Ole Hage flashed a smile last October as he wheeled a barrel of concrete into a customer’s back yard — the bread and butter of a business that his father founded in 1930.
The hands-on owner of Hage Concrete Works wanted to experience at least one more season of bidding jobs, making new friends and assisting his crews, but he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on March 17 at age 74. He’s being remembered in Minneapolis, Edina, Eden Prairie and St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood as a proud craftsman who thrived on making personal relationships and treating others with respect.
“He lived by the Golden Rule and treated everyone like he wanted to be treated,” said Patrick Kinsel, a close friend who first met Hage 34 years ago while making a sales pitch to him.
Kinsel said Hage could have been successful on a large commercial scale, pouring concrete in mass quantities. But the somewhat eccentric member of the Happy Norwegians social club ducked those sorts of offers to stick with making driveways, sidewalks, patios and other ornamental concrete works.
“His favorite thing to do was finish concrete,” said Franny Hage, one of Ole’s five children. “He loved the art of it and he truly enjoyed the people.”
Franny said her father lived with cancer for exactly one year, declining radiation and chemotherapy. Instead, he chose the Budwig Diet, the German whole foods-and-oils diet that claims cancer-fighting successes. When doctors told Ole in early January that he only had a couple of weeks to live, he carried on, gracefully, for another two months.
“He was a really, really nice man and a true gentleman,” said Franny, who bought the business from her father before he died.
The Rev. Jim Cassidy, who knew Hage as a friend and parishioner at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis, said Hage was an optimist, spiritual mystic and dreamer who also could be bullheaded. He said Hage thrived on sealing deals, but his compassion for other people outweighed his practical side.
“He had special insight into people who needed extra attention,” Cassidy said. “I’d say, ‘Why are you doing that?’ and he’d say, ‘Because they are my friend.’ ”
A car and motorcycle buff, Hage owned a 10-pound mutt named Killer. The dog was his constant companion, including the winters in Naples, Fla., where Hage and his wife, Linne, had a large circle of friends.
At home in the Twin Cities, Hage was a booster of DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis. He and about 50 small-business owners called the Presidents’ Club met regularly at the Pool & Yacht Club in Lilydale to socialize and tackle business issues. Kinsel said Hage will be memorialized there at the group’s next meeting.
“He was the first residential contractor to offer a lifetime guarantee for whatever he installed,” Kinsel said. “That’s just unheard of.”
Oliver M. Hage, of Eden Prairie, was born May 30, 1940, in Minneapolis to Orville M. Hage and Emma J. (Poshek) Hage. He is survived by Linne, whom he married in 2001. Other survivors include his first wife, Suzanne Doebel, and their five children: Franny of Edina; Jeffrey (Kathy) of St. Cloud; Amy (Craig) Wallenta of Lakeville; Michael (Linda) of Edina; and Sally (Mark) Schissel of Plymouth. Survivors also include stepdaughter Kristin (Chris) Heinritz of Colorado, 15 grandchildren and one great-grandson. Services have been held.