Robert Mennen was at rest in his casket under a white tent on the family farm in Truman, the southern Minnesota town he called home from his birth at the height of World War II to his death amid today’s world war with a virus.
One of Mennen’s cherished tractors was parked at the end of the drive — fluttering American flag attached — marking where mourners were to arrive on that early autumn day.
The drive-through visitation, a reluctant nod but no surrender to the highly infectious coronavirus, drew one vehicle after another. And another. And another.
“We lost count when it got to over 150 cars,” said daughter Robynn Buhmann of Fairmont. “They stayed in their cars. No chairs, no tables. Everybody was given a program as they pulled into the driveway.”
Mennen, an Army enlistee during the Vietnam War and Purple Heart recipient whose devotion to his family and farming won him admiration throughout the Truman community, died on Sept. 27 of COVID-19. He was 77.
The family rolled out for display at the visitation six tractors he had collected from attending auctions.
“He went to every auction every time,” said Dianne Mennen, his wife of 50 years. “It was kind of disappointing when we couldn’t have auctions this year [out of coronavirus concerns].”
Going online to look for tractors was not for him, she said.
“He wasn’t a computer guy,” his wife said. “He liked to see and touch, and visit with everybody.”
Other than his age and having what his wife called a slight case of diabetes, Dianne Mennen never saw her husband as especially susceptible to the coronavirus.
“He was very healthy, and we didn’t go anywhere but for groceries,” she said. “We were careful. He was not going to be one of those statistics.”
Up until a few days before her husband’s death, she recalled, he was splitting wood on their 10 acres.
But Robert Mennen was soon overcome by fatigue on the last Sunday in September. He went to a hospital emergency room in nearby Fairmont, where he “went down from there” and died that same day, she said.
Four days later, Mennen’s casket sat in the open air on the prairie. His military uniform hung nearby.
“It was a gorgeous fall day,” Buhmann said. “He left the farm right at sunset.”
Along with his wife and daughter, he is survived by son Randy Mennen of Fairmont, brother Richard “Punky” Mennen of Truman and three grandchildren. Services have been held.