Many will likely notice the absence of Bob Uppgaard, of Ideal Township and a former Pequot Lakes dentist, who died Monday, Dec. 30, at age 96.
Uppgaard was many things. Originally from Minneapolis, by the time he came to Ideal Township he had already made a name for himself. He was a veteran of World War II, a seaman first class, known as “Seabees." His battalion was in charge of constructing bases and floating harbors in the North Atlantic, stationed out of Chichester, England. He was a participant in the D-Day invasion, serving as a medic during the invasion of Normandy.
In a 2014 interview with the PineandLakes Echo Journal, he said, “I crawled around. I had a quarter gram of morphine ... all I had to do was shoot them in the butt and say, ‘I’ll be right back.’ I crawled on to the next one, and then I crawled on to the next one. I treated seven. The ones I treated survived.”
Uppgaard treated the wounded for two months in France and recorded his experience in a diary, written on British toilet paper. He later served from Oahu. He was honorably discharged after more than three years of service as a boatswain's mate first class. He later took joy in sharing his military experience at high schools and at Veterans Day services, most recently at the Pequot Lakes High School Veterans Day service last November.
Stateside, Uppgaard was a dentist famous for writing a volume on treatment of temporamandibular joint pain, TMJ. When he moved to Ideal Township in 1973, he made a name for himself through land conservation. He and his wife, Barb, purchased 110 acres of land near Star Lake, which became the Uppgaard State Wildlife Management Area in 1987.
Uppgaard had a hand in establishing medical clinics in Pequot Lakes and Crosslake. He also was involved with the Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts at Pequot Lakes High School.
After his wife's death in 2006, he insisted on living to honor Barb's legacy. At age 96, he was still active as a regular visitor to the Crosslake Community Center where he worked out, read his newspaper and ate meals with the Lutheran Social Services senior meals. Those at the community center remember him fondly.
"It's been so long I don't even remember a time when he wasn't around. I think it was about the time the senior meal program moved here from the Legion," said Crosslake Community Center Manager Jane Monson.
"He was definitely a fixture. He had his place at the table and led the troops around here. The only thing he didn't do was lead the prayer," said Chris Langer with LSS. "He was pouring coffee and helping people. An all-around nice man. Always interesting with good stories."
Uppgaard would introduce himself to anyone he met there.
"He never met a person he wouldn't talk to," Monson said. "The last few years he kept a notebook with him and when he met someone new he wrote their name down."
Monson remembers Uppgaard was passionate about politics, Lyme disease and TMJ. When the center was fundraising for building the library, Uppgaard made sure they had several copies of his book. He was a guest speaker at the Chautauqua program, which used to meet at the center.
"He was always friendly and smiling," Monson said. "His big thing is he would come in in the morning and whatever he was working on he would say, 'This is going to be big.'"
"He was always gracious and helpful," Langer said. "A wonderful man around here. He's going to be missed, that's for sure."
Uppgaard was a regular correspondent with local news as well.