The Pequot Lakes and surrounding area lost someone who had a major impact on telephone service, television, the internet and even radio. Gilroy Garner Arvig, 85, Crosslake, died Saturday, Aug. 3, leaving behind a large legacy.
Arvig did not found Arvig Telephone Co., but he did come to manage and own the company after 1953, at age 20. He was with Arvig until he retired and TDS bought the company in 1994. During that time he helped Pequot Lakes, Pine River and the surrounding farmers and cabin owners to stay connected with the most up-to-date technology.
“They brought in the telephone service to all the farms and across all the lakes. In later years they brought cable TV and some of that stuff to the area,” said daughter Holli Streff, now of Red Wing. “It may not have progressed as fast if they hadn't been on the cutting edge getting things to those rural areas.”
“He was for sure a pioneer and visionary in the telecom world,” said son Greg Arvig. “He had a lot of first things he did. We offered mobile telephone service in the '70s, way before cell phone service was available, then US Link was one of the first long-distance companies in the state of Minnesota.”
“That whole area would be a different place than it is today had he not been there,” said grandson Tyler Arvig.
Arvig and his company were constantly on the cutting edge.
“If you were looking for the latest and greatest, chances are he would have it,” Tyler said.
Arvig's company was a major employer in the area, at one time boasting around 200 employees. He was well regarded as a fair and generous employer.
“It was great,” said Tyler. “Everyone there was really considered to be a family. In a small town like that pretty much everyone I went to school with had some relative that worked for the company. You couldn't get away with much. It would always end up getting back to the family.”
The company continued to be a family affair. Many of Arvig's family worked with or for him, and even now son Greg works for another telephone company, Nextera Communications.
“He was a lot of things to me,” Greg said. “Not only was I his son, we worked together a good part of his life. He was a mentor in addition to being a father. He was kind and generous and brought me into the business world and taught me not only how to treat people with kindness personally but also about the business world.”
He was a respected person to almost everyone, especially his family.
“He was somebody I really looked up to and admired,” Streff said. “He had a super strong work ethic and loved what he did. He was passionate about his job, about pretty much life in general. He was very into the community and proud of Pequot Lakes, always wanting to give back.”
His family remembers how proud he was of his community, likely because he helped make it something worth pride. He was a founding board member of Minnesota Christian Broadcasters Inc. and helped to get the KTIG radio station on the air by making studio space available in his telephone company building. He was an eight-year mayor of Pequot Lakes and a 12-year member of the Pequot Lakes School Board.
“He just loved the community and promoting it,” Greg said. “He was always especially proud of the Pequot area. When he spoke about it he always beamed and was proud. Any time he could brag about it or talk about it, he did. He loved all the employees who worked for him.”