Architect, pilot, developer, sailor, artist and conversationalist, Sanders Ackerberg's vocation and avocations were all connected by an insatiable curiosity and deep appreciation for beauty.
"He loved the culture of all things beautiful, and he found beauty in a lot of different things," said his daughter, Shelley Patton, of San Diego. "From my perspective looking backward, that's a common theme that takes you to a lot of different places."
The former owner of Ackerberg and Associates, Architects, died Thursday. He was 86.
Funeral services were held Sunday at Temple Israel in Minneapolis.
Ackerberg lived all his life in Minneapolis, except for the last 13 years, spent in Plymouth.
As a child, he loved to free-hand copy the covers from the Saturday Evening Post and the daily funnies, Patton said. He also was a self-taught pianist.
As a young man, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and flew a B-24 bomber in the South Pacific. Patton said he painted the side of his plane with a flexed-muscle pinup girl.
Back in the United States, he earned a degree in architecture from the University of Minnesota, then took a job with the Minneapolis firm Liebenberg and Kaplan. In 1955, he and colleague James Cooperman struck out to form Ackerberg and Cooperman, Architects.
Projects included what is now the Millennium Hotel, at 13th Street and Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. When it was built in 1962, with a pool and domed cocktail lounge on the top floor, it was considered cutting-edge contemporary design, Patton said.
In 1962 Ackerberg split with Cooperman, but continued to work on both project architecture and larger-scale development until 1991.
Ackerberg continued to fly in civilian life, piloting a Cessna 210. He also developed a love for sailing his C&C 25 yacht, the Come Along, named for a story he read as a boy.
"He loved the serenity and beauty of flight, and the freedom of flight," Patton said. "Whether it was the way ... the water glistened when he was sailing or the peacefulness of flying and the beauty of flight, he was a little kid marveling all the time at what was available in his surroundings."
In 1964 he helped to found the Wayzata Yacht Club, and was instrumental in helping the club purchase its first piece of land, a narrow strip that initially held only a port-a-potty. But his skills as a negotiator smoothed the way at the beginning, said Patrick Maloney, an early yacht club president and another "founding father."
"He had a very unique ability to make everyone feel comfortable," Maloney said. "That's what made him a very good negotiator."
That gift came out everywhere, his daughter said; it made no difference whether he was speaking with his family, a store clerk, a client, his old Army buddies or the students he met during 12 years as president of the Minneapolis Community College Foundation.
"He loved to engage other people in conversation," she said.
"He loved and was interested in the chronology of people's lives."
In addition to his daughter, Ackerberg is survived by his wife of 33 years, Carolyn; another daughter, Abbey Thorne, of La Quinta, Calif.; and son Alan Ackerberg, of St. Louis Park.
Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409