Warren Russell Berntson


Warren Russell Berntson, 98, passed away Friday, July 17, 2020 at Solvay Hospice House. He was born Feb. 6, 1922 at home in Hovland, MN, the son of Knute and Ida Berntson. He attended Hovland’s Flutereed (1 room) Elementary School, grades 1-6, Chicago Bay School, Grades 7-8, Grand Marais High School, Grades 9-12. He often quoted poetry that he memorized for his English classes.

He shared with his parents, 4 sisters and a brother, a small home built by the family in the woods near Hovland. He did not live in a home with electricity until he moved to Duluth when he was 21. As a teenager, he and his older brother Julien would walk 2 miles on Saturday nights when it was 20 below to a friend’s home that had electricity so they could listen to Barn Dance on the radio. Then walk 2 miles home.

Warren was drafted at age 21 during WWII, passed his physical in Minneapolis and was sent by troop train, standing up most of the way to Fort Warren, Wyoming. He was trained as a parachutist when it was “discovered” that he was deaf in one ear and could not be sent into combat. He was honorably discharged and sent home. He had been deaf since he was 10. He didn’t mention it during his physical because he was used to it and thought nothing of it. God works in mysterious ways. He would have been dropped by parachute on Normandy beach on D-Day.

He worked at the steel plant in Morgan Park and then was hired by the Duluth Fire Department in 1949. He was promoted to Captain and served at the West End Station (now Peerless Autobody) from 1956-1968. There are many memories and good stories about his years on the department. One of the best concerned Jan. 17, 1962 when he served 40 hours of continuous fire fighting with no sleep in 34 below zero temps. He was promoted to Ass’t Chief 1968-1976 and served as Deputy Fire Chief from 1976-1980 when he retired, and he was encouraging all firefighters to become EMTs.

Warren built a Model T truck starting with a steering wheel that he and Judy found in an antique store. She gave it to him for his birthday, and he said “Think I’ll build a car” and he did. In the process, he decided it would be a truck and not a car. A few years later, the labor of love was finished when he was in his 80’s. It was entered in a car show in and took first place in its class.

He thoroughly enjoyed reading and owned all of Louis L’Amour’s books and reread them many times claiming they were like old friends.

He also enjoyed cribbage and was very good at it.

Warren had been a member of the International Association of Firefighters, Duluth Local 101, Supervisory Committee of the Duluth Fire Department Credit Union and an honorary member of the Port of Duluth Kiwanis Club.

He was preceded in death by his parents, sisters: Irene, Vivian, Esther and Gladys

Wives: Rose Pepel Berntson, Mary Ann Mattson Berntson

Warren is survived by wife of 25 years Judy Berntson, married March 4, 1995 Son Russell (Bev) Berntson, Island Lake, Mesa, AZ Daughter Joan (Al) Heikka, Henderson, NV Grandsons: Tim (Laura) Berntson, Anchorage AK and David (Laura) Berntson, Warsaw, Poland; Great-Grandsons: Andrew and Wyatt Berntson, Warsaw, Poland Step-daughters: Sue Savage, Wadena MN and Cathie (Kris) Dickey, Duluth Step-Grandchildren: Caitlin Savage, Wadena MN and Corbin Dickey, Duluth Brother Julien Berntson, Duluth Many nieces and nephews

Much appreciation to the EMT’s at Gary Fire Station and Mayo Clinic ambulance, the nursing staff at 6E St. Mary’s and 3rd floor Miller Dwan, Dr. Farley, hospitalist, Dr. Baker, Essentia West, also Essentia cardiology, and Solvay Hospice House.

A grave side service will be held on Friday, July 31, at 11:00 at Duluth Calvary Cemetery. Please wear a mask and respect social distancing.

Memorials may be sent to Duluth Fire Department Honor Guard, 602 W. 2nd St. Duluth MN 55802.

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