Heidi Jo Hagstrom
Heidi Jo Hagstrom was born Oct. 13, 1955, in Cokato, Minn., to Stan and Shirley Hagstrom. She died Nov. 26, 2021, in Buffalo, Minn. Heidi was always proud and grateful to be the daughter of a grocer/butcher and an English teacher. She was baptized Dec. 10, 1955, at Cokato Evangelical Lutheran Church, where she was also confirmed, married, ordained and remembered at her funeral on Dec. 3.
Heidi graduated from Dassel-Cokato High School in 1974 and Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., in 1979 (major: music; minor: religion). Between her sophomore and junior years of college, she was chosen to be part of a Concordia outreach team that served six months in American and Western Samoa.
In 1980 she married Ken Hauan. Along with their beloved bulldogs, they lived in three Minnesota communities where Heidi served as parish worker/Christian education director: Trinity Lutheran in Montevideo 1979-82, Calvary Lutheran in Willmar 1982-84 and First Lutheran in Bemidji 1984-87.
Heidi and Ken moved to Bloomington, Ind., in 1987. He pursued graduate studies and she worked part time at St. Thomas Lutheran Church, the Indiana University Conference Bureau, and served as a board member of the Monroe County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In 1992, she and Ken divorced and she returned to Cokato to live with her family and help care for her mother, who Heidi credited with teaching her “the divine art of dying.” Also that year, Heidi moved to St. Cloud to work as director for educational conferences at the conference bureau of St. Cloud State University (SCSU). Toward the end of her tenure at SCSU, she and friends established The Odyssey Group, LLP, a full-service meeting management company.
In 1997, Heidi moved to Chicago to work as associate director, then director, of the ELCA Youth Gathering, shepherding gatherings in St. Louis (2000), Atlanta (2003), San Antonio (2006), New Orleans (2009 and 2012) and Detroit (2015). The ELCA Youth Gathering is the largest gathering of high school youth, and also the largest gathering of adults, in the ELCA. Under Heidi’s leadership the gathering re-established itself as a premiere faith-forming event for high school-aged youth based on service learning.
During her years at the churchwide offices in Chicago, Heidi, a lifelong learner, earned a certificate as a spiritual director, and in her final years there she began her studies at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, graduating as part of the Theological Education for Emerging Ministries program in 2018.
Following her father’s advice to “invest in a place, give gifts to a place,” in 2015 she moved to the prairie of Southwest Minnesota to serve Fields of Grace Lutheran Parish, Lafayette. She was ordained Sept. 23, 2018.
This three-point parish made up of Swan Lake, First and Bernadotte Lutheran Churches is where she was able to enjoy country living that she cherished: open spaces and neighboring farms, her own chickens (and fresh eggs!), a bountiful garden, her cats, and people who share her Swedish heritage. At a benefit held after she retired in October 2021, parish representatives praised her preaching and her singing voice. That same month she moved to Buffalo to live with her sister Tracy and family, and bring to completion two of her favorite roles: sister and auntie.
Although Heidi was featured soloist in many choirs, she described herself as a “blender” because she was often positioned in such a way as to temper two stronger voices. That same tempering characteristic was evident in her work as a leader. She always had a clear vision, but empowered others as she drew out and showcased their gifts. She took to heart the advice of a spiritual director who told her the job of a good leader is appreciation.
She spent a lifetime doing just that, and advocating for others–in high school and college by sharing her musical talent in nursing homes, to those with disabilities and the incarcerated, and later in life as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, especially after Ken came out to her as gay. Heidi had a heart for those who were disenfranchised and misunderstood.
Heidi is survived by Tracy Hagstrom Durant (sister), Tom Durant (brother-in-law), Greta Dahl (niece), Elaina Beecher (great niece), Ken Hauan (former spouse), Dennis Dahl and Jenni Johnson (former brother-in-law and girlfriend), Danish exchange sister Birthe Bjerge (Jens); Primus cousins–Patty Miller (Steve), Penny Pastornosro (Anthony), Jayme Sherman; Lois Jeanne Neubauer (aunt), and Neubauer cousins – Debbie Finley (Ed), Brad Neubauer (Sue), Bruce Neubauer (Carolyn), Brian Neubauer (Tami); adopted Larson/Landin family.
She was preceded in death by Stan and Shirley Hagstrom (parents), Frank and Clara Arndt (grandparents), Axel and Jenni Hagstrom (grandparents), Marge Rider (cousin) and Mary Wagner (cousin).
Memorials in Heidi’s name may be given:
• Underdog Rescue Minnesota (St. Louis Park) in honor of Toula
• tAble (formerly Definitely Abled Youth Leadership Event), ELCA.org/Gathering (Go to giving page)
• Cokato Evangelical Lutheran Church Stained Glass Window Restoration Fund
+ Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and light perpetual shine upon her. +
Celebration of life will be held at 11:00 am, December 3 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 280 3rd Street SW, Cokato, MN. Services will be live streamed. Visitation will be held at the same location December 2 from 4:00 to 8:00 pm and one hour prior to the service.
Full obituary with funeral live stream link can be found at Swanson Peterson Funeral Home: www.swansonpeterson.com