Gary Leroy Axtell passed away on February 24, 2020, in St. Paul at the age of 80 as a result of a fall and near total paralysis suffered in 2018.
Gary was born and raised in Williams, MN near the northernmost point in the state. While in school in Williams, he played defense on the high school hockey team and tuba in the band. Though not known for his finesse in either activity, he was a stalwart defender in hockey, and earned letters throughout his high school hockey career.
Over the years there have been rumors of pranks or other late-night activity in and around Williams during Gary’s school years that may or may not have been technically within the actual wording of the law at that time, although details are sketchy and proof even more elusive. Suffice it to say that Gary enjoyed his youth, and those who knew him and shared time with him enjoyed him enjoying his youth.
Although his work and family brought him south, and for a time far south to Arizona for several years, he never lost his love for the forests and lakes of northern Minnesota. Gary loved the outdoors, occasionally hunting in the northern forests and fishing in the lakes. He introduced his children, stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces and great nieces and nephews to the outdoors and enjoyed watching them participate in sports, hunting and fishing. In later life as his mobility decreased, he enjoyed simply looking at the water as the sun began to set with his trusty sidekick, Muggs, and a nice cold beverage. As his family looks back at his life well lived most of us immediately see an image of Gary in a chair looking at the water with Muggs in his lap and a beer on the table next to him.
Gary was also a man of deep and strong faith, although few knew that side of him. He did not believe in pushing his opinion, unless you were foolishness enough to talk politics with him, but rather believed in actions as an indication of his character. He volunteered his time and knowledge for years with the New Ulm Hockey Association, other school and sports associations for his stepsons, and with the churches in which he was a member. He knew God, and God knew him.
Gary was born on January 22, 1940 to Roy and Doris Axtell. He was married to Patricia Harder and had three sons and a daughter. Gary subsequently was married to Carol (Domeier) and raised three stepsons. That alone is an indication of his character. In later years, Gary was married to Sandra Keiffer. He enjoyed his work as an estimator for sewer and water contractors and his work took him all around Minnesota and Wisconsin, including Maple Lake, New Ulm, Pipestone and Sugar Camp, WI. At the time of his fall in 2018, Gary lived in a home tucked back into the woods in Hackensack, MN.
Gary was preceded in death by his father Roy, his mother Doris, and his son Troy. He is survived by his son Tony of Camp Verde, AZ; son Todd (Jennifer) of Camp Verde, AZ; daughter Terri Longhurst of Camp Verde, AZ; step-sons Scott (Linda) of New Ulm, MN; Paul (Michelle) of Red Wing, MN; Tony (Christine) of Plymouth, MN; his sister Marlys of Bloomington, MN; his brother Rod (Jonel) of Bloomington, MN; his brother Doug (Velma) of San Antonio, TX; 14 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren, and multiple nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews.
A Celebration of Life gathering will be held on Sunday, March 8, 2020, from 3-5:00 pm at Zeke’s, 7700 West Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington, MN. The family requests no gifts, but prefers that memorials in Gary’s name be made to, Paws and Claws Animal Rescue in Hackensack, MN