George Farr had a gift for performing and carried it with him throughout a diverse life that included teaching, heading the state DFL Party during the tumultuous 1960s, working as a stock brokerage manager and writing and acting in local theaters.
Farr, a native of New York state who grew up in New Jersey, died in Bloomington on Feb. 16. He was 93.
“He had an extremely positive outlook on life in absolutely all respects,” said his daughter, Pat Boehland of White Bear Lake. “He was very, very easy to like.”
Farr’s introduction to Minnesota came during World War II, when he volunteered for the draft and arrived in Moorhead for pilot training by the U.S. Army Air Corps. There he met his future wife, Pat, whom he married in 1945.
After the war he returned to Moorhead, earned a degree and spent the next five years teaching English and coaching athletics in Comstock. He became an assistant coach at Moorhead College and developed an interest in community affairs and politics. In 1955, he met Hubert Humphrey at a farm conference and helped to form the Moorhead DFL Club.
“He was good at what he did and he organized well,” said Norm Sherman, former aide to Humphrey and other DFL politicians who knew Farr early in his political career. “People always felt that George would give them the time of day and listen to them, and he never had any pretensions. He was a very relaxed human being.”
Farr moved to Bloomington in 1956 to work for DFL state Chair Ray Hemenway and the next year ran unsuccessfully for state auditor.
Farr then worked as executive secretary — now called chief of staff — for former Gov. Orville Freeman but chose to remain in Minnesota when Freeman became U.S. secretary of agriculture in the Kennedy administration. Farr got to know DFL leaders throughout the state and was elected DFL state chair, an office he held from 1961 to 1967.
It was a period of political and social turmoil that included the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and plenty of DFL infighting, including bitter divisions between those who supported Hubert Humphrey for president in 1968 and those who favored Eugene McCarthy.
“There was blood all over the floor,” said former Star Tribune Managing Editor Frank Wright, who covered politics at the time and became a close friend to Farr decades later after both men retired. “He worked very hard at making sure that everybody had a chance to have their say and then let the chips fall where they might.”
Farr also had a sense of humor spiked with irreverence and a streak of creativity that never waned. He made cartoons, stickers, buttons and slogans about political candidates and issues. He received many local and national awards from the VA Creative Arts Festival for his performances and writings.
Farr organized a monthly luncheon called the Hemenway Forum that featured DFL and occasionally Republican leaders, said Hank Fischer, who got to know Farr mostly in his later years. The forum lasted from the 1980s until 2015, when it was renamed the DFL Forum.
He served terms as president of the Playwrights’ Center and on the Guthrie Theater board and performed in more than 50 plays in local theaters.
Farr and his wife, Pat, who died in 2010, had been married for 64 years.
In addition to his daughter, Farr is survived by sons Bruce of Coon Rapids and Scott of La Jolla, Calif.; four grandsons; one great-grandson; and close friend and companion Lorna Jones.
A celebration of life will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, with a special remembrance at 2:30 p.m. at Autumn Woods Apartments Community Room, 2600 Kenzie Terrace in St. Anthony.