A Gentleman Who Touched Many Lives is Remembered
July 8, 2023
by Jeff Olsen
The late Stan Kindzerski, the legendary Roseau High School choir director who taught at RHS for 38 years before retiring in 1998, will be memorialized at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 19, at Messiah Lutheran Church in Roseau.
He passed away on December 21, 2022, in Arizona at age 84.
He was also Messiah's choir director with a faithful following of devoted singers.
Mr. K, as his high school students called him, would have made a fine commandant of the United States Marine Corps.
He did not tolerate slackers.
His widow, Mary Ellen Kindzerski, in late June shared special memories of her husband, who began teaching at RHS in 1960 after graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead.
What stood out about her man was the perfectionism he expected, not only from his students but from himself.
"That was part of his creativity - create a good choir, create a good garden, whether it be flowers or vegetables, and create a beautiful house with his hands working with the wood," she said, adding that's why he built a harpsichord and clocks.
Creativity and perfectionism defined the man.
"Now, we won't discuss the fact that he wasn't a perfectionist in his own life because he was a mess of a housekeeper."
Mary Ellen Kindzerski, a retired RHS English teacher, laughed when reminded that this particular inconsistency is part of Stan's legacy because in life there are always contrasts.
"Yes, there are!" she agreed, recalling an occasion when he built a wall that was an eighth of an inch off.
"And he changed it because it wasn't perfect. In being creative, he wanted perfectionism."
Mary Ellen lives in Arizona these days.
But there's a very special place on Lake of the Woods on the Ontario side, appropriately dubbed "Kindzerski Island" on White Fish Bay.
She laughed while recalling that they met on a blind date in Roseau that Kurt Jackson had arranged.
She later sang in the Messiah Church choir under the direction of Stan Kindzerski.
"He definitely had a sense of humor," she said, noting that almost everything was done on his terms.
"What he wanted to eat, what he felt comfortable with, that's what I would do."
At the end, she was his dedicated caregiver.
"He died of colon cancer. If he was in pain, he didn't share his suffering."
Did you go to the Grand Ole Opry on your honeymoon?
"We didn't have a honeymoon. We got married in late December, and Stan had to resume teaching after the Christmas break."
Recently, Terry Gotziaman, the retired Roseau High School principal, talked about Stan's legacy.
"I will certainly be there for his memorial service," he said, mentioning that Stan and Mary Ellen were his good neighbors.
"He was a consummate music professional, and he brought out the inner talents of his students and his choirs."
Mr. Gotziaman remains impressed with how disciplined even his geriatric-aged church choirs were while singing praises to Jesus.
"He put his efforts into music. He really did. It wasn't like a Mitch Miller sing-along. Stan was committed to excellence in everything he was involved in - singing and directing. He was a dedicated maestro and a real rarity."
Once a student, always a student.
Kim Erickson, RHS Class of 1972, spoke in high esteem of Mr. Kindzerski, his late choir director.
"Occasionally, he'd give you a punch in the gut to get you singing from your diaphragm. It really helped you sing better."Call it the wake-up punch!
"Before we started our choir sessions, he played the scales and we would vocalize."
Erickson speculated that ReNae Vagle was in the first glee club in the 1960s under Mr. Kindzerski.
"He most definitely was a taskmaster. At Messiah Lutheran, it was our elderly choir and if we were sharp or flat, he'd tell us. He would be tough on us. I would have to say he was a perfectionist. He wanted to be a perfectionist in everything. You don't have to be a perfectionist to sing for the Lord. He made every effort to make a joyful noise."
Could he sing?
"Oh yes, he was the best bass in the Concordia Choir and sang under Paul Christianson."
At the end of the school year, per Mr. Erickson, the seniors were invited to Mr. K's lake cabin.
"I made that trip to his cabin. Oh, my gosh, we had fun!"
Erickson added that some of the choir members pursued professional careers.
"Like Roxanne Eggen and Kathy Pelowski," he said.
Decades ago, she was Roxanne Eggen at RHS, and she has not forgotten Stan's great impact.
"Mr. K was a huge influence on my life. Much of what I learned from him has helped me professionally as a soloist, an actor, a conductor, and a teacher," Roxanne Rollefson stated in a recent email.
She added that his conducting style has had a strong influence on her.
"I really appreciated all the work that he did with me when I studied voice privately with him."
She recalled a few phrases that have stuck with her and were part of Mr. K's repertoire:
"Just because you are from a small school doesn't mean you shouldn't expect excellence."
Grant the man a touch of irreverence.
"Altos, sing like you are forty, fat, and flabby." (I don't use that example anymore.)
"I will always remember Mr. Kindzerski with great fondness. His early influence helped set me on my professional career."
Helen (née Novacek) Lunos, the retired Roseau elementary music instructor, tipped her bonnet to a real pro in her email.
His elective class "Rudiments of Music" highly prepared me for years of Music theory, history and appreciation classes in college.
She recalled that Mr. K once wrapped a choir gown around her waist so she could see how to breathe correctly from the diaphragm.
He gave me many great musical experiences and the confidence to make a career in the music field. Thank you, Mr. K!
As Kathy Pelowski noted in her email, his admirers could write a book about Mr. K. She almost did.
We worked hard as a choir but we also had so much fun! Our choir trips were definite highlights and it always felt so good to score the highest mark possible at MN State competitions. We had a fantastic reputation, because of Mr. K and the sound that he created, and we always strived to live up to that. An amazing life lesson for all of us.
Kathy credited Mr. K for seeing the potential in her that she didn't always see in herself.
I owe so much to Mr. Kindzerski. I am still singing and teaching singing as well, and I have the privilege of loving my work! I will never forget the instruction, the support and the encouragement that I received from this most wonderful man and teacher.
A Director's Salute
Bonnie Wensloff, the Roseau Elementary Choir Director, sang the final praises of Mr. Kindzerski via email.
My first memories of Stan Kindzerski were of the Roseau High School Choir performing at the Concordia Choir Days in Moorhead. The choir was always so impressive with large numbers and a remarkable bass section.
They performed college level choral literature and were polished in their poise and presentation. Stan was an accomplished conductor and music educator. He had high expectations and inspired his students to achieve excellence.
"All 'Song Birds' are invited to come and sing in honor and celebration of Mr. K, " said Mr. Erickson.
The rehearsal is on Tuesday, July 18, at 7 p.m. at Messiah Lutheran Church. The memorial service will be on Wednesday, July 19, at 11 a.m.
The selections will include "The King is Coming," "Precious Lord Take My Hand," and "Beautiful Savior."
Each of the three directors - Roxanne Eggen Rollefson, Robb Johnson, and Bonnie Wensloff - will direct a selection.
Singers are requested to assemble in the Fellowship Hall one hour prior to Stan's 11 a.m. memorial service.