The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 22, 2013

Retired chemistry professor became local history buff

By Edie Schmierbach
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Mankato's oldest cemetery will be the final resting place for a man whose enthusiasm for local history prompted him to give tours of its graves and to tell stories of the people buried there.

Win Grundmeier, 83, died Sunday at Laurels Peak. He will be buried at Minneopa Cemetery, where during its 150th anniversary observance in 2005, Grundmeier was a Blue Earth County Historical Society volunteer who walked with visitors throughout its grounds. He also had served on the cemetery

board of directors.

In recent years, The Free Press relied upon Grundmeier's abilities as a historian for its "Glimpse of the Past" series. His Blue Earth County stories told of a thief who hid under a schoolhouse, west Mankato's popular drive-in restaurant the Oasis, the origins of an area curling team and the day President Taft came to town.

Monday an appreciation day was scheduled to honor BECHS volunteers. The event became, in part, an impromptu memorial to Grundmeier, who served the

organization for many years.

Historical societies depend on volunteers and the large amounts of time they spend doing research and other meticulous duties.

"Our volunteers become part of our family and Win was at the hub of all that," said Jessica Potter, BECH¹s executive director. "It's people like Win who make the organization richer."

"He was a lifelong member, a significant donor, he served on the board of trustees, he worked on our 3-D collection and he helped build exhibits, he was a costumed character in "living history" events, he did research and he wrote one of our books," Potter said.

Grundmeier's published works include "The Remarkable Men of Garden City," which includes the story of Sir Henry Wellcome who grew up there and went on

to establish an international pharmaceutical empire.

Co-volunteer Jack Madsen said Grundmeier joined the historical society after his retirement. That's where he began seemingly endless hours of research and became the "go-to guy" for local media, which used Grundmeier's knowledge of demographics, historical figures and local events.

"He was a chemist by trade, but his passion was history," Potter said.

E. Winston Grundmeier was born in rural Nicollet County. After graduating from Mankato High in 1948, he earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from

Mankato State, a master's degree from Iowa State and a doctorate from Kansas State, according to the Mankato Mortuary online obituary.

In 1959, Grundmeier began teaching chemistry at Mankato State University. He had served a term as chairman of the department, and was very active with

the college's science fair.

In 1963, he married Shirley Miller in Mankato.

Madsen remembered his friend's private generosity. Among Grundmeier¹s acts of kindness was a donation to encourage a college student (Madsen's niece)

to continue in the field of music.

In 2011, Madsen nominated Grundmeier for KEYC's Jefferson Awards. Winning the award was a kind of vindication for Grundmeier, not that he ever sought

acclaim, Madsen said.

Grundmeier's last project was working on a book with Madsen about Blue Earth County¹s bridges. They covered hundreds of miles in their research.

They suspended the project in 2012, Madsen said. That summer, Grundmeier had begun chemotherapy to treat leukemia.

"Up until then, he was working at the historical society most days," Madsen said.