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Funeral Wednesday for EGF music teacher

The funeral for Donald Danielson, a music teacher in the East Grand Forks Public Schools for more than 30 years, will be at 11 a.m. today at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks. Danielson died Saturday in Grand Forks following a stroke.

Donald Danielson
Donald Danielson

The funeral for Donald Danielson, a music teacher in the East Grand Forks Public Schools for more than 30 years, will be at 11 a.m. today at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks. Danielson died Saturday in Grand Forks following a stroke. He was 79.

Danielson, who grew up on a farm near Bygland, Minn., and served four years in the U.S. Navy, was remembered with fondness and respect by family and colleagues and also by his former students. Many left messages of condolence at an online funeral guestbook.

"Mr. Danielson told me that the only musical instrument God made was your voice," Erin Gonsorowski Ovsak posted on the Stennes Funeral Home Web site, www.stennesfuneralhome.com/ . " ... He was the type of man that made you want to be a better person."

"The kids absolutely always adored him," his daughter, Karen Bimberg, said Tuesday. "He was very kind, understanding and patient -- unless you really riled him up," she added with a chuckle.

Danielson taught vocal music in East Grand Forks from 1959 to 1994, first at the junior high and high school and later exclusively at the high school. He also directed the choir at Our Savior's Lutheran Church and sang for many events, weddings and funerals.

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Clara Knoff, a retired music teacher and a former colleague, said students liked and respected Danielson. They could joke around with him, but he never had any discipline problem. He was easy to work with, too.

"We worked together for 21 years and not once did we ever have cross words," Knoff said.

Danielson also enjoyed athletics and followed the East Grand Forks football and basketball teams. His daughter said he loved baseball, especially the Minnesota Twins, and boxing.

Donald Benjamin Danielson was born Sept. 28, 1930, in Bygland, Minn., to Bennie and Bessie (Kjelleberg) Danielson. He grew up on a farm, attended country school and graduated from East Grand Forks High School in 1948. He earned a bachelor's and master's degree from MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis.

Danielson spent four years as a radar man for the Navy aboard the USS Henley sailing the world. He married Florence Jean Grove on Dec. 19, 1954, and their first daughter, Karen, was born in Norfolk, Va., just before his time in the service was completed.

He taught one year in Hendricks, Minn., and one year in Breckenridge, Minn., where another daughter, Gayle, was born, before returning to East Grand Forks, where son, Paul, was born.

Danielson taught his family to swim and water ski and went to all the grandkids' events that he could manage, his daughter said. He was a stickler about taking a coffee break at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. every day. He loved to visit with people and was good at striking up conversations with people he'd just met.

Larry Braford was Danielson's fellow music teacher for 23 years. He said his former colleague and friend did his absolute best for his students and demanded the best of them, too.

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"He expected them to work hard, and they did," Braford said. "We worked together very well. I don't think a day went by when the two of us didn't laugh about something that happened during the day."

One of Danielson's favorite songs was "Beautiful Savior," and it was a tradition for his school and church choirs to sing it each Christmas, Braford said.

Danielson was awarded the American Choral Directors Association Director of the Year award. After retiring, he judged music festivals and stayed involved with the church choir. He was elected to the first class of the East Grand Forks Senior High School Hall of Fame in 2001. He was proud of his Norwegian heritage and had visited Norway.

Survivors include his wife; children Karen Bimberg, Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Gayle Driscoll, West Fargo, N.D.; and Paul Danielson, Eagan, Minn; and seven grandchildren.

Related Topics: EAST GRAND FORKS
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