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Donald M. Messick

Donald M. Messick

Pequot Lakes

Donald M. Messick, a former grocery executive and longtime church treasurer and tireless volunteer for the Lakes Area Food Shelf, died Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at his home in Pequot Lakes, Minn. He was 93.

He was born July 15, 1920, in Crary, N.D., the son of Roy and Laura Messick. He graduated from Newton High School, Newton, Iowa.

In 1936, he landed a job at a small grocery store near Newton, Iowa, the day he turned 16.

“My first job was to sort 2,000 pounds of Early Ohio seed potatoes by hand,” he told a newspaper reporter a few years ago.

Four years later, Messick was still working in the grocery business, earning $13.50 a week, when he met his future wife, Jeanne Laflin, who was earning nearly double his pay as a $25-per-week bookkeeper. The couple was married July 14, 1939.

In 1943, Don was drafted into the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Wright-Patterson Field near Dayton, Ohio, where he worked on secret electrical design projects for new aircraft. After the war ended, he used the GI bill to earn a degree in business administration from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, in 1950.

He accepted a position with Nash Finch Wholesale that same year and spent 19 years with the firm, serving as a manager of warehouses. In 1969, he joined Grocery Supply Co., Omaha, overseeing 23 grocery stores in the Midwest. Upon his retirement in 1982, he was serving as president.

The Messicks purchased a cabin on Mayo Lake, outside Pequot Lakes, in 1968, which they visited regularly while the family lived in South Dakota and Nebraska. When Don retired, the couple made the cabin their permanent home.

He was one of the founders of the Lakes Area Food Shelf in 1991, a quest he once told a reporter was “exactly like the business I used to be in, except now I don’t have some jerk from Dallas calling me up and telling me I need to squeeze out another .5 percent profit.”

He worked diligently to assure anyone who needed a helping hand to feed a family received it.

In September 2009, Messick was honored with a special Hunger Action Award by leaders of area food shelves for his leadership at the Lakes Area Food Shelf. He was involved in the beginning of the food shelf in 1991 when it was located at the Lutheran Church of the Cross and has been a driving influence to help those in need over the years as a working board member until the day he died.

Messick credited his mother for instilling in him a lifelong philosophy of helping others, imparted shortly after the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.

He told the story of having seen a newspaper photo of a man in New York leaping out of a skyscraper window. He asked his mother why any man would do that. His mother told him that his business had been ruined and he had probably lost all his money.

Already a precocious thinker, Messick knew his parents had lost all their savings when their local bank in Iowa failed. He asked his mother if it meant Dad would jump off the courthouse roof?

“No. We may have lost all our money, but just remember, you are still going to have a warm meal three times a day, and you’ll have a bed to sleep in every night. That’s what really matters.”

Messick knew how important that was, and spent his retirement years working to assure people in the Pequot Lakes area had access to food.

Outside of work, both he and his late wife of 60 years enjoyed bird-watching and traveling, sometimes building trips to places like New Zealand, England and Ireland around the chance to add the sighting of an unusual bird species to his “Life List,” which numbered 838.

He was a member of Grace United Methodist Church, serving many years as church treasurer and chairman of the building committee for the new church that opened in 1999.

He is survived by a daughter, Nancy (David) Shaw of Nenana, Ark.; a son, Steve (Jane) Messick of Hastings, Minn.; one brother, George, of Houston, Texas; four grandchildren, Steven (Richele), Brianne, Aaron and Ben (Gretchen); and two great-grandchildren, Samuel and Liberty.

He was preceded in death his wife, Jeanne in August 1999.

Services were at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 20, at Grace United Methodist Church, 29286 MN Highway 371, in Pequot Lakes, with Pastor Dianne Ciesluk officiating. Visitation was Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at Kline Funeral Home, 30208 Lilac Drive in Pequot Lakes, and one hour prior to the service at the church. Burial was at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the family plot in Newton, Iowa. The family prefers memorials to Don’s favorite charity — the Lakes Area Food Shelf, P.O. Box 724, Nisswa, MN 56468.

Arrangements were with Kline Funeral Home, Pequot Lakes.