Thomas O'Fallon 'worked 8 days a week' on dream resort

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 9, 2007 - 9:31 PM

The Grand Rapids man brought his love of golf along when he entered the resort business in the 1960s.

Thomas O'Fallon, who co-founded Quadna Mountain Lodge in northern Minnesota in the early 1960s, died Friday in Grand Rapids, Minn.

He was 80.

His son David O'Fallon of Grand Rapids recalled that his father broke ground with a bulldozer for the main lodge that opened in 1964, offering skiing on hills carved out of the north woods.

The resort and golf course still sit on Hill Lake near Hill City, about 20 miles south of Grand Rapids. O'Fallon, the president of the corporation, and his partners put in a nine-hole golf course in the late 1960s, his son said.

His dad was still beating him at golf when they last played a couple of years ago, David said. "It's a beautiful course, the fairways lined with full-grown trees," he said.

O'Fallon and his partners opened indoor tennis courts at the resort in the early 1970s.

"That was unique to northern Minnesota," David said.

The O'Fallon family members -- nine children and their mother -- all worked there at one time or other.

O'Fallon also served as president of the Minnesota Resort Association.

Before going into the resort business, he worked in human resources for Donaldson's Department Stores in Minneapolis and Rochester, and for Magnetic Controls in St. Louis Park.

In 1961, he wanted to strike out on his own, so he joined with Bob Leaper of Salt Lake City, Ed Wortman of Elk River and Ted Carlson of Dellwood.

Carlson, who designed the golf course, said that they all worked seven days a week to launch their dream business around skiing and golfing, but that O'Fallon "worked eight days a week."You could always depend on Tom," Carlson said. In tough times, Carlson said, "he always had a plan for making things work eventually."

In the 1970s, the resort was the largest employer in Aitkin County, Carlson said.

Adversity came in the form of mild winters, the energy crisis in the early 1970s and the advent of government-funded ski resorts, which O'Fallon believed were unfair.

After leaving the resort business in 1977, O'Fallon owned a game farm and, in Willmar, a boat business. He also worked as a newspaper ad salesman.

A native of Hutchinson, Minn., he grew up in Dassel, Minn., and graduated from high school there. He served in the Navy in the Pacific shortly after World War II ended.

After his wife, Marlys, died in 1989, he moved to Bonita Springs, Fla., and to Grand Rapids in 2005.

In addition to his son David, he is survived by daughters Diane Shaefer of Edwardsville, Ill.; Debra O'Fallon of Grand Rapids; Mary Mohs of Savage and Ann Shimeall of Maplewood; sons Tom of Birmingham, Ala.; Peter of Grand Rapids; Steve of Gilbert, Ariz., and Paul of Lino Lakes; brothers John of Annandale, Minn., and Gerald of Phoenix, and 15 grandchildren.

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