Northern Minnesota’s skies are a little darker after Gene McLinn’s star winked out on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. He was 97 years old when he died of lung cancer at NC Little Hospice in Edina, Minn.
Eugene Leonard McLinn was born to Peter and Bertha (Raschke) McLinn on April 6, 1922, in Northome, Minn.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers (Arthur, Edward, and Peter), sisters (Thecla Schoueweiler [Lloyd] and Thelma Muller [Matthew]), wife (Ruth), and son (Matthew).
He is survived by his children: Constance Marsh (Charles), Deborah Katherine, Samuel (Luba), Lisa Steltzer (Edward), Eugene (Sondra) and Christopher (Maria), and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Gene and Ruth graduated (as salutatorian and valedictorian) from Northome High School in 1940 and were married in 1941. Gene continued his education after marriage, earning a certificate in welding from St. Paul Vocational Arts, attending class during the day, and working the night shift welding boilers. Later he welded Cimarron-class oilers at Port Cargill in Shakopee, Minn.
He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1944 and served with the 4th Marine Division, 25th Regiment, Second Battalion, Company G. He fought as a machine gunner on the beachhead at Iwo Jima. Thirty days after the battle began, Gene was one of nine men in his company that walked off the island out of 300 that hit the beach. He was honorably discharged as a Private First Class in 1946.
After World War II, Gene had a varied resume. He was a welder during construction of NATO Air Base Keflavik in Iceland, and later worked as a carpenter, welder, and pump calibrator in northern Minnesota. He was a fishing guide and ran a summer resort with Ruth at Island Lake.
Ruth and Gene moved from Island Lake to International Falls, Minn., in 1959. In the Falls, Gene was a fuel oil deliveryman, ran a service station, and worked as a laboratory technician. For the last 15 years of his working life he was an inspector for the U.S. Immigration Service on the Canadian border.
Gene was an omnivorous and voracious reader, consuming many thousands of books over the course of his life. Because of his restless mind, he became a learned man despite his lack of formal education.
Gene grew up in the woods and on the water, hunting and fishing since he was a child. He was a keen observer of nature, a crack shot with rifle and shotgun, and an avid fisherman. He was a licensed prospector in Ontario from 1969 until 2018, and searched for gold along the Rainy Lake Fault.
Gene and Ruth were partners in all aspects of their lives, from the bridge table to the tackle box to the berry patch. They raised their children with loud and spirited discussion at the dinner table, and the kids learned to prove their points using a dictionary, a thesaurus, or an atlas, if only to thwart their know-it-all siblings. The crowning achievement of their marriage was that all six of their children graduated from college. They supported their kids through a total of more than 38 years of higher education.
During the course of his life, Gene supported many charitable groups, including the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club, Kiwanis, and the International Brotherhood of the Elks.
The family wishes to thank the many caregivers that helped Gene live independently in the Falls and the Twin Cities during the last few years of his life.
There will be a Celebration of Life at the Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapel, 1400 Main St., Hopkins, Minn., from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24.
On Saturday, Oct. 26, at 11 a.m., Gene’s body will be buried at Forest Hill Cemetery, 908 Memoarial Drive, International Falls.
After the burial there will be a Celebration of Life at the Elks Lodge, 215 Third St., International Falls, from noon to 4 p.m.
Memorial donations may be sent to NC Little Hospice, the Minnesota Society for the Blind, and the International Falls Public Library.