Louis Lester Seim, 93, passed away Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, from an age-related illness after a very brief stay in the Aase Haugen Nursing Home. Funeral services are at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah. Burial is in Phelps Cemetery in Decorah with military honors. Visitation is 12:30-2 p.m. Saturday, prior to the service at Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah. A small luncheon will be served, after the burial, at Fjelstul Funeral Home.
Lester (or Louie as many of his friends called him) was born Jan. 29, 1920, in Decorah. He was the oldest son of Helge and Florence (Nelson) Seim who had nine children. Lester graduated from Decorah High School in 1938, and worked in a local meat market with his father in Decorah until he enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, Dec. 8, 1941. After completing basic training in Chicago, Lester joined the 5th Fleet Air Wing in the South Atlantic as a first class chief flight engineer based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He served in that position for the remainder of the war. His primary job was maintaining PBM and PBY aircraft engines and controls for the 5th squadron. Lester flew many missions in the South Atlantic hunting German submarines (the Nazi Wolf Pack). The Germans were seeking rubber from South America for their military planes and vehicles. He had a lot of interesting stories about WWII and loved to share them with others.
Lester married Frances Jane Taylor (also of Decorah/daughter of Clyde and Margaret Taylor) Feb. 8, 1945. After the war, Lester and Frances started a mink ranch on the Clyde Taylor property (909 Pleasant Avenue, Decorah). During this time a daughter, Shelley Ann, was born. In 1954, Les and Frances bought a small farm just outside of Decorah on Twin Springs Road. There, Lester expanded his mink operation and began specializing in Autumn Hayes mink. He topped the world market for quality and color of fur from 1964 to 1970, when he sold his breeding stock and retired from the mink business.
In 1971, he started a cash and carry hardwood lumber business specializing in butternut, walnut, cherry, oak, elm, ash and hickory. He also loved woodworking in fine hardwood lumber, particularly burl and crotch grain walnut. Frances opened a gift shop on the place (The Walnut Cottage) to sell his bowls, mirrors, tables and lamps. Les was still selling lumber in 2010 at the ripe old age of 90. Les firmly believed that the secret to not getting old was to keep moving and stay interested in something that required some physical and mental activity, which he did on a daily basis.
Lester loved fishing since he was a boy and enjoyed many fishing hobbies such as collecting handmade bamboo poles/rods and collecting antique fishing lures. He also loved animals of all kinds and really enjoyed living in the country where he had access to the native wildlife. He also loved dogs and cats and even had an old paint horse that lived to be 40 years old in his care.
Lester was a 50-year member of the Elks club and was very active in his and Frances' high school class reunions. They hosted 17 class reunions (class of 1938 and 1942) on their place. Les and Frances also loved to dance and frequented the many local ballrooms during the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s. He also was a member of PAWS for the last eight years (now the NE Iowa Humane Society). Lester also was a passionate reader and loved studying Shakespeare, Hugo, Dickens, Burns, Melville, Shaw, Twain, Emerson and Thoreau, as well as Lincoln's speeches and writings. He often read poetry by Byron, Keats, Shelley, Whitman and Longfellow. His greatest wish in life was to be his own person, keep his own counsel and follow his own path - which, if you knew him - he did passionately.
Lester was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Frances, April 22, 2005; and seven siblings: Lucille Ramus, Helen Finholt, Ruth Aakre, Frances Headington, James, Robert and Charles.
He is survived by his daughter, Shelley Seim Cassady and her husband, Tim of Hamilton, Ohio; his grandson, Ryan Louis Seim Cassady of Hamilton, Ohio; his youngest brother, Larry (Arlyne) Seim of Decorah; and eight nieces and nephews
In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to the Northeast Iowa Humane Society. Online condolences may be made at fjelstul.com.