Larry Granger

Larry Granger speaks to students outside the Pond House at Pond-Dakota Mission Park. (Photo courtesy of Vonda Kelly)

Larry Granger’s death on June 18 leaves a void in the hearts of the many that crossed paths with him during his years here in Bloomington.

He leaves a powerful legacy with us, a reminder to carry on the work he so strongly believed was important to our historic heritage.

The preservation and dissemination of history, the preservation of the Minnesota River Valley that we all cherish so much, the contributions to the local and state governments, where he could make his voice heard: His voice counseled wisdom in the forming of decisions that were so critical to the role of government.

Larry’s professional experience includes employment with the city of Bloomington in the 1960s, during which he assisted with the formation of the Bloomington Police Department. From 1961 to 1964, Larry’s office was in the loft of the Bloomington Town Hall, until a new city hall was built in 1964. At that time, the city agreed that the Bloomington Historical Society could use the facility for preservation of the city’s history.

Larry was one of the founders and incorporators of the Bloomington Historical Society in 1964 and served as the society’s first president, as a consultant in subsequent years and then again as president from 2014 to his retirement on December 31, 2019. Larry’s commitment to the organization was driven by his passion for preserving Bloomington history.

Larry served on a city committee that considered restoration of Old Town Hall. The decision was made for restoration, as well as the continued occupancy by the Bloomington Historical Society. The restoration work began in 2007 and was finalized in time for the Bloomington sesquicentennial celebration in May 2008.

Larry participated in the Gideon and Agnes Pond house and farm reuse and archeological studies, resulting in the decision to apply for restoration funding in 1994-95. Larry was also a founder of the Gideon Pond Heritage Society, dedicated to the preservation of the Gideon Pond Mission. The society later merged with the Dakota Society, and became known as the Pond Dakota Heritage Society.

Larry’s concern over the condition of the historic Old Cedar Avenue camelback five-span bridge led to discussions between the city of Bloomington, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Federal Highway Department, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and a committee of bridge and trail advocates, eventually leading to the decision to rehabilitate the bridge.

Larry provided input at committee level on the building of trails along the Minnesota River, to connect with other trails throughout the state. He participated in a working group sponsored by the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge, DNR and the city of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, and requested the input of the University of Minnesota landscape architectural graduate students to envision the possibilities for the usage of the Old Cedar Avenue bridge and Minnesota River Valley trail systems.

Larry participated in a number of other city committees, such as the Bloomington Amenities Group, city visioning sessions, Bloomington Remembers Veterans Committee, Heritage Day founding committee, the historical society’s Heritage Tribute Committee, Bloomington History Clock Tower Committee, 19th Century Research Group and others.

Due to his skills as a writer, he became known as the “Midnight Poet,” writing hundreds of poems, published in a number of publications. His wisdom and understanding of human nature are evident in his poetry. Larry’s editorials in the Bloomington Sun Current presented historic facts and words of wisdom. Larry’s story of “The Tree in the Middle of the Road” was featured on public television, with Larry talking about the beloved neighborhood tree in the middle of Johnson Avenue. The tree succumbed to Dutch elm disease and had to be removed. The well-known landmark was no more, but the story of the tree survives.

Larry’s strong faith in God, and love for his family, his country and his community were above all else. He had a beautiful mind. He was dedicated to serving wherever he could, often saying, “I’m here to help.” He made a difference.

As we say farewell, we give tribute to Larry: “Thanks … job well done … good and faithful servant.”

It is said, “One never leaves the place he loves, a part of it goes with you and a part of you remains behind.”

Vonda Kelly is a former president and executive director of the Bloomington Historical Society.

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