Link to past gone with Valenty’s death

Robert Valenty, left, in his U.S. Army Air Corps uniform, alongside his brother, Richard Valenty, who served in the Navy during World War II. Both Valenty brothers have now passed on. (Valenty family photo)

He was a former owner of several downtown businesses


There was a time in Forest Lake when the name Valenty was predominant in the downtown business scene. For a long time.

From 1905 until around 1960, the Valenty family figured prominently in the business community, first at Valenty’s Bar and Valenty’s Pool Hall, and later at the Ben Franklin Store.

Now one of the final links to that part of Forest Lake’s history is gone with the death last week of Robert George Valenty. Valenty was 91 when he died on Wednesday, June 13 in Bradenton, FL.

Valenty was one of three children born to A.E. “Tony” and Hulda Valenty. Tony Valenty was among Forest Lake’s early business owners.

With a brother George also involved in the operation, the two ran the pool hall, bar and even fixed watches to help make a living. As a young man, Robert Valenty and a brother, Richard, both found jobs with their father’s business.

Robert Valenty graduated Forest Lake High School in 1938 and worked at his father’s side for several more years before joining the Army Air Corps during World War II. After duty in Texas and in Japan at the war’s end, young Valenty returned to his home town.

For the next 15 years or so, he joined his father, first as an employee and then as business owner following Tony Valenty’s death in 1950. It was also around 1950 when he formed a partnership with the late Jere Noreen to start the Ben Franklin department store in downtown Forest Lake.

Valenty’s business connection to Forest Lake continued until 1960 when he sold his concerns here. He and his wife, Phyllis (Ellerman) pulled stakes and moved to Florida to start a new life.

“He [Robert] was a great guy, lots of fun and just a good guy,” said his sister, Dolores Peterson of Forest Lake. She said her brother enjoyed sports and in particular, football and basketball. During his Army years, Robert Valenty played on a traveling basketball team as part of his duties, his sister said.

Peterson said her brother may have left his business background in his hometown, but he quickly found work of the same kind in Sarasota, FL, where the couple and their family settled.

“He was just a natural bartender and knew how to talk to people,” said his brother-in-law, Jack Peterson.

During his early years in Florida, Valenty purchased a laundromat and also worked as a bartender and bar manager for an Elk’s Club in Sarasota. After moving to Bradenton, he continued to tend bar at a tennis club before retiring, his sister said.

He had joined American Legion Post 225 and VFW Post 4210 in Forest Lake after returning home from World War II. After moving to Florida, he transferred membership to American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 and VFW Post 3233.

He was a member of Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks 1519 of Sarasota and a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

During his retirement years, he was a regular summer visitor to Forest Lake. For many years the couple rented the Vogel cabin which was located on the lake behind Mattson Funeral Home. The cabin was razed along with the Vogel home after that property was sold.

Funeral Details

A funeral Mass was conducted in Florida.

A graveside service is scheduled for 11 a.m., Thursday, June 21 at Calvary Cemetery, Forest Lake, with military honors accorded by American Legion Post 225.

He is survived by his wife of two years, Loretta; children Anthony (Theresa) of Sarasota, FL, Mary Ann (Paul) Douglas of Evergreen, CO, Roberta Jean (David) Neutzling of Brooksville, FL, and Susan Kay (John) Green of Concord, NC; one sister, Dolores (Jack) Peterson of Forest Lake; eight grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.

He was preceded in death by his parents, A.E. “Tony” and Hulda (Engquist) Valenty; his wife of 47 years, Phyllis; and one brother, Richard Valenty.

Memorials may be made to Alzheimer’s research and may be sent in care of Mattson Funeral Home, 343 North Shore Drive, Forest Lake, MN 55025.