John Lee VanNyhuis, 69, passed away on February 4, 2021 in Park Rapids, Minnesota. John had been fighting an aggressive brain tumor for the past three months that quickly deteriorated his health.
John was born to Gloria (Brower) and William VanNyhuis on February 12, 1951, in Luverne, Minnesota, the third of five children. The family moved to Nevis in 1961, where John later graduated high school. While in high school, John met his future wife Carol (Weaver) at a Dance at the Armory in Park Rapids. On January 17, 1970, John married Carol at his parent’s home in Nevis. Soon thereafter they started a family. After completing an aptitude test on a whim, John accepted a job as a forestry technician at the Effie DNR ranger station. John moved to the Bigfork/Effie area where he raised his family and remained there for 50 years. Coming full circle, John and Carol recently moved back to the Nevis/Park Rapids area where they were in the process of building a new home to continue retirement in. John worked for the DNR for 27 years cruising timber, working with loggers, fighting wildfires as a “hot-shot” and on a helicopter team. After an early retirement from the DNR, John worked as a private forester, as well as working for FEMA at natural disaster sites. John was very good at seeing potential in something and was willing to take risks to see his visions come to fruition. John loved buying and selling things including guns, cars, standing timber, and property. One of his purchases, the old Chevrolet Garage, he renovated into the Two Rivers Cenex Convenience Store and Gas Station which he helped his wife, Carol, run for 15 years. John was also a member of the Itasca Vintage Car Club, served on the township board, hospital board, Effie Lutheran Church council and cemetery board, and as a volunteer for the Bigfork Ambulance Service. John used his vision and planning to design, build, remodel, and refurbish many things including art, furniture, and buildings for himself and his family. His latest project included designing a new shop that was such a “head-turner” that people would slowly drive by taking pictures. Recently, he received a letter from a community member asking who the architect was of the unique building. Even after the symptoms of his brain tumor limited his physical ability, he still would spend short periods of time working on finishing up the interior with his wife Carol, children, and grandchildren. John enjoyed many things such as hunting, feeding birds and deer, and exploring new areas with ATVs. Even though John loved “making a deal”, he loved spending time with his family the most. He thoroughly enjoyed watching his grandchildren’s activities. His son, Lee, helped him build a cabin on Willis Lake. There he loved telling the same stories, keeping the fire warm, and was always willing to let his son and grandson have the best hunting spots. He loved having the family come together at the Lake Belle Taine Cabin. There he helped his grandchildren learn how to swim and was always willing to “rate” the dives and cannonballs off of the raft. His morning coffee on the deck overlooking the lake, and sunset pontoon rides were a favorite way to spend summer days with his loving wife Carol, and his daughter Sally.
John is survived by his daughter Sally VanNyhuis, and grandchildren Cassie, Noah (Vannah), Emme, and Myles, great-granddaughter Bella; son and daughter-in-law Lee and Kellie VanNyhuis, and grandchildren Mara, Trenton, and Drew: sister Sue (Conrad) Nelson, brother Jerry (Laurel) VanNyhuis, sister Shelly Eicshens, and sister-in-law Laurie VanNyhuis. He was preceded in death by his parents William and Gloria, and his brother Chuck.
A funeral service will be held on Monday, February 22, 2021 at the Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids, Minnesota at 2 p.m. with the Deaconess Dianna Schumaker officiating. Public visitation will be held on Sunday, February 21, 2021 from 4-6 p.m. Arrangements made by Jones-Pearson Funeral Home.