Duluth attorney and DFLer Harry Munger passed away peacefully in his home in Port Charlotte, FL on Saturday, April 28, 2018, where he was living with his loving partner, Pauline Liston.
The youngest of five children, Harry was born in Fergus Falls on October 29, 1927, attended Fergus Falls schools, moved to Duluth at the beginning of WW II, and lived on Raleigh Street. A child of poverty and the Great Depression, Harry valued education and graduated from Denfeld in 1945.
After serving two years in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a weatherman, Harry was determined to go to college. Law school intrigued him. Harry enrolled in the University of Minnesota where he met his longtime partner and close friend, A. Blake MacDonald. But even using the GI Bill, Harry could not afford school. He returned to Duluth and worked on the railroad to earn money for college. He used his savings and the GI Bill to attend UMD. Too undersized to play sports at Denfeld, Harry grew enough during his military service to join the Bulldog football team. While at UMD, Harry lettered in football (as a quarterback and punter) and student-taught at Lincoln Junior, intending to become a teacher. Harry also began courting Barbara Kobe, a fellow Hunter. Harry proposed marriage, but Barbara insisted that Harry earn his degree before she’d say “yes”, which meant that Harry was the first Munger to graduate from college!
After marrying Barbara in 1951, Harry entered the St. Paul College of Law. He worked fulltime as an insurance adjuster while attending night school. Son Mark was born in St. Paul and after Harry graduated with his JD in 1956, the Munger family returned to Duluth, settling in Piedmont Heights where son David and daughter Ann joined the family.
Harry was raised by parents who were members of the Farmer-Labor Party. He was steeped in politics from an early age. When Harry’s brother Willard was elected to the Minnesota House in 1954, he lived with Harry and Barbara in St. Paul during the legislative session. This interaction heightened Harry’s passion for Liberal politics. After returning to Duluth, Harry became the St. Louis County Chair of the DFL. He was a delegate to the 1968 National Convention in Chicago where he proudly supported Hubert Humphrey’s presidential bid. He was also active in the Presidential Campaigns of ‘76, ‘80, and ’84, supporting his close friend and fishing buddy Walter “Fritz” Mondale as a Vice Presidential and Presidential candidate.
Harry established a personal injury and general practice law firm in Duluth, partnering with Blake MacDonald and Tim Downs and his son Mark to form MacDonald, Munger, Downs, and Munger. Harry was active in the Junior Jaycees (planning the Duluth Arena Auditorium), Holy Apostles Episcopal Church, West Duluth Moose, TROUT, Ducks Unlimited, and other organizations. He served as a Municipal Judge, was appointed to the Minnesota Tax Court, and practiced law for over 50 years before retiring to Florida with his second wife, Mary Kay. During his legal career, Harry was known as a tireless advocate for his clients, served as the President of the MTLA, and was active in ATLA, the ABA, the 11th District Bar Assoc., and the DTLA.
Harry was also a charter member of a very special group of Denfeld couples who gathered for dinner four times a year. The Tessiers, Mungers, Lundeens, Nelsons, Scotts, Monsons, and Listons celebrated friendship by breaking bread together for over sixty years. In addition, Harry spent every deer-hunting opener from the late ‘40s through the ‘90s at the Liston Deer Camp near Comstock Lake. 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Fishing Opener at the Scott cabin on Whiteface Lake, an event Harry rarely missed.
An avid outdoorsman, Harry traveled to fish char in the Canadian arctic, salmon in Alaska, and saltwater fish in Florida. He hunted grouse, ducks, geese, sharptail, huns, and pheasants in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Harry fished the Knife in Minnesota, the Brule in Wisconsin, and the Betsy in Michigan for steelhead. He instilled in his children and grandchildren a respect for nature and a love of the outdoors. Harry worked tirelessly on conservation issues with his brother Willard, including a failed effort to block the expansion of the Miller Hill Mall because the shopping center’s runoff was degrading Miller Creek, an urban trout stream.
25 years ago, Harry and his best friend from law school, Bruce Meyer, began hunting pheasants in Ashley, ND. Harry made his final trip out west at age 88. Throughout it all, Harry always had a faithful (if somewhat unruly) black Labrador by his side.
Harry coached youth sports and served as the President of the Skyline Little League. He was a devoted attendee of sporting events, cheering for his sons on the PSS gridiron (mostly for David, a starting offensive lineman), rooting for his kids when they skied competitively, and attending innumerable baseball and softball contests. He also took in many of his grandchildren’s baseball, softball, soccer, and hockey games.
Harry is survived by his sons Mark (Rene’) and David (Diane), daughter Ann (David) Sarvela, and grandchildren Matthew (Lisa), Dylan (Michelle), Christian (Rachel Bell), Jack, Jonathan, Nichole (Chris) Howard, Crystal (Ryan) Hoyt, Melissa (Megan) Landon, Madeline and Emelia Sarvela, 11 great-grandchildren, his first wife—Barbara Tourville, his second wife—Mary Kay Munger, partner Pauline Liston, and many nieces and nephews including special niece and special nephew, Patricia Lehr and Will Munger.
Harry was predeceased by his parents, Harry Lyman Munger and Elsie Zuhlsdorf Munger; by his brothers Robert, Willard, and Barney; and by his sister Elsie Winter.
Visitation will be Friday, June 1, 2018, beginning at 3:00pm, followed by a short worship service at 4:30pm in the Dougherty Funeral Home, 600 E 2nd St. Duluth, MN. The Celebration of Harry’s Life will continue Friday night at 6:30pm the Buffalo House Junction, 2586 Guss Rd., Duluth, MN. Memorials preferred to the Denfeld Scholarship Fund, 401 N 44th Ave, West, Duluth, MN 55807, or a conservation organization of the donor’s choice. Arrangements by Kay-Ponger Funeral Home of Port Charlotte and Dougherty Funeral Home of Duluth.