Retired Superintendent Bernie Bartel dies at age 90

He worked in School District 831 from 1973 to 1982

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

Bernie Bartel, the man who presided over Forest Lake Area Schools for nearly a decade, has died. Bartel turned 90 on the day of his death, Friday, April 27.

Dr. Bernhard W. Bartel

Bartel died in Winter Haven, FL, where he had made his home since retiring as Forest Lake’s superintendent of schools in 1982.

In all, Bartel was superintendent here from 1973 until 1982 when he capped a 35-year career in public education in Minnesota. A Naval veteran from World War II, Bartel also served as superintendent of schools in Mahtomedi from 1970 to 1973.

Bartel was at the helm of the Forest Lake system during good times and not so good times.

In the fall of 1981, teachers in the Forest Lake district went on strike for the first and only time as the school board and teachers’ union failed to reach a contract settlement.

It was also under Bartel’s administration when the school board became tangled in a film curriculum challenge that led to the film version of the short story, “The Lottery,” and a companion film being banned by the school board.

Citizens of the district took the board to court and the film banning eventually was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis, MO.

But Bartel was also in charge during better times. It was under his leadership that community support was marshalled for new school facilities.

His administration was successful in the passage of a bond issue to remodel old Central Junior High School and to construct a swimming pool at Southwest Junior High School. District voters had earlier approved building bonds of more than $4 million for the two major projects.

The district pool continues to fill a vital community recreational outlet and the remodeled junior high school served the growing district for nearly two decades. It became the Central Learning Center in 2000 with the opening of Century Junior High School.

Columbus Elementary School was also built during his tenure and Lino Lakes Elementary underwent a major expansion effort, as well.

He remained active in education during his early retirement years in Florida. He served as a volunteer math tutor at Winter Haven High School, logging well over 1000 hours of time helping students.

Bartel’s links to Forest Lake also remained strong. When the Forest Lake High School Ranger Marching Band traveled to Miami to march in a Lions International Convention parade, Bartel went before the Polk County School Board on behalf of the band and was successful in securing the use of a gymnasium at no charge for overnight lodging for the Forest Lake students.

Bartel History

Bernhard W. Bartel was born in Goodhue County on April 27, 1922 to Josephine (Hennings) and Henry Bartel. He was raised in the community of Goodhue, graduating high school there in 1940.

Following high school, he enrolled at Winona State University where he graduated in 1946.

In 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer (ensign), serving with amphibious forces. He served aboard the U.S.S. Starlight, an auxiliary transport and troop carrier. During the Pacific theater campaign, it was part of the amphibious assault on Guam and the  Mariana Islands, and later took part in the retaking of the Philippines.

Following the end of his military service in 1945, he was a math and science teacher and coach at high schools in Royalton, Lake City and Minnesota Lake. He was the first football coach and started the programs at both Royalton and Minnesota Lake.

He also worked as a junior high and senior high principal in Minnesota Lake and West St. Paul.

He returned to college at the University of Minnesota where he earned a master’s degree in 1955, a specialist degree in 1966 and a doctorate of education in 1970.

He landed his first superintendency in 1970 and remained at Mahtomedi until 1973 when he accepted the call to work in Forest Lake.

During his decade in Forest Lake, Bartel was actively involved with the Forest Lake Lions Club, the Chamber of Commerce and Faith Lutheran Church.

Family Notes

Bartel was married three times.

His first marriage was to Dardenelle Buck. They were married on Jan. 26, 1944 in Goodhue. They were the parents of one son, Dr. Bradley Bartel, also of Winter Haven, FL. Dardenelle Bartel died July 26, 1989.

Together they operated a restaurant in Red Wing for one year before Bartel returned to his chosen field, education.

He was married to Bernadine McCardle from 1990 to 1999 and to Leona McMaster from 2000 until her death in 2002.

A funeral service for Dr. Bernhard W. Bartel will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 5 with family visitation from 9:30-11 at St. Luke Lutheran Church, Goodhue, with Pastor Keith Homstad officiating.

Interment with full military honors is planned for 2 p.m. at Oakwood Cemetery, Red Wing.

He is survived by his son, Dr. Bradley (Susan) Bartel; two grandsons, Bradley Bartel and John Michael Bartel; one brother, Henry (Ardi) Bartel, Rochester; sisters-in-law, Shirley Bartel, Roseville, LaVonne (Jim) Olson, Hastings, and Marcy Buck, Goodhue; one brother-in-law, Calvin (Jeanette) Buck, Minong, WI; and several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents; wives Dandenelle and Leona; one sister, Gladys Chamberland; one brother, Fritz Bartel; and one nephew, Gary Bartel.

Memorials are preferred to the Alzheimer’s Foundation or Grace Lutheran Church in Winter Haven, FL.

Arrangements were by Lundberg Funeral Home in Cannon Falls. On-line condolences may be directed to

Cards and memorials to the family may be sent in care of Lundberg Funeral Home, 5839 Highway 19 Blvd., Cannon Falls, MN 55009.