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Our view: Goodbyes, far too soon

Every now and then a string of sad hits a community. We lose neighbors, friends, pillars: folks we quite frankly would rather not have to see go. The past week or so Duluth and the Northland have seen such a string. Here are just four folks we're...

Steve Anderson
(File / News Tribune)

Every now and then a string of sad hits a community. We lose neighbors, friends, pillars: folks we quite frankly would rather not have to see go. The past week or so Duluth and the Northland have seen such a string. Here are just four folks we're forced to bid adieu, all of them far too soon.

Steve Anderson was remembered late last week as a stellar athlete and as a welcoming, wonderful golf course manager, a position he held for 20 years at Cloquet Country Club, Lakeview National Golf Course in Two Harbors, Duluth's Enger Park Golf Course, and, most recently, Duluth's Ridgeview Country Club. A Northland golfing icon, Anderson was just 59 when he died Friday, three days after suffering a stroke.

As a senior at Denfeld in 1970-71, he was All-Lake Superior Conference in football, scored 15 goals in hockey and hit over .400 in baseball, as the News Tribune's Kevin Pates reported. He helped the University of Wisconsin-Superior capture the NAIA hockey championship in 1976. He led the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in hitting during the 1975 and 1976 baseball seasons. He was named UWS's outstanding athlete in 1976 when he captained the hockey, baseball and golf teams. Anderson also coached UWS hockey and was inducted into the UWS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.

A celebration of Anderson's life -- with plenty to celebrate -- is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Zion Lutheran Church in Duluth.

State Rep. Tom Rukavina hasn't died, but he did announce late last week he'll retire and not seek re-election this fall after representing the eastern Iron Range for more than a quarter of a century. Whether you loved him or couldn't stand the fiery, petite politician with the Tom Selleck mustache, the Rick Pitino hairdo and the nonstop motor, you couldn't deny his passion. Who'll ever forget his unenforceable, probably unconstitutional law requiring American flags sold in Minnesota to be American-made?

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A staunch DFLer not above a not-so-gentle jab or jaw across the aisle, Rukavina has no real plans for retirement. So perhaps we haven't heard the last of him -- or from him.

Not a politician, Brian Ryks, rather, is someone who just gets things done. He brought competition, lower airfares and better travel options to the Duluth International Airport in his 10 years here, resulting in record travel. And when he leaves the Duluth Airport Authority executive director post for the same position in Grand Rapids, Mich. -- forcing the Northland to say goodbye to him and his effective leadership far sooner than we would have liked -- he'll leave behind for us a brand-new, $77 million terminal building. Call it his legacy, the fruits of his tireless lobbying and negotiating.

The Grand Rapids job was just too good to pass up, Ryks said. So while we hate to see him go, who can blame him for jumping at the chance to move up to an airport that handles more than 2 million passengers a year, compared to about 350,000 in Duluth?

Just like no one blamed Meg Bye for leaving town in 2007 after her unsuccessful run for mayor. What a legacy she left behind. She became only the third woman to serve on the Duluth City Council when she won election in 1973. She was elected council president four years later and then became the first woman ever picked to serve as president of the League of Minnesota Cities. Starting in 1976, Bye championed a city human rights ordinance to prohibit discrimination. Such an ordinance finally was approved in Duluth in 2001, and Bye became Duluth's first human rights officer.

A woman in politics at a time when that was unheard of, Bye was an inspiration, trailblazer and pioneer. And a leader who made her mark.

In 2007, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Last week, Bye, 69, said in a News Tribune story she's done fighting it. She and her husband live now in Pequot Lakes, Minn.

"I still have Duluth in my heart," she said.

And Duluth can keep in its heart all those, including the folks listed here, who we'd rather not have to bid farewell.

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