Editor’s note: Steve Swanson submitted this story in June. He died Aug. 23 at age 82. His cabin story appears today with the blessing of his family. Asked to provide a short biography of Swanson, his daughter Shelley said he was a man of many hats. “He was a beloved pastor, professor, fisherman, author, poet, car mechanic, fixer-of-all-things (inanimate and human), husband, father, grandfather, friend,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. Later a second e-mail arrived: “We should have included sculptor in his short bio,” Shelley wrote. “He worked in salvaged metal and created many interesting, insect-shaped sculptures. He showed his large collection at the Swedish Institute, Luthernan Brotherhood building in Minneapolis and elsewhere.” Steve Swanson’s full obituary published in last Sunday’s Star Tribune and can be found online here.


My great-uncle Myron, certainly the most unpractical person in our family, built one of the first cabins on Isle Bay. It didn’t include lakeshore. When lakeshore owners built in front of his property, he couldn’t even see Lake Mille Lacs.

Uncle Myron also owned 40 acres with lakeshore and sand beach at the north end of Isle Bay. The impractical rest of us didn’t value it. It went for taxes and is now part of Father Hennepin State Park.

My Grandpa Olney also built a cabin on Isle Bay. He owned lots of lakeshore. To escape polio in pre-war Minneapolis, I spent pre-Salk summers there with my mother and Aunt Marion. Dad and Uncle Milt came on weekends. I took high school friends there, and years later it was honeymoon hideaway.

Cabins were in my blood. After I married and had children, my wife, Judy, and I borrowed a cabin on the Oregon coast, rented one on the Gulf of Mexico while I taught in Texas, then bought one in Alberta, Canada, when I taught there.

Back in Minnesota, we borrowed a cabin first, then were given a pair of cabins on leased land north of Grand Rapids. Knowing the lease would run out and the land would return to the Chippewa National Forest, we bought our own place on one of Minnesota’s many Johnson lakes, between Marcell and Big Fork, Minn. Our kids love it, our grandkids love it, and I hope it stays in the family forever.

Steve Swanson, Northfield