Maxine Stromme was going for a noon lunch Thursday at the Ecumen Lakeshore retirement community when she asked her husband of 68 years, Graydon “Soup” Stromme, if he wanted to join her.

Soup Stromme declined but asked if she could bring him something back. When she returned about an hour later, Soup had passed, peacefully in his sleep. He was 91, and, rather fittingly for a legendary Duluth coach, former Duluth-Superior Dukes general manager and lifetime lover of sports, he was resting up to watch the Masters golf tournament.

“I imagine his heart just stopped beating,” said his daughter, Karen Stromme. “All the people around him said, ‘That’s how I want to go.’ I am not happy my dad is gone, but I’m happy he was able to go his way, and he did.”

Soup Stromme is survived by Maxine, or “Mickey” as everyone calls her, as well as Karen and her siblings, Lorrie and David, and three grandchildren.

Soup and Mickey had moved into Ecumen in January 2015. Karen Stromme went for walks daily with her father. On Wednesday, he just couldn’t do it but said he was looking forward to their walk on Thursday afternoon.

“He was just tired,” Karen Stromme said.

Karen Stromme said her father organized various activities at Ecumen, from baking his favorite dessert to having a smelt fry or corn feed.

“He got people to rally around things. He was a coach until the very end,” she said. “The people here treated him like family.”

Soup Stromme was part of the Greatest Generation and was one of the last links to a golden era of sports in Duluth, with the likes of News Tribune sports reporter Bruce Bennett, sportscaster Marsh Nelson and Minnesota Duluth football coach Jim Malosky, who was Stromme’s neighbor for many years. Stromme and Malosky were cut from the same cloth, preaching tough-love discipline, respect and loyalty.

Stromme passed on his love of sports to his children. Karen Stromme was the head women’s basketball coach at Minnesota Duluth for 21 seasons, never suffering a losing year. She grew up at ballparks and basketball courts.

“We went from one sport to another,” Karen Stromme said. “He really was driven by many things, but sports was his love and his passion.”

Soup Stromme grew up in the small town of Kenyon, in southern Minnesota. He was a standout in football, basketball and baseball, with the most success in basketball.

Stromme left the University of Minnesota basketball team in 1943 and enlisted in the Air Force. He was stationed in the Arctic Circle at a weather station on Coral Harbor during World War II. After the war, he enrolled at St. Olaf in Northfield, Minn., where he graduated in 1949.

Stromme played basketball and baseball for the Oles, and later had professional tryouts in both sports, playing pro baseball in southern Minnesota into the 1950s. Remarkably, he is still the all-time scoring leader in St. Olaf history despite playing only three years.

Stromme began his teaching and coaching at Isle, Minn., and had resided in Duluth since 1955, where he coached football for 12 years, basketball for 18 years and baseball for 31 years at Morgan Park High School. Among the notable athletes he coached were Bob Carey and a trio of brothers: Dan and Gary Bubalo, David and Donnie Dzuck and John and Jim Gornik.

“I don’t know that in my lifetime I have gone a week walking in Duluth without somebody stopping me and saying your dad was my teacher, my coach or my guidance counselor, and he made a profound impact in my life,” Karen Stromme said. “Most everybody loved my dad because he expected greatness from them. So while maybe he was tough on them at the time, I think they could look back when they were older and realize he just wanted to bring out the best in them. They appreciated what he meant for them.”

Soup Stromme also served as the Duluth-Superior Dukes general manager from 1960-68, when they were a Detroit Tigers’ minor-league affiliate. The Tigers won the World Series in 1968, with many of those players coming through Duluth, including pitcher Denny McLain, the last 30-game winner in the majors, Gates Brown, Bill Freehan, Ray Oiler, Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley and Jim Northrup.

Among the classic stories is when future Major League Baseball umpire Bruce Froemming tossed Stromme, then the Dukes’ general manager, Bennett and Nelson for arguing a bad call.

“Soup is a Duluth icon,” said Soup’s son-in-law, former Minnesota Duluth men’s basketball coach Gary Holquist.

Holquist knew of Soup before he ever moved to Duluth. His mentor, former Wisconsin-Eau Claire coach Ken Anderson, had coached at Superior High School.

“Ken is a Hall of Fame guy and nationally renowned, and when I took the job at Duluth, he told me, ‘You’re going to an area that has tremendous coaching in the high school ranks,’ ” Holquist said. “He talked about Soup Stromme at Morgan Park, Jim Hastings at Duluth Central and Irv St. John at Duluth East. He told me to make sure to establish a relationship with these coaches.”

Holquist, through his marriage to Karen Stromme, said he learned a lot from Soup Stromme in their many conversations. The men visited over Easter weekend, and talked college basketball. March Madness was a special time of year for Soup Stromme, and he offered up some advice.

“It wasn’t Xs and Os as much as trying to get your players to understand discipline, and to get them to understand what it means to be an athlete,” Holquist said. “He always thought high school and college athletes were so special. Whether we were fishing or sitting in his living room, we talked about the intangibles of being a successful coach. He had so much knowledge through all the years through his life experiences as a player and coach. I really treasured it.”

Soup Stromme also was respected by his contemporaries.

Milan Karich was a Morgan Park principal from 1969-85. Stromme worked at Morgan Park as a guidance counselor. Karich lives in Sun City West, Ariz. Soup and Mickey spent winters in Arizona from 1984 to 2012. They stayed in touch until about four years ago.

“He did a hell of a good job,” Karich said. “He was very highly respected as a faculty member and what he did for the community. I can’t say enough good things about him. That’s the kind of guy he was.”

Stromme’s family will announce a memorial service for him sometime during the summer, his favorite time of year. Karen Stromme laughed after being asked the age-old family question: Where did her father get his nickname?

“We all know,” Karen Stromme said, laughing. “That was one of my dad’s favorite things. The mystery was so fun for him. I loved watching my dad smile and say, ‘I’m not going to tell you.’ It was his thing, and in honor of him, I can’t tell. That was part of his legacy. My dad gets to take that one to the grave.”

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