BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Dale “Timber Dan” Vander Linden, who passed away Monday, was known by many different people for many different things.
One common theme expressed by those who knew him was that he was an active, community-minded citizen.
“He’s going to be greatly missed,” City Administrator Phil Kern said. “He was a great citizen in the sense of he was involved, he was active, he kept educated, he volunteered, he participated,” Kern said. “He was great to have around because he certainly let his opinion be known, but he was always friendly and positive to work with, even when you disagreed.”
City officials got to know Vander Linden well over the years, as he commonly attended meetings, friend Tom Screeden said.
“He’d be the guy to go to council meetings and be the watch dog,” said Screeden, who served as a Delano Lion with Vander Linden since 1993. “ . . . Not many people do that.”
He also made sure the organizations he was active in followed their bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order.
“He was a big person who looked at Robert’s Rules of Order. We had to make sure we were following that,” said past Delano American Legion Post 377 Commander Jack Lynch. “He always made sure we were following our bylaws, which is a good thing. It holds everyone’s feet to the fire to make sure we’re running things the way we should be.”
He was known for gathering with other concerned citizens to talk about current events and what, if anything, should be done to address them.
“Every Tuesday he did a thing at the Legion called Troublemakers at 9 a.m.,” friend John Tackaberry said. “It was a matter of getting together for coffee and hashing over the things going on. We covered a multitude of things.”
As a volunteer, Vander Linden was active in organizations such as American Legion, Lions, 4th of July Committee, Toastmasters, and was the Boy Scout Troop 273 liaison.
“If you ever needed his help, he’d be there,” Lynch said. “All you had to do was give him a call. He was big with our steak fries. He was on the honor guard until he couldn’t anymore. He always marched with us in the parade until he couldn’t. Then, he was always driving something in the parade for the Lions. He wasn’t one to sit around . . . He had his hands in a lot of different things throughout the community.”
Vander Linden brought a unique history with him to Delano, having grown up in Iowa and having worked as an aerospace engineer on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He enjoyed sharing those stories with others.
“From the son of a sharecropper and an engineer on a NASA mission, came ideas and words that inspired, humored, and taught the people of the community,” said Ted May, who was in the Senior Center Writers’ Group with Vander Linden. “Dale was skilled in poetry and prose, and his letters to the editor brought civility to social issues and political debates. Dale was a prolific writer who could frame a childhood incident, a controversial issue, or a human-interest story into eloquent, readable essays. As a member of the Senior Center Writers’ Group, Dale helped us become better thinkers and writers.”
“It was always a treat to spend time with him one on one because he had all these stories about his NASA days and growing up in Iowa, and different quips and anecdotes he came up with,” Screeden added. “I found him to be a very entertaining individual.”
Delano Senior Center and Community Services Coordinator Nick Neaton remembers the first time he met Vander Linden.
“Within my first week of starting, he was in my office introducing himself, welcoming me to Delano, and asking, ‘What can I do for you?’”
Vander Linden was passionate about Toastmasters, encouraged Neaton to join, and served as his mentor.
Neaton said Vander Linden was also a supporter of the Delano Senior Center, as he specifically enjoyed presentations there and trips to restaurants that the center sponsors.
“We do lunch around the world at different ethnic restaurants. He loved that,” Neaton said. “He really loved Food Network. He liked food and trying new things. He would give me suggestions for places to go.”
Tackaberry also traveled around the metro to different restaurants with Vander Linden and called him a “food nut.”
Tackaberry was inspired by Vander Linden’s motor.
“He was truly the Energizer bunny at 85 years old,” Tackaberry said. “He never slowed down or gave up. He was an amazing guy.”
He was recognized as such locally, as Delano Citizen of the Year in 2013, and at the county level, as Wright County Senior Citizen of the Year in 2015.
He was married to Mary K. for 61 years, had four sons, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
See the full obituary in the obituaries section.