During Bernie Burggraf’s tenure as mayor of Roseau, Minn., a controversy developed over whether the Roseau County seat should be moved from Roseau to Warroad.
According to a report in the Star Tribune, the dispute led to “enormous outbreaks of name-calling” between the rival northwestern Minnesota communities. It eventually wound up in federal court.
Burggraf, who was also a businessman, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist, explained the issue to the Star Tribune: “Some of the people in Warroad have such a deep hatred for Roseau that they will stop at nothing to submarine our town. Most of the time it’s just a good, intense rivalry.”
Jeff Pelowski, the current mayor of Roseau, said Burggraf “was quite the character. He loved Roseau and would do anything to promote his community.”
Burggraf died Aug. 19 in a West Fargo, N.D., nursing home. Burggraf, who had dementia, was 88.
He was born Clarence Bernard Burggraf Jr. on Nov. 3, 1929, in New Rockford, N.D. He graduated from high school in Stephen, Minn., before earning a business degree in 1952 from Concordia College in Moorhead.
While a student at Concordia, he met Nancy Harris. After their wedding in 1953, the couple settled in Roseau.
Burggraf embarked on a long business career in Roseau and owned several businesses, including a grocery store, sporting goods store and a men’s clothing store. Nancy founded the Roseau Figure Skating Club and Burggraf Skating Skills, which is still teaching hockey players under the direction of their son, Frank.
Bernie Burggraf served on the Roseau City Council from 1968 to 1986 and as mayor from 1987 to 1998.
“He unexpectedly withdrew from the mayoral race in 1998 — about one week before the election, due to his wife’s illness,” Pelowski said. “I decided to run a write-in campaign against the opponent on the ballot. Bernie endorsed me. I won the election and am now just finishing up my 20th year as the mayor of Roseau. I haven’t seen Bernie for a number of years, but we are sorry to hear of his passing. He will be missed.”
Nancy Burggraf died from complications of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1999. After her death, Bernie moved to Fargo.
Burggraf, who had hosted a radio show in Roseau and also broadcast from the state hockey tournament, continued his hockey broadcasting career in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
He started with a hockey talk show, “Face Off with Bernie Burggraf.” In 2005, he began hosting “The Big Hockey Talk Show: The Puck Stops Here” on KVOX 1280 AM, formerly known as “The Fan.” His last show was “Bernie Burggraf’s Face Off” on 1100 AM The Flag.
“Bernie was always a gentleman and a journalist,” said Steve Hallstrom, president and managing partner of 1100 AM The Flag. “He was so kindhearted. It was hard for him to level criticism.
“But he knew it was part of his job. He was never mean-spirited with his criticism and never made it personal. He was always the consummate pro and his listeners appreciated him.”
In addition to his son Frank, Burggraf is survived by daughters Becky Lommen and Sally Norton; son Charlie; 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a son, Rick.
Services have been held.