For 40 years, as the newspaper industry underwent seismic shifts that made many jobs irrelevant, Kevin Nygren did what needed to be done to support the Star Tribune and the readers who counted on it.
His name didn’t appear atop articles or on the company masthead, but Nygren took pride in his work, whether it was in the print shop cutting paper to make employee notepads or later in the Star Tribune’s new office space where he managed incoming and outgoing boxes and letters.
Nygren died May 31 following a four-year battle with cancer. He was 60.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Nygren was one of six children. At South High School, he met his future wife, Andrea Nygren, where “we were kind of different-sides-of-the-track people,” she said. “My friends were the cheerleaders and dance squad girls, and he fit in better with the stoner crowd though he wasn’t one. But somehow we worked.”
The two were married by age 20 and she was hired by the Star Tribune’s circulation department while he went to work in a Sears tire shop. “He would come home smelling like rubber and I hated it,” Andrea said. Soon, she was able to get him a job in the Star Tribune stockroom, which “was a ramshackled building with a tunnel to the old Star Tribune building.” He soon moved into a position in the adjacent print shop and held the same basic job for four decades.
The role, however, was anything but stagnant. As the industry changed, he evolved with it.
“Kevin loved his job and was totally committed to the Star Tribune,” Kevin Desmond, the Star Tribune’s head of operations, said in a note to staff. “Most of all, Kevin enjoyed interacting with fellow employees.”
Co-workers say he took great pride in his work and was the guy who always found a solution to problems.
“He cared about his work and you don’t see that too often these days,” said Paul Joppa, Nygren’s longtime colleague. “He was extremely positive, even on his last day here.”
His wife, who was laid off from the paper during budget cuts in the early ’90s, said, “It wasn’t just a job to him, it was a career.”
“I know it sounds odd to say that a shipping clerk is a career, but he took it so seriously,” she said. “He went the extra mile.”
That translated to his personal life where he was the self-taught family chef. He did all the grocery shopping, carefully picking out fresh produce, and loved experimenting with flavors and spices.
“I am more of a salt-and-pepper kind of gal, but we were always his guinea pigs,” Andrea said. “Now I have a whole cabinet of spices that I don’t know what to do with.”
He enjoyed watching cooking shows and competitions, learning new tricks and getting inspiration. He was an avid reader of science fiction. Nygren loved to play golf and go fishing and had a passion for country music.
“When he took something on, he went full-bore,” Andrea said.
Just as he liked to help people at work troubleshoot problems, he helped his friends in countless ways, she said.
And while his friends and family say he was patient, loyal and always willing to help, he wasn’t a pushover.
“Kevin didn’t have time for people who were foolish, cruel and mean, but if you were a good person, he loved you,” Andrea said, “and he had a wonderful sense of humor.”
Nygren is survived by his wife, son Theodore Nygren, his mother, two brothers, two sisters, his daughter-in-law and one granddaughter. He was preceded in death by a brother. Services are planned for later this month.