MARSHALL - Just days after the region lost one of its current senators, a former one, Gary DeCramer, died.
DeCramer died Wednesday morning after reportedly collapsing on a trip to Morris.
He was 67.
DeCramer was born in Marshall and later made his home in Ghent.
DeCramer, the last DFLer to represent the city of Marshall in the Legislature, served in Senate District 27 from 1983-92. District 27 covered Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, and Rock counties. He served on the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Rural Development, from 1997-2001.
"He was very eager to learn," said current Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman, a District 27A representative when DeCramer was a senator. "He was a very smart man and certainly was an activist. He wanted things to get done and was very effective as a senator. He was certainly well-respected. It was certainly a shock to hear of his passing."
Recently-retired Sen. Dennis Frederickson served in District 21 and had interests in common with DeCramer.
The two served together for 10 years and Frederickson remembers DeCramer as someone who was always engaged and emphatic about causes that affected his constituents in rural Minnesota.
"He was very involved in ag and natural resources, but was also very involved in education and transportation," Frederickson said.
DeCramer was the Senate author of the original bill that formed the Board of Water and Soil Resources, which was a combination of smaller councils and boards that merged to form what is now known as the BOWSER Board - the state organization for the soil and water conservation district.
"I remember when Gary presented the bill on the Senate floor, he paused for a moment and looked at the first letter of the words that formed the board and said, 'Oh no, BOWSER; he was thinking of the cartoon dog Bowser," Frederickson said. "He wasn't very happy with the acronym, but that board displays some of Gary's good work."
In 1981, DeCramer ran as the DFL party candidate for the Minnesota Senate in a special election and lost to Randy Kamrath.
From July 1991-February 1992, DeCramer served as interim president of Southwest State University (now Southwest Minnesota State University).
He has been a director for the Master of Public Affairs Program and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs since 2002.
DeCramer's focus in the Legislature was on agriculture, soil, water and wildlife conservation, and education. Throughout his political career, DeCramer served on a number of agriculture and resources, transportation, and veterans committees. He was chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee during the 1991-1992 legislative session.
Both Ludeman and Frederickson credit DeCramer for pushing rural issues during his time as senator.
"A lot of folks don't know there's much Minnesota west of Chaska, but he certainly reminded them of that," said Ludeman. "He used his small-town residency as a good example for what life was like in rural Minnesota and what his constituents' expectations of government was. He was very conscious of what the rural constituents needed."
"Gary was very much a spokesman for rural Minnesota," Frederickson said. "He worked with all of us from rural Minnesota. We worked together and collaborated for rural Minnesota because just by sheer numbers we were usually outnumbered. But by working together we were able to achieve some things we wanted to."
One of those, Frederickson said, was a bill that eventually got the Welner-Hageman dam built on Mound Creek in western Brown County. The dam now provides flood control and recreation, Frederickson said. That area is now the location of the Brown County Park.
Funeral services for DeCramer are pending.