Paul McAlpine dies at age 79

There are few in the history of Maple Lake who could measure up to the record of civic and government service set by Paul McAlpine, who died on Monday at the age of 79.

McAlpine was born and raised in Maple Lake, graduated from Maple Lake High School in 1942, and married Shirley Dearing of Annandale in 1945. As they farmed and raised their family, Paul began his public life by becoming involved in farm-related activities, serving on the creamery boards of Maple Lake and Buffalo, as well as serving on the Land O’ Lakes and American Dairy Association Boards.

He was elected to the Maple Lake City Council in 1970, served as city clerk from 1970 to 1973, and was appointed to a vacancy on the Wright County Board of Commissioners in 1973. He eventually became the county board chairman and retired from the board in 1988 after 15 years of service, only to run and win a seat on the Maple Lake City Council.

In addition, McAlpine served on the State Board of Aging, was the chair of the State Association of Minnesota Counties, and was active in the Maple Lake Lion’s Club, the Knights of Columbus, and St. Timothy’s Church.

Paul and Shirley were also active volunteers at Camp Friendship, along with their son, Tom, who was a member of the Monticello Lion’s. And it was at Camp Friendship that the McAlpines, along with the Monticello and Maple Lake Lion’s clubs, worked to have a building dedicated to Tom after his death in a tragic 1998 hunting accident.

Ed Stracke, president of the Camp Friendship Foundation endowment fund, said Paul and Shirley are special people.  “Everyone at Camp Friendship was saddened to hear the news about Paul’s death,” Stracke said. “We have lost a true friend and ambassador.   “Paul was one of the most kind and gracious people I knew. He and Shirley warmly welcomed me to the community 20 years ago. Whenever there was an event for Camp Friendship you could always count on them being there…that’s an amazing level of commitment. The last time I saw Paul was at a Camp Friendship Auxiliary fund-raising event in December.”

Stracke said the McAlpines were also extraordinary because of the remarkable strength they showed in the face of tragedy. In addition to Tom, Paul and Shirley suffered the untimely deaths of daughters Barbara Gottsch and Mary Swenson, son-in-law Loren Swenson, and grandsons Daniel McAlpine and Matthew Jude.  “While grieving the loss of their son, Tom,” Stracke said, “Paul and Shirley joined forces with local service organizations, businesses and family members to raise money for the Tom McAlpine Health Care Center at Camp Friendship. It was an amazing gift and a wonderful tribute to Tom and the McAlpine family. But that’s just the kind of people they were.”

Longtime friend Don Weismann said Camp Friendship was the last place that he and his wife, DeLoris, were together with Paul and Shirley when they attended the auxiliary fund-raiser in December.

“He was a Maple Lake boy, just like I am,” Weismann said. “He was one year older, so that means that together, we’ve lived in Maple Lake for about 160 years.”

The Weismanns and the McAlpines would take RV trips together and the McAlpine name was known just about everywhere.  “When we’d go somewhere, and I don’t care where we went, Paul would know somebody. I told him, ‘Paul, you must know everyone in the whole country.’”

And all those people respected Paul McAlpine.  “Everyone knew how dedicated he was,” Weismann said. “No matter what he was involved in, and he was involved in so many things, he was dedicated to it.  “He was a good man and a good friend.”

Former County Commissioner Ken Jude followed in McAlpine’s footsteps as a commissioner from Maple Lake and said his predecessor set an example as a tireless advocate for his constituents.

“For 15 years, Paul was an icon in county government,” Jude said. “His leadership was well-renowned throughout the county.

“During the ten years that I served on the board, there were many times across the state that people would ask about Paul McAlpine. Many people knew him and everybody liked him.

“Paul touched a lot of people in the county,” Jude said. “People didn’t always agree with him, but he would make a decision and go with it. He was a very strong leader and a strong advocate for western Wright County.”