OBITUARY

James Francis Groebner

December 11, 1926May 1, 2021
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Husband, Dad, Grandpa and Great-Grandpa, Brother, Uncle, Son, Neighbor, and Friend

James Francis Groebner passed away peacefully with family at his side following a long and rich life. We trust in God’s promises and know that he was greeted warmly by the words, “Welcome! Job well done, good and faithful servant.”

Born in Waseca, Minnesota, to parents Joseph and Emelia (Zupfer) Groebner, he was the youngest son of 12 children. He was known by them as “Big” for, as the youngest boy, he wanted to be included in his older brothers’ activities, since he was “Big”! He is survived by his sister, Mary Jo Upson.

On September 22, 1951 he married Bernice Adella Hoverstad, after meeting in college. They were married for 56 years until her death, February 3, 2008. Jim is survived by 5 children, 12 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren. Pamela Marie Crouse (Byron), and their 2 children, Andrea Bernice and Daniel James; Rebecca Groebner Capecchi (Jerome), and their children, David Mario, Luisa Marie and Michael James; Sarah Terese Laudenbach (Charles), and their children, Kevin Michael, Geri Ann; James Andrew Groebner (Carla), and their children, Anna Marie, Ashley Nicole; Martha Louise Groebner Kessens (James), and their children, Evan James, Thomas Andrew, Christine Claire.

Jim was a WWII Veteran, Army Air Corps, serving in the Philippines as the war ended. Later in life, he became active in the Woodbury VFW serving as an officer and volunteering in many different capacities. Jim proudly graduated from University of Minnesota in 1952 and spent his entire 40 year professional career working tirelessly as a biologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to protect and preserve our natural environment for all to enjoy. It wasn’t just a job for him, but a calling, and he enthusiastically mentored young women and men in his profession and shared his knowledge and love of the outdoors with family and friends.

Jim and Bernice were proud to become homeowners in 1956, in what came to be Woodbury, Minnesota, and lived there for over 50 years. Jim was an excellent gardener, starting his own seedlings, and raising enough vegetable to keep the family fed for the year, as well as give away many little red wagonloads of corn. He tinkered in his basement workshop and garage, and spent many hours just sitting at the picnic table in the back yard observing nature all around him. He was proud to do his own car maintenance as long as he could, and it often involved coffee cans and baling wire. It took a lot of convincing on Bernice’s part to convince him to hire electricians and plumbers when they were required, for he was confident in his own abilities.

Dad loved his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and despite putting on a gruff persona, he was gentle and patient with them. He didn’t sit and “visit” well, but was on the go, “futzing” around, often with kids following him around. He whittled little bits of things for them, hung a favorite “horse” swing from the rafters of the garage and let little ones help him in the garden. He met people well and had a quirky chuckle and sense of humor. He was energized by being around young people, and they all knew they were welcome in the house. But he also cherished time alone in his gardens, fishing, hunting or just observing nature sitting with his pipe and a dog. He had gnarly, calloused hard working hands with which he could pluck ripe raspberries from thorny canes, or tenderly plant a tiny seedling without crushing the stem, or tie a delicate fly-fishing fly. He always carried his baseball glove in his car, just in case, and after retirement, kept golf clubs there too, always ready to enjoy the challenge of the game.

Vacations and free weekends always revolved around camping, canoeing, and fishing. Some of his favorite times were preparing and going hunting and fishing. Sometimes these trips were with his brothers and best friend, Tom, but they always resulted in funny stories and (mis)adventures, some of which live on even now. A highlight of his life was a successful elk hunting trip with his son, Jim, when he was in his 80’s. Family vacations almost always involved Minnesota State Parks, and he often said the family couldn’t go anywhere else until every state park in Minnesota had been seen.

Even though Jim didn’t play musical instruments, he was proud to support his children in music lessons and high school band and choral groups. He enjoyed his recordings of John Philips Sousa marching band music. He was a good singer too, and later in life, he allowed his children to hear him sing along to hymns and popular music. He thoroughly enjoyed when his children were involved in school sports and attended their events faithfully. Long after his own children were graduated, he continued to serve as a swim official at high school swim meets.

Jim was a long-time member of Guardian Angels Catholic Church, and was known there as a reliable volunteer, handyman, gardener, and volunteer with the Men’s Club.

The family wants to thank the staff of The Gardens at the Episcopal Church Homes, St. Paul, who took the time to really know him and see him as a gentle, kind and dignified man. For 5 years, they took tender loving care of our father, and protected him during the Covid pandemic. Also, special thanks to Allina Hospice staff for assuring our father’s comfort and sacred passing at the end of his life.

A Memorial Mass of Christian Burial will be held TUESDAY, May 11, 2021 at 1:30 PM at Guardian Angels Catholic Church, 8260 4th St. N., Oakdale. The service will be accessible via Livestream, if you prefer. To watch via Livestream, go to www.guardian-angels.org and click on the "Funeral Information Button", or type the key word "Funeral" in the search bar. Interment with Military Honors will follow immediately at Guardian Angels Cemetery.

The family requests that memorials be directed to the Episcopal Church Homes Foundation or Friends of Itasca State Park.

Services

  • Mass of Christian Burial

    Tuesday, May 11, 2021

  • Interment with Military Honors

    Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Memories

James Francis Groebner

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Laurie Kampa

May 11, 2021

Our heartfelt condolences go out to Jim’s entire family. Jim was in the gardens with our parents Gene and Marie, a friend to our entire family. We enjoyed his outdoor stories and his friendliness. He will be missed by many. Sending thoughts and prayers.
The Kampa family

Mary Bower

May 10, 2021

I smiled when I read your description of Uncle Jim's gruffness, even as a very young child I knew what a nice man he was in spite of that act. I always admired his knowledge of nature and loved visiting at your house.

Linda Deaver

May 9, 2021

Jim was my husband Chuck's favorite golfing partner. Such wonderful memories of Jim and his quiet warm manners. Have pictures of him at Chuck's 70th birthday party years ago and Chuck has mentioned him many times over the years wondering how he was doing and wishing they could play just one more round of golf. Our sympathy and prayers for the family.

Nancy Dereng

May 7, 2021

Pam, I wish you and your family my heartfelt sympathy. The tribute writing was beautiful and it really painted a picture of a wonderful man. God bless you. Rejoice in assurance of God’s beautiful eternal peace.
Nancy Dereng

Linda Holt / Erickson

May 5, 2021

Know that my thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time!!

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