Paul Anthony Skarstad, 52, of Moorhead, MN, formerly Montevideo, MN, passed away Tuesday, September 26, 2023, in his home.
Paul Anthony Skarstad was born April 9, 1971, in Fargo, North Dakota. He grew up in Vergas, Pelican Rapids, and Montevideo, MN. He attended school, Kindergarten through high school in Montevideo graduating in 1989. In middle and high school, Paul played tuba in the concert and marching band. He entered competitions and scored highly superior with a tuba solo. He also sang in Carpenter’s Tools with Youth for Christ in Willmar, MN.
Paul enjoyed attending college and studied several subjects including computer science, travel, and music. He sang in a men’s choir at Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) while majoring in the music industry. He also sang in church choirs, volunteered in sound production, and made coffee for adult small groups. He was especially proud of his volunteer position at Hjemkomst Center, a museum in Moorhead, that featured a Viking ship and Stave Church, both a part of his Norwegian heritage.
Optimism was Paul’s hallmark. He always held on to dreams despite facing steep odds after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Friends called him gentle. Family called him brave. He never gave up on life and had an affinity to create jokes that he called “one liners.”
From the time he was a toddler, Paul loved to cook. He was an early riser and was often heard in the kitchen before anyone was out of bed. One morning when he was four years old, his mom found him standing on a chair by the stove with a full stick of butter in a pan and eggs ready to be cracked (one of which was already cracked on the carpeted kitchen floor—yes, carpeted kitchen—it was the 70s). Prior to that, his most memorable breakfast escapade was as a toddler. He pushed a chair to the counter, filled a bowl with cereal, but struggled with the large milk container. Milk was streaming everywhere by the time he was discovered. His parents had to wake up early to catch him before he started cooking!
Through the years, Paul enjoyed creating the menu for holiday visits with family and developed an affinity for making Chinese food. He “employed” everyone in some form—often involving a myriad of wonton wrappers. He also spiced up food in new ways and knew the ins and outs of the hottest sauces at Buffalo Wild Wings. In more recent years, he was able to cook again with his sister at his group home in Moorhead. Even though he could no longer stand or even sit in a wheelchair to cook, he created a takeout menu from favorite restaurants to be enjoyed with family during the upcoming Christmas visit.
Roller coasters were a passion from Paul’s youth until he could no longer physically ride them. He designed roller coasters on a computer program that tested the designs virtually. Paul was a master! He excelled at anything computerized. He was once stuck at the top of a coaster for over an hour with his mother and still wanted to ride again! Mother? Not so much. He especially enjoyed Disney World and Epcot Center. The last trip he planned and fulfilled was to Disney World and Universal Studios.
Paul found joy in watching football and was a staunch Minnesota Vikings fan. Even though his television was usually tuned into the TV show Friends, when the Vikings were playing, it preceded everything. He also watched other sporting seasons, but nothing held a candle to the Minnesota Vikings. Skol!
“When I get healthy…” is how Paul always prefaced his dreams or goals. He wanted to be able to walk and drive again so he could start being trained in Krav Maga. He dreamed of being able to have his own apartment, and his huge dream was to live on a small farm site much like the one outside of Montevideo in the 80s.
Montevideo was the place where Paul’s musical interests flourished. Even before he was in school, he impressed one of the band teachers when his mother took him to the band room to see the instruments. Lowell Hanson, then the Middle School Band Director, was amazed when Paul chattered about distinctive instruments—not just “drums” but “kettle drums”—and used big words like sousaphone (thanks to children’s author, Richard Scarry). Mr. Hanson transitioned to High School Band Director in time to continue guiding Paul through years of performances and competitions with high scores.
The family thanks the Hanson family for their musical influence. The late Georgia Hanson taught him how to play piano and said he had the right touch for jazz. Lowell Hanson took Paul under his musical wing and encouraged all things music and tuba (AND sousaphone). One of Paul’s dream jobs—he had a list —was being a tuba player in the Star Wars orchestra.
A line from Paul’s maternal grandmother’s poem reflects his early musical interests and possibly what he is doing right now:
Tisha and Tammy and Timmy and Paul
Sing like the angels above.
—Amalia “Mollie” Evans Nielsen
Paul’s journey on earth has been difficult, but he lived it with hope. He had a strong will to live and faced challenges without complaining. The family is thankful that he now knows a new heavenly reality without limitations and are especially grateful that they experienced life with him here for 52 years.
Paul Anthony Skarstad is survived by his mother, Kirsten Skarstad Limpert; his step-father, Byrne Limpert; his sister, Ingrid Skarstad Williams; his nephew, Jeremy Williams; his niece, Madison Shea Williams Harper and her husband Tyler; his aunts and uncles, Sharon Skarstad Anderson, Gordon Christensen, Gayle and Debbie Skarstad, Rose Dietz, Jim Kaseman, LeRoy and Phyllis Nielsen, and Lyndon and Janet Nielsen; plus many cousins. His father, Norman Skarstad, preceded him in death as well as his uncles, Cam Skarstad, Rodney Anderson, and Melvyn Dietz; and his aunts, Barbara Christensen, and Kathleen Nielsen Kaseman.
An informal gathering of family and friends will be held Saturday, November 25, 2023, in Tulsa, OK (time and place to be determined).
The family has chosen to formally celebrate Paul’s life on his favorite day of the year - his birthday. A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Moorhead at Korsmo Funeral and Cremation Service. There will be an informal gathering at 5:30 PM and the Celebration of Paul’s Life will begin at 6:30 PM.
Interment will be held at Hjerdahl Lutheran Cemetery in Voltaire, ND, on April 10, 2024 (time to be determined).
Paul’s family invites everyone who knew him to share memories, pictures, or both by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Korsmo Funeral and Cremation Service, Moorhead, MN)