East Grand Forks Council President Dick Grassel dies after long illnessRichard "Dick" Grassel, East Grand Forks City Council president, died late this afternoon after a long, but quietly endured, illness. He was 68.
By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald
East Grand Forks City Council President Richard "Dick" Grassel died late this afternoon after a long, but quietly endured, illness.
“He passed away at about 5 or 5:30 this afternoon, at home, with hospice,” said Mayor Lynn Stauss, who is two years younger and grew up with Grassel in the same neighborhood and went to Senior High with him. “He was fighting this cancer for a year and a half.”
Despite the long struggle, in which his appearance changed markedly the past two months because of weight loss and the strain, Grassel only missed one council meeting, last Tuesday, Strauss said.
“Dickie never let anybody really know,” Stauss said. “But he was losing weight, his voice changed and his looks, because of the loss of weight. But he made sure he got to the council meetings. In fact, two weeks ago, after the council meeting he went out with (City Council veteran) Henry Tweten and me to Burger King to just sit and talk and have a soda. Things obviously changed substantially since then.”
Grassel, 68, retired about five years ago from Minnkota Power Cooperative in Grand Forks.
His survivors include his wife, Diane, and their two sons, Chad, and Corey, and several grandchildren.
He first joined the East Grand Forks City Council 22 years ago, appointed in March 1989 to replace Al LaFave, who had died that January. He won every election since.
Grassel has been known for his support for youth hockey in the city and the new campground area set in the Sherlock Park neighborhood largely wiped out by the Flood of 1997.
Grassel had said little about his illness, city officials said.
“He never complains about anything and doesn’t want to burden anyone else with himself,” said Council Vice-President Craig Buckalew, who took over at the meeting last week in Grassel’s absence. “So we kind of take that as being the lead and try to respect him through the process.”
The rest of the council is scheduled to vote Tuesday, in fact, to name the new playground in the Red River State Recreational Area campground – south of Gateway Drive, east of the Red River – as “Richard L. Grassel Park.”
Last week during its working session - which Grassel could not attend because of his health issues - council members discussed the need to get the naming done quickly because of his ill health.
A ribbon-cutting will be held at the playground later this spring after the work is nearer completion, City Administrator Scott Huizenga said today.
“Dick has been active in the community, of course, and with the campground in particular from its inception. So when the new campground improvements were planned two years ago, already then people were talking that we really should name this after Dick.”
Tuesday’s agenda simply is doing sooner something that would have been done later in any case, Huizenga said.
“He’s been struggling. We knew he had been under treatments. We wanted to let him know it’s being done and wanted to honor him while he’s able to appreciate it.”
Herald staff writer Ryan Bakken contributed to this report.
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