Kenneth Smemo Obituary

Kenneth  Smemo
Kenneth Smemo

November 23, 1930 - June 29, 2017
Resided in Moorhead, MN


Irwin Kenneth Smemo, 86, died on June 29, 2017.

Ken was born on November 23, 1930 in Brookings, South Dakota, to Alfred and Elisabeth Smemo. His parents, both newly arrived immigrants from Norway, soon moved the family to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In 1951, he married Suzanne Sherman, with whom he had three children—Eric, Elizabeth, and Margaret. In 1981, he married Nancy O’Brien, and had two children, Kristoffer and Molly. Together Ken and Nancy built a lakeside cabin, a place they loved.

Drafted into the army, Ken fought in the Korean War. After the war, he managed a men’s clothing store for several years before returning to college to complete a teaching degree at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. He then taught high school in Osseo, Wisconsin. He went on to the University of Minnesota to complete his Masters and Ph.D. in History. In 1961, he joined the faculty at the Minnesota State University, Moorhead and became one of the longest serving professors in the university’s history. There he served as principal of the Campus High School before joining the University’s history department. He helped establish MSU’s Scandinavian Studies Program and the Northwest Minnesota Historical Society. A winner of the Burlington Northern Award for Teaching Excellence, Ken thrived in the classroom, teaching upwards of seven thousand students over the course his career. He retired in 2007, but continued to teach well into his eighties.

Ken is survived by his wife, Nancy, brother, Alfred (Carolyn), of Dubuque, Iowa, and five children: Eric (Ling Zhao) of Bellingham, Washington; Elizabeth Krushinskie of Sydney, Australia; Margaret (Ray) Williams of Fergus Falls, Minnesota; Kristoffer (Heather Berg) of Los Angeles, California; Molly (Abby Kaufman) of Cleveland, Ohio; and five grandchildren, Caitlin, Colin, Josh, Sophie, and Jenny.

Memorials may be made to Minnesota State University, Moorhead’s general academic scholarship fund.

A memorial gathering will be held on Thursday, July 6, 2017 from 5:00 - 7:00 PM in Wright Funeral Home, Moorhead, MN.



Memorial Gathering
Wright Funeral Home
605 2nd Avenue South
Moorhead, MN 56560
Thursday, July 6, 2017
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM