When Roy Huddle wasn’t on the lake teaching people to water ski, he was driving a golf cart through his northern Minnesota resort announcing Sunday night bingo, Tuesday night singalongs, Wednesday night dances and everything from turtle races to fishing contests and bonfires.
“Roy was best described in probably one word, and that was relationships,” said his son-in-law, Mike McGee of Maple Grove. “Everything he did was meeting the needs of others and putting them before himself. He treated guests, when they arrived, like they had come home.”
Huddle, 78, of Whipholt, Minn., longtime co-owner of Huddle’s Resort on Leech Lake, died Dec. 3 from complications of bladder cancer.
Known for his hospitality, Huddle and his wife, Kay, developed the resort into a northwoods destination where everybody knew his name. He made coffee for his guests and over the years taught about 6,000 people how to water ski, towing them behind his boat five days a week.
Kids called him “Grandpa Roy,” friends called him “Uncle Roy” and generations of families booked cottages at the resort summer after summer because he made the lake experience fun for everyone, McGee said.
Huddle’s Resort, halfway between Duluth and Fargo on Hwy. 200, opened in 1928. Roy Huddle took over the operation from his parents 30 years later, and he and Kay became the principal owners.
They maintained a 1970s ambience at the resort, McGee said, knowing that what brought their guests back time and again was old-fashioned fun and personal touches.
On the Fourth of July he organized “the biggest little parade in Minnesota,” a Huddle’s Resort tradition. The resort was a gathering place for people around nearby Whipholt, McGee said: “Huddle’s has been like the general store in a small town. ... There’s a lot of angst and sadness that could come to an end as well.”
Closing the resort won’t happen anytime soon, if at all, said Kay Huddle, who plans to continue operating it and the family-owned bar and restaurant on the grounds. Loyal guests will return next summer because of established traditions, she said.
“They like the old feel. It’s one place they can come and nothing changes,” she said. “Roy said there was never a customer he didn’t want back. He really loved everybody, truly. So patient, kind.”
More than 400 people attended his funeral and another 400 came for the visitation, she said.
People commenting on his death, in an online guest book, wrote of his generosity and personable nature. One woman said she wanted to work for him in heaven. Another recalled “the big grin he had while pulling the resort kids for hours on end” as he taught them to water ski.
One man remembered how, as a boy, he came to the resort looking for friends and Huddle paid him in rolls of quarters for small jobs. “The nicest person I have known,” wrote another.
McGee described his father-in-law as “a fixture in northern Minnesota,” a man who had planned to become an engineer until his father was injured in an accident. With that, he plunged into the resort business and never looked back.
“He was very respected in the community and he would do anything for anyone,” Kay Huddle said.
Besides his wife, Huddle is survived by daughters Tammy McGee and Kim Hanson, both of Maple Grove, and Tracy Perlich of Chaska; stepdaughter Kim Krause of Odebolt, Iowa, and stepson Kelly Clark, of Lakeville. He also is survived by 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.