Romeo Oestreich, age 91, of Howard Lake, died Friday, Jan. 29, 2010, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the previous week. After spending a week at Abbott Hospital, he returned home on his birthday and fulfilled his wish of dying at home the next day.
He was born Jan. 28, 1919, to Frank and Emma Oestreich at their farm on Howard Lake. The family had recently moved to Howard Lake because St. James Lutheran Church had just opened a parochial school, which they wanted their children to attend.
He met his sweetheart, Luella Warnke, at the Young People Society at St. James, and they were married July 28, 1940.
For the next two years, Romeo worked for his father, and then rented his father’s farm and a neighboring farm for four years.
In 1946, they purchased a farm southwest of Howard Lake, which is where Romeo resided until his death.
In March, 1953, their family was complete when they received a call from the Lutheran Children Friend Society telling them they could come to pick up their baby daughter. They had planned on calling her Wendy Robin, but on the way to pick her up, Romeo suggested that they call her Robin Wendy, since this was the first day of spring.
In the early 1950s, Romeo started a business called Minnesota Dairy Sales. He built a second house on his farm for a herdsman who could care for the cattle while he took his cattle truck to northern Minnesota when he learned about a good herd for sale. Having someone there to help with the chores also allowed him to take his family on many camping trips around the country.
When the market for dairy cows declined in the ‘60s, Romeo worked other jobs in addition to running the farm. He drove a truck for a construction company, worked six years as a machinist in Minneapolis, drilled wells for Mattson Well Co., and worked for two seed companies in Dassel. During this time, he also raised purebred Charolais (white beef cattle), and enjoyed showing them at different fairs.
When he was in his mid 60s, Romeo started working at the Wright County Fairgrounds, and he continued working there until he was 85 a job he truly loved because of all the wonderful people he got to work with. He especially liked it because the job would start in May and end in August, and that gave him and Luella plenty of time to travel, something they were both passionate about.
Of all their trips, the one they took to Hong Kong with Romeo’s niece, Priscilla Anderson and her husband, David, was his favorite. He kept the scrapbook that Luella had made of the trip in his bedroom and looked through it often.
Romeo lost his dear Luella to breast cancer in 1996, and in 2006, his beloved son Bruce died of a heart attack at age 63, which was very difficult for him to accept.
Others that preceded him in death include his sister, Dora Gabbert and husband Louis; sister Renata Lind and husband Carnegie; brother Arthur and wife Yvonne; brother Marvin and wife Marie; sister Eleanor Steiner and husband Gust; sister-in-law Bernice Titrud and her husband Howard; and four siblings who died in infancy.
Romeo is survived by his daughter, Robin Oestreich of St. Louis Park and her friend, Craig Wood of Minneapolis. When Romeo’s dementia got to the point last year that he needed someone living with him, Craig moved in with him. Their previously casual relationship soon turned into a strong friendship that Craig will always treasure.
Romeo is further survived by his granddaughters, Kaley and Kandra Oestreich of Cokato; brother Omer and wife Hilma of Longville; and brother-in-law Orville Warnke and wife Pearl of Howard Lake. While Romeo’s immediate family was small, he was blessed with a multitude of nieces and nephews who, with their children and grandchildren, showed much love for him.
The funeral service took place Thursday, Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. at St. James Lutheran Church in Howard Lake with Pastor Schoenfeld officiating. Interment was in the Howard Lake Cemetery.
Visitation was Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Swanson-Peterson Funeral Home in Howard Lake, with a prayer service conducted by Pastor Nerva at 7:30 p.m. Visitation continued Thursday, one hour prior to the funeral service.
Serving as pallbearers were David Anderson, Dennis Beise, Craig Brose, Loren Helmbrecht, Tom Lind, Lyle Oestreich, Craig Wood, and Dominic Zinchini.
The Swanson-Peterson Funeral Home in Howard Lake handled the arrangements.