Roderick B. McLarnan 1926-2021
Roderick B. McLarnan (Rod) died December 15, 2021 at age 95 at Sanford Hospital in Fargo from a rapid onset pneumonia infection. He resided at Lindentree Assisted Living in Moorhead. Family, faith, friends and his law practice were the touchstones of his life.
He often referred to himself as, “an old Moorhead guy.” He was born in the home of his maternal grandparents at the west end of what is now known as Woodlawn Park in Moorhead on November 8, 1926. His family moved almost every year in his grade school days but he attended Jr High and High School in Moorhead, graduating in 1944. He married another Moorhead native, Virginia Bristol, in 1951; they returned to Moorhead in 1958 after Rod earned his law degree. They had 5 children and even though they divorced in 1986, they continued to share in the lives of their children and grandchildren at holidays, family gatherings and the Fox Lake cabin in Becker County.
His legal career in Moorhead began with Saetre and McLarnan in 1958 and ended 54 years later with McLarnan, Hannaher, Vaa and Skatvold. He was a trial lawyer who embraced the challenge of the courtroom and searched for the common- sense core of a case to persuade a jury in favor of his client. He loved being a lawyer and spending time with lawyers.
Civic participation was important to Rod. Highlights include membership on the Moorhead Park Board when the land for Gooseberry Park was acquired, serving on the city charter commission, the Board of the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater in its beginning, the Moorhead Jaycees, Moorhead Rotary, reading with grade school students at Reinertsen Elementary and as a volunteer attorney for Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota. He was most proud of his many years as chair of the Advisory Board for the Salvation Army. He served on food trucks during floods, he helped organize Christmas season bell ringing campaigns, enthusiastically recruiting friends, co-workers, Rotarians and others to ring the bell at Hornbachers. Two days prior to his death he expressed a desire to ring the bell himself for an hour and share in a giving community. He spent the Christmas holidays volunteering in Mississippi following hurricane Katrina in 2004. Mayor Dennis Walaker proclaimed February 27, 2014 “Rod McLarnan Day” in Fargo in recognition of his service to others through the Salvation Army.
Action, travel, adventure, and service to others, sometimes simultaneously, were undertaken with zest. He paid his own expenses to travel to other countries-China, Greece, Italy and
Ghana- to help students learn conversational English. He joined a school bus convoy organized by Pastors For Peace delivering food and medical supplies from California to Nicaragua following an earthquake. He sailed across the Atlantic and in the Caribbean and biked in Nova Scotia. He rented a cabin for an action-packed week every summer near Park Rapids for a gathering of his children and grandchildren. Poetry readings, tennis, golf, swimming, running, or biking during the day, ribs or salmon for dinner, and conversation in the sauna or on the deck at night. He was a loving and supportive parent and grandparent.
Faith and friends were intertwined for Rod. He was an active member of a Bible Study group of men who met Monday mornings for many years in Fargo prior to the pandemic and deep friendships developed. He was a loyal and engaging friend, often the instigator of lunch gatherings, brandy- sipping sessions, golf and tennis. With two friends from boyhood days, Jack King and Oliver Dickey, he hiked in Nepal, Switzerland, Montana and California. The family is especially grateful to Jim Haarstad, Rod’s friend for more than 60 years whose time and attention to Rod as his health and mobility declined brightened his days. Rod studied the Bible, read works by the mystics. He wrote notes in the margins of his Bible and attached yellow notes to easily return to important passages. He enjoyed discussing his faith but more importantly he lived his faith through his service to others and his love for family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents Cliff and Ida McLarnan, his brothers Jack and Mike and his son-in-law Jeff Amerman. He is survived by his former wife Virginia, his long-time companion Joan Westlake, his children Timothy (Anne), Terrance (Karin), Thomas (Jennifer), Nancy Amerman (Jon Otto), Susan Berglund (Chris), 14 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. He lived a full life and in his 90’s, discussed the fact this day was coming and his fervent belief that he would be reunited with family and friends who had predeceased him. And he asked that his gravestone describe him as, “Father, Brother, Friend.”
Services are delayed until spring due to the covid pandemic. Memorials preferred to Salvation Army in Fargo or Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota in Moorhead.