A helping hand at city hall

Longtime deputy clerk Theresa Stark passes away at 85


Cliff Buchan
Staff Writer

For many years in Forest Lake, the staff that ran the local government consisted of three people. The jobs included a village administrator, clerk and deputy clerk.

Theresa Stark filled the deputy clerk’s slot for 36 years. For many years she worked alongside Bob Houle, the administrator, and Merton Houle, the clerk. It was a time when village workers performed any and all tasks that needed to be done.

Stark, who retired in 1992 to allow new and younger blood to help run the growing city, has died. Stark, a lifelong Forest Lake resident was 85 when she died on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at Birchwood Health Care Center in Forest Lake.

Stark was remembered this week as a woman who took pride in her work and never shied away from taking on new duties on behalf of the local citizens who paid her salary.

“Everyone pitched in and did everything at city hall,” said Henry Houle, who served on the city council in the late 1970s and worked with Stark. “She was as steady as could be.”

Houle, a member of the Forest Lake High School class of 1945, was two years ahead of Stark in high school, but knew the family well. The Stark family had moved to Forest Lake in the 1920s.

Gary Moen, another former city council member and lifelong Forest Lake resident, described Stark “as a real asset” to the city.

“I’ve known Theresa my whole life,” said Moen, a 1958 Forest Lake High School graduate. “She was a very hard worker – always looking for something extra to do.”

Moen recalled that Stark went to work for the then village in the 1950s when the Forest Theatre Building on N. Lake Street served as the village office. Stark was hired in 1956 to fill in for Ray Holl, the clerk, who was ill. When Holl returned to work, Stark stayed on and never left.

She retired in 1992 after 36 years of public employment.

Stark continued to live in her home on NW 3rd Street where she spent most of her entire life. The Stark family settled in the two-story home upon their arrival in Forest Lake shortly before Stark was born.

A stroke in April of 2011 forced her to seek care at Birchwood Health Care Center.

Stark spent nearly 50 years working in the private and public sectors in her hometown. Prior to her high school graduation in 1945, she worked part-time to help earn money for her family.

Before to going to work for the then village, Stark held down bookkepping jobs for George Landgraver Sand and Gravel and Baltes Motors.

A Great Neighbor

Carrol and Richard Oase were Stark’s neighbors for the past 40 years. Carrol and Theresa became fast friends. In latter years as Stark aged, Carrol Oase became her caretaker.

The Stark and Oase homes shared a backyard border and family mixing became common. The three Oase children would often congregate at the Stark home.

“When they were running away from home, they’d go to Theresa’s,” Carrol said. “She was really good to our kids.”

When Stark was forced to move to Birchwood, Carrol watched over her home and helped with her day-to-day matters.

“She was one of the best friends a person could have,” Carrol said.

The Stark home was dotted with flowerbeds and numerous window boxes filled with colorful flowers. “She loved her flowers,” Carrol Oase said.

Funeral Details

Theresa Mae Stark was born in Forest Lake on July 27, 1927. A funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 6 at the Forest Lake Christian Church, 420 W. Broadway Ave. Visitation is from 10-11 a.m. at the church on Saturday.

She will be interred at Cedar Hill Cemetery, Forest Lake.

She is survived by one sister, Marilyn (Leo) Weix; one sister-in-law, Karen Stark; many nieces and nephews; other extended family members and close friends Carrol and Richard Oase.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Carl and Millie (Willliams) Stark, and two brothers, Ed Stark and David Stark.

Memorials are preferred to Northwoods Humane Socity, Wyoming, or to the donor’s choice. Cards and memorials may be sent to the family in care of Mattson Funeral Home, 343 North Shore Drive, Forest Lake, MN 55025.