Robert N. Litherland, born June 3, 1922, died Monday, November 18, 2013, in his home with his wife, daughters, and dog, Maggie, at his side. He was 91.
Bob was a man of his time, founding and running the famous Moorhead Dairy Queen for 46 years, with his life partner Phyllis, his wife of 65 years. The Great Depression shaped him. He was a seven-year-old child, on vacation with his parents in California, when the market crashed, taking with it the family funds. It took the family 3 months to work their way home to Minnesota. That leaves a mark on a child, and he forever understood the value of a dollar, the privilege of working, and the honor of providing for his family. He worked 15 hour days, 7 days a week, 8 months a year until he was seventy-five. Bob was impacted greatly by his service in WWII and the Korean conflict. Dinner conversation was often about guys he served with in the Philippines and Japan - conversation about the relationships with his buddies, never about the horrors of war. It was only later in life, in the sanctuary of the First Congregational Church, that he ever acknowledged the pain of what he'd seen and done.
Just as his business was seasonal, his life was seasonal as well. He was primarily the provider, leaving the parenting to Phyllis. But when grandchildren Ty, Hunter, and Laura arrived, he got a do-over, and relished the role of 'Bumpa.' After retirement, he and Phyllis finally got to socialize as a couple, and greatly enjoyed their Wednesday night dinner club outings.
Work left Bob little time for hobbies, but he did enjoy playing bridge, reading the Forum from cover to cover every day (including the fine print legals), and shopping for a bargain. He was an avid student of history, including work with the Clay County Historical Society, and the stories of the 11th Airborne Division, whose reunions he regularly attended.
Bob loved Moorhead. He grew up in the house that still stands right outside the gates of MSUM on the corner of 7th and 11th. He built the home he shared with Phyllis and daughters Sue, Jan, Teri and Caren, with his own two hands, and got his wish to die there. In one of his last public outings in 2009, he had been invited to a class at Concordia College, where a group of students had done a study of the impact a Dairy Queen has on its local community. After their presentation, Bob (who was recovering from a stroke which left him with a limited ability to speak) rose unsteadily to his feet. He said in slow, but distinct words 'you're too young to know this yet, but Moorhead is a great place to live; it's just a wonderful place to live.'
Preceding him in death were his father, Hobart; mother, Mildred; brother, John; sister, Donna; and lifelong friend, Duane (Betty) Grier. He is survived by his wife, Phyllis; daughters, Susan Litherland, Chicago, IL, Janice (James) Coffelt, Lakewood, CO, Teri (Jerome) Thorsen, Moorhead, and Caren Litherland, New York, NY; and grandchildren, Tyler Thorsen, Minneapolis, Hunter Thorsen, Moorhead, and Laura Coffelt, Lakewood.
The family is grateful to all in the community who enriched Bob's life: his customers, the hundreds of 'Dairy Queen girls,' the great staff of the Fargo V.A. Hospital, Sanford's Cardiac Care Unit, 10th Street neighbors, Carol Abrahamson, the Good Samaritan Society, Hospice of the Red River Valley, Home Instead, and the DeLeon family, who have continued to make the Dairy Queen at Eighth and Main a gathering spot for the community.
Gathering of Friends
NOV 21. 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM (CT)
Korsmo Funeral Chapel
409 8th St. S.
Moorhead, MN 56560
NOV 22. 2:30 PM (CT)
First Congregational-United Church of Christ
406 8th Street South
Moorhead, MN 56560