Kathleen Pengelly still remembers with vivid detail the night she met the man who would become her husband.
It was Feb. 21, 1967, and there was a sock-hop dance at the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Memorial Union. Scott Pengelly had plans to go, along with a friend and his date, but Scott’s date got sick, so Kathleen took her place.
“When he came to the door, I thought, ‘Wow, that guy is really good-looking!’ ” said Kathleen. “It’s pretty embarrassing, but I loved him right away.”
About 50 years later, Scott Pengelly — a photographer, newspaper editor and former Marine who enjoyed a long career with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources — died on Dec. 29. He was 69.
Friends and family remember him as a loving husband, father and grandfather who was passionate about telling stories, engaging his community and outdoor adventuring.
“He just was absolutely the best,” said Kathleen.
As a young man, Pengelly dreamed of working for a newspaper, and in college he majored in photojournalism. But his life took an unexpected turn when his father died and he could no longer afford tuition, and as a consequence he was drafted into the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.
He trained as an ammunitions technician, but he never went overseas. Instead, he got a job working for legal affairs at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California.
After finishing his service, Pengelly moved back to Minnesota to complete school. On Feb. 21, 1973 — the anniversary of that fateful sock hop — he proposed in romantic fashion to Kathleen by hiding an engagement ring inside a dessert. The two got married and eventually settled in Hastings, where he got a job as a photographer for the Hastings Star Gazette. He went on to serve as editor of the paper from 1981-1989.
Pengelly endeavored to make the Star Gazette a watchdog for the community he loved, and he swapped the who-had-tea-with-whom droning for serious stories, sending reporters to every level of municipal meeting, from the City Council to the Heritage Preservation Commission.
He imparted upon his staff the immense responsibility they held as community journalists, recalled Doug Schultz, who worked with him at the paper and remained friends with him later in life. “There was a general feeling that that was the role of journalism — to make communities better.”
Pengelly later took a job in the communications department of the DNR — his “dream job,” remembered Kathleen — blending his love for the outdoors with his admiration for the media.
He adored the Minnesota wilderness, and revered the mission of the DNR to conserve and help citizens enjoy it.
“He believed in that every day he came to work,” said his former boss, DNR Communications Director Chris Niskanen.
Pengelly loved his job so much that he worked at the DNR tent at the State Fair even after retiring in February 2015. When he wasn’t working, he enjoyed spending time at his cabin, where he’d swim and play games with his children and grandchildren.
He embraced the outdoors up until his final moments. In December, Pengelly was skiing with his family at Lutsen’s Moose Mountain and he texted Kathleen he’d be down to play with their grandson after a couple more runs. But he would never make it down — instead he suffered a heart attack on the mountain.
“He was just extremely playful,” recalled Kathleen about her husband’s legacy. “He wanted everyone to just enjoy life and live in the moment.”
Pengelly is survived by wife Kathleen, his two children, four grandchildren, two sisters and a brother. A memorial service has been held.