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Pastor Mark Anderson remembered for sense of humor, compassion

Pastor Mark Anderson, a prominent community member in the Brainerd lakes area, died Monday.

Anderson, 65, was known for his sense of humor, his compassion and his faith by those who knew him.

Anderson retired in April as pastor at Crosslake Lutheran Church after being diagnosed with lung cancer in March. He is survived by his three children, Chris Anderson of Hudson, Wis.; Caryn O’Kulich of Royal Oak, Mich.; and Chad Anderson of Brainerd. His wife Maureen preceded him in death.

Chad Anderson said his father was a pastor for nearly 40 years in  congregations in Gresham, Ore., and Brandon S.D., and at First Lutheran Church in Brainerd and Crosslake Lutheran Church. He said that, growing up, he was happy having a father who was a pastor.

“It’s because of him why I have a strong faith,” Chad Anderson said. “I’ve always gone back and forth on going to the seminary. It’s still an option for me.”

Pastor Andy Smith of First Lutheran Church in Brainerd succeeded Anderson when he left to become the pastor in Crosslake in 2000. Smith said he knew Anderson well before he became the pastor at First Lutheran.

“I’ve known Mark for many years,” Smith said. “I’ve been giving communion to him and visiting with him. 

“Mark was a fun, loving and a joyful, vivacious kind of guy. He loved to laugh and he loved to find the humor and joy in things and he always leaned in that direction and never dwelled on negative things. He had that quality and it came natural to him.”

Smith said Anderson had many good friends and helped countless people with their faith. Smith said Anderson also was a good leader in their Evangelical Lutheran Church in America circle and he put a lot of energy into the congregations.

Joe and Arlene Heal of Merrifield were good, close friends with Anderson. Arlene Heal was Anderson’s secretary for seven years when he was at First Lutheran Church in Brainerd.

“He was a fantastic person to work for and I respected him a lot,” she said. “He was not only a great employer, but he was a great friend and he helped so many people in so many ways. He’s a wonderful man. We’re just devastated (about his death).”

Joe Heal said they got together many times with Anderson to hang out or play golf. Heal said they played duplicate bridge every Tuesday night and they would go see Anderson’s son, Chad, perform in Broadway plays at Chanhassen Dinner Theater. The Heals said they also played Yahtzee with Anderson and would playfully accuse him of getting outside help.

“He always managed to win,” Joe Heal said. “He was very competitive, but a good person. If he lost he lost, but he didn’t go down without a fight. He had a great wit to him and he could be extremely funny.

“He was a fine person. He listened well and he helped counsel a lot of people. He understood people well and never said anything derogatory about anyone. He was very upbeat and people were attracted to him and his sermons. His sermons were always short and to the point.

“We feel bad for the family. Mark has been so close to us for so many years. It’s a big void in our life.”

Brenda LaRock of Breezy Point was Anderson’s secretary for 11 years in Crosslake. LaRock said she could always tell if Anderson was at the church because she’d hear his laugh or he’d be whistling down the hallway.

“He did so many wonderful things,” LaRock said. “He had a great sense of humor and was very caring ... He loved this job and he was more of a friend to me than a boss. He baptized two of my children.

“We always had this ongoing thing. He was a dog lover and I was a cat lover.”

Funeral services for Anderson will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Crosslake Lutheran Church.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851.

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.