From old car devotee to Zauer Kraut bandleader, Dvergsten led with humor

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The community is remembering John Dvergsten, the colorful civic leader who passed away Sunday on his 93rd birthday. A memorial service will be held today at 2 p.m. at Lakeside Presbyterian Church.

"John was irresistable and filled with boundless energy, and you never left a conversation with him without wearing a goofy smile," Pilot-Tribune Editor Dana Larsen says. "Whether it was a Norwegian joke or a story about backing a Model T Ford home when parts gave out, his offbeat humor paved the way for never-failing promotion of the things he cared most about - his community, family values, citizenship and patriotism. He simply loved people, and they loved him back."

For over 50 years, Dvergsten had a hand in almost every important effort and advancement in his community.

John was a chairperson for the original Storm Lake "Save the Lake" campaign and dredging in 1959, and served as president of the Chamber of Commerce, often recruiting new business with his lavish promotion of Storm Lake as "the place to be." He worked with the Storm Lake Industrial Corporation's efforts for economic development, promoted the early versions of Santa's Castle, and was a well-known booster of Buena Vista University, chairing its 75th anniversary celebration. He was also a longtime trustee of Buena Vista Regional Medical Center and served as president of the board. He and wife Borghild were mainstays of the business community for decades as they operated the Women's Shop downtown, and John also served as a member of the board for Citizens First National Bank.

Dvergsten was known as much for his love of fun as his hard work. He served as charter member, president and tireless promoter for the local antique car restoration group SERPACI - amassing an impressive collection of unusual cars and even more unusual stories. The club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008.

He formed and performed on clarinet in the campy but not untalented Zauer Krout Band, entertaining in countless parades and events, including centennials for Storm Lake, Alta, Aurelia, Fonda and Albert City, as well as the farewell concert when the final passenger train rolled out of Storm Lake in 1971. Known as "Professor Ludwig" when is his band uniform, Dvergsten quipped that, "we were pretty lousy, but at least we were loud."

The couple were avid travelers after retirement, with John playing in the Airstream Band, part of a national association of travel-trainer enthusiasts.

He was active in local Kiwanis activities for over 50 years.

A veteran of the final days of the mounted horse cavalry, he went on to take part in campaigns on several European fronts during World War II, and later retired from the Army Reserves with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

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