Neil Ardell Ofsthun journeyed to our Lord on July 1, 2021 in Bluffton, South Carolina after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Neil was born in North Dakota on November 27, 1930 to Eugene and Verdell Ofsthun. Brother Charles was not far behind, only thirteen months. The brothers grew up in Robinsdale, MInnesota a suburb of Minneapolis. Times were hard in the thirties and Neil worked odd jobs even as youngster, pulling weeds and other chores on a farm for as little as 11 cents/hour. Neil graduated from Robinsdale High School in 1948, from the University of MInnesota in 1952; further attaining a graduate degree in 1954.
Sports and recreation captured his passion early in life and ultimately dominated his path. Well accomplished in sports in general, Neil won the state wrestling championship as a junior but achieved greatness in boxing, winning the Golden Gloves in high school and two NCAA championships in 1951 and 1952 for the Golden Gophers. It was there at school that he met the love of his life, Sigrid Carlsen, who captured his heart with her beauty, wit, and jocularity. Hurricane Sig had an uppercut and a hook that flattened him. They were married by 1954.
Following college, the hometown hero enlisted in the army, eventually landing in Atsugi, Japan on the US Naval Base, where he was the recreation director, coaching the basketball, football, and baseball teams respectively. He also initiated many arts and crafts programs. An accomplished golfer, Neil tied the course record of 67 in 1960.
Returning stateside as a civilian, Neil only 30, became the Director of Recreation for Rockville, MD. Under his leadership, dozens of parks, pools, and golf courses covered the landscape of a young prospering All-American city and numerous recreation and arts programs were formed for the young and old alike. One innovation he instituted was the Red-Green Rule, which assured all kids would get playing time in little league football games. The second quarter was elongated and designated for the Green team or second string, which was usually comprised of the youngest and/or less athletic kids. In the 70’s, Neil became the recreation/park director for Montgomery County, which encompassed Rockville. In 1981, he moved to the west coast, bringing his passion and innovation, as the Director of the Park District of Tacoma, WA. Under his leadership, the District twice won the prestigious Gold Medal from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) awarded to only one recreation department a year. In 1995, he was recognized for leading such an accomplished program, earning the Meritorious Service Professional Award from the NRPA, which is awarded annually to only one park professional.
Retirement landed Sigrid and Neil to the low country of Hilton Head, South Carolina. Hard to imagine a better spot than on a golf course. Sigrid’s only competition for Neil’s heart was golf, which was a lifelong obsession. Throughout his twenties he was essentially a scratch golfer. He won many tournaments and even had a hole in one on two different outings. On a course in California, Neil’s first shot found water, but his second drive went right into the hole - a hole in one to save par.
His ambition and drive naturally made him a great provider and father. He coached his sons’ football teams when they were ages 9-11, netting several championships and a couple of runner-ups. Neil taught his children to defend themselves with basics in boxing and wrestling as well as other recreational activities. He enjoyed telling amusing anecdotal stories of his life’s adventures, dancing, playing cards, reading, and watching sports.
Neil is survived by wife Sigrid, 88; son Neil, 62, and his life partner Callie Fay Fowler; 60; his son Tor, 58, and his wife Jennifer, 60; daughter Britt, 51, and her husband Doug Whitton; grandchildren Kara Frey, 26, Ian, 22, and Brook, 15. He is also survived by his brother, Charles, 89, and his wife Carol and many cousins, nephews, and nieces.
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