to guy for local media come crop reporting time. The Mille Lacs County Times relied on Anderson’s expertise and experience numerous times over the decades, and as recently as May of this year.
“He talked about being pushy,” Otten said of the last article to which Anderson contributed. “He was honest about that,” he added with a chuckle.
Anderson had been a frequent visitor of the creamery during the past 50 years and Otten fondly remembered his modesty when it came time to hay.
“He’d always say, ‘Well, they’re better than I thought,’” Otten said. “We’d get a kick out of that because we knew it was coming. He always had good crops.”
After being a familiar face around the creamery for so long, Otten said it will take some time getting used to not seeing Anderson again come harvest.
“We’re all going to miss him,” he said.
Anderson served on many community boards, including the creamery, ACS, Milaca and Fairview Hospital, First Baptist Church and the Milaca High School Hall of Fame.
Along with his farm, Anderson kept busy with his extensive involvement with the Milaca America Legion Post 178.
As a Legion member for 55 years, commander from 2001-2002, chair of the board and sergeant of arms for military funeral honor guard ceremonies, Anderson served in more roles and in a greater capacity than most.
“He was very active in the Legion,” current Commander George Boyer said. “Oscar was an all-around good person.”
His involvement continued right up to the weekend before he died, when Anderson helped the Legion serve breakfast to the hundreds of participants in the Milaca Airport’s annual Fly-In by flipping flapjacks — the first time he had done so in his life.
“Someone told his wife (Peggy), and she said he doesn’t even do that at home,” Boyer said with a sad laugh.
Boyer and Anderson were also part of a group of local veterans who organized the annual Veteran’s Day program at Milaca Public Schools.
“He was always in charge of that and he’d get several of the guys together to share our experiences with the students,” Boyer said.
Children in sixth-grade social studies teacher Mitch Vedders’ classroom would hear Anderson recount stories of his time as a tank commander in the National Guard and his service in the Korean War. He and fellow Legion members would also show the students and local Boy Scouts troops how to properly fold the American flag.
“The kids really enjoyed that,” Boyer said.
In 2011, when funding for honor guards at military funerals were threatened at the state and national levels, Anderson made sure local veterans received the proper burial they had earned. After ensuring his fellow veterans received such honors, Anderson had the favor returned with a full military funeral.
“He was a very patriotic person,” Boyer said. “We have a couple of guys who will step up, but no one can replace him. Oscar was Oscar. We’ve really lost a wonderful comrade.”