During World War II, James “Jim” Lund was a military railroader who moved troops and supplies through North Africa, Italy and France, helping to repair demolished rails and engines along the way.
Back in Minnesota, he went on to practice law for more than 50 years with an emphasis on helping veterans. Lund, one of the oldest living alumni of the University of Minnesota Law School, was a legislative attorney and lobbyist for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
He was instrumental in helping to get a new Veterans Medical Center built in Minneapolis, as well as passage of a state law that enabled veterans’ organizations and other nonprofit groups to run charitable gambling.
Lund, of Minneapolis, died June 27. He was 97.
“All his life, dad wanted to help the veterans,” said his daughter, Laurie Hansen of St. Louis Park.
She said her father lobbied for passage of Minnesota’s “Bingo Bill” in 1976 because it allowed veterans’ organizations and other charitable groups to use gambling for the good of their groups and the communities. He also helped push through federal legislation needed for federal aspects of charitable gambling aiding Minnesota veterans, said Hansen and her husband, Dr. Carl Hansen.
He “seemed to be so very good-natured about his experience and how he was able to give back,” said Lund’s friend, Benjamin Krause, an attorney and investigative writer on military topics.
Lund was not only patriotic and humble, he was witty and quick to crack a self-deprecating joke. “He was very funny right up until the end,” Krause said.
Born in 1916 in Stillwater to Bert and Mary Vordahl Lund, Jim Lund grew up on Pine Street, where his father ran a speakeasy in their basement during Prohibition.
At Stillwater High School, Jim Lund was president of several activities, in the honor society and an Eagle Scout. After graduating in 1934, he attended the University of Minnesota, playing football under coach Bernie Bierman during national championship seasons. Lund was president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and headed other fraternal groups.
“He sure was a leader,” Laurie Hansen said. “It was amazing.”
After law school, he left for the war in April 1943, becoming a major during his three years in Tunisia, Algeria, Italy and France. His mentor was Carl R. Gray Jr., who went on to head the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The rails came in through the south of France, where Lund and others helped transport Gen. George Patton, troops and supplies to the Battle of the Bulge. From North Africa, where the railroads were run by the French, to the mountains of Italy and beyond, they repaired the bombed rail network. They got supplies and troops through mud, snow and machine gun-fire from aircrafts.
Lund wrote often to his parents of conditions, achievements and pride in his brother, Robert, who was killed serving in Tunisia in 1943, and of the “Red Bull” soldiers from Stillwater, in the 34th Infantry Division.
In a 1944 letter he wrote: “It would be a great thing if every American could see the 5th Army and especially the 34th in action. Every man knows his job and does it in true American style.”
After the war, Lund and Gray worked together to expand and build new facilities at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center. Lund was a VFW judge advocate-general for a year and lobbyist for many years.
Lund is preceded in death by his first wife, Laura May Thompson Lund, and brothers Robert and Bert Jr.
Survivors include his wife of 41 years, Ingrid; sons Robert, Peter, Sam, James and Andrew; daughters Laurie Hansen, Lucy Lund and Elizabeth Finley, and 12 grandchildren.
Services have been held.