Three men honored for 16 years of volunteer service to the DAHS


A short recognition program will follow Memorial Day ceremony

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

The Dassel Area Historical Society will take time Memorial Day to recognize three volunteers for their commitment to the advisory board and Dassel’s history.

Despite living outside the area, Roland Dille of Moorhead, Norman Groth of Edina, and Gordon Bengtson of Golden Valley, all formerly of Dassel, each have been committed to serving on the historical society’s advisory board for 16 years.

“[The historical society] wanted to recognize them for all the work they’ve done,” said Carolyn Holje, board member on the Dassel Historical Society.

Since the beginning of the DAHS in 1992, the three have given direction and encouragement to the board, according to Holje.

“They are really terrific men,” she said.

Dille, Bengtson, and Groth regularly attended meetings and were instrumental in planning the capital campaign for a new annex, which will be built this year, according to Holje.

The DAHS wanted to take the time Memorial Day not only to recognize their dedication and service to the historical society, but also to their country, as they are all veterans.

Bengtson moved to Dassel in 1926, where his father had a meat market. He graduated from Dassel High School in 1940, and enrolled in a pre-dentistry course at North Park College in Chicago.

In 1943, Bengtson joined the Navy V-12 program at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, then graduating in 1946, and was then discharged when the war ended.

That same year, he opened a dental practice in Dassel, and during the Korean War in 1952, Bengtson joined the Air Force as a dental officer. When the war ended in 1954, he continued practicing dentistry until he retired in 1984.

Since his retirement, Bengtson has made 10 dental missionary trips to Peru, Guatemala, Haiti, Israel, and Ghana, Africa.

Dille was born and raised in Dassel, and grew up on a farm north of town. He graduated from Dassel High School in 1942.

He enrolled at the University of Minnesota, but just a few months later, Dille was serving in the Armed Forces in France, Germany, and Austria.

Coming back, he worked with his father on the farm and then went back to continue his education at the U of M.

Dille taught one year at Dassel High School before going back to the university to work on his doctorate.

After teaching a few classes at the U of M, Dille moved on to St. Olaf College and California Lutheran University, where he received his Ph.D.

Dille taught at Moorhead State University for three years before becoming a dean and then the president.

Dille has also served as president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and for six years on the National Endowment for the Humanities, for which he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter.

“I have to admit that I’d rather visit Dassel than Washington, DC,” he said.

Last November, Dille celebrated 70 years as an occasional writer for the Dassel Dispatch and the Enterprise-Dispatch. He has also written four musicals for the Dassel Area Historical Society, and he is currently working on a book about the history of the Dassel area with Phyllis Carlson.

Having grown up in Dassel and beginning a career elsewhere, Dassel for Dille, is “a place to have dreams and live them out,” he said.

Dille has a lot of connections to Dassel, both actual and emotional, he said.

“It was where I grew up and where I went off to war,” he added.

Dassel’s history was something Dille wanted to help preserve, and with friends on the committee like Bengtson and Groth, he had a great time.

“Anybody that gets past 60 becomes a historian,” he said. “With so much past and so little future, one tends to dwell on the past.”

Groth moved to Dassel in 1935, when his father purchased the Red and White grocery store in town. He graduated from Dassel High School in 1942, and has many fond memories of those seven years, he said.

Groth calls them “formative years.”

After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1945, Groth was commissioned as an ensign through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corp and served in the Pacific during World War II.

After the war, in 1946, Groth attended business school at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1948.

Groth continued in the Naval Reserve and was called to active duty during the Korean War. He retired from the Naval Reserve in 1966, after 23 years of service.

He worked for the Pillsbury Company for 20 years, Food Producers, Inc. for another 20 years, three years as founder and executive director for Fairview Hospital Foundation, two years as international vice president for Golden Valley Microwave Foods, and 15 years as owner and president of Groth International, a food consulting firm.

“I think there is a real history in these small towns,” Groth said.

“When you close a high school in a town, there is no focal point in town for activities that took place in town,” he said.

The Dassel Area Historical Society and the Universal Lab Building has become that neccessary focal point and social center for the town, he said.

“Bringing people together in a small town is important,” Groth said, explaining his purpose for helping start the society.

DAHS Memorial Day recognition program

The Dassel Area Historical Society will honor Gordon Bengtson, Norman Groth, and Roland Dille for 16 years of volunteer service Monday, May 26 at the Universal Laboratories Building at 10 a.m. following the program at the cemetery.

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