Remembering Jim Ogland

By Jim Zimmerman

Jim Ogland

On July 12, 2018, the Museum of Lake Minnetonka lost one of its dearest friends. Jim Ogland was an integral force during Minnehaha’s restoration and served as the restored vessel’s first captain during her lake trials in 1995. A dedicated Lake Minnetonka historian, he passed away peacefully at the age of 87. His full obituary can be viewed here.

MLM Vice President Jim Zimmerman spoke at Jim’s funeral. The following is a transcript of his speech.

“It’s a great personal honor to be able to speak at Jim Ogland’s celebration of life. And what a life we’re celebrating! His was an extraordinary life, exceptionally well lived.

“If you knew Jim well, you know he wore a lot of hats. You will hear a lot about his hats and roles, but I’m here to talk about this hat. It’s a captain’s hat from the steamboat Minnehaha, which was one of Jim’s passions. And he was the very first person to wear this hat.

“Jim became a leader and integral part of the group of volunteers that spent years faithfully restoring the Minnehaha. He worked in all facets of the restoration, even going so far as to get a steam boiler license when he learned we needed steam engineers. Jim was also instrumental in organizing fundraisers at the Lafayette Club that helped generate the funds necessary for the restoration. He was a true leader of the early volunteers who saved, restored, and successfully launched the Minnehaha.

“Fittingly, Jim was the captain on the very first trial run of the Minnehaha [in 1995]. There were some who weren’t sure what to expect for that run, but of course Jim pulled it off with much fanfare and class. For many years, Jim would go on to delight the people he captained, with his great knowledge of the lake, his quick wit, and his passion to make sure everyone had an incredible experience.

“He touched the lives of thousands of people that I’m sure have fond memories of their ride with Jim, and as a result, a little more appreciation for Lake Minnetonka and the Minnehaha. And many kids got to steer a boat for the first time when Jim put his captain’s hat on their head and taught them how to steer. He had a gift of bringing history alive by touring people around the lake and by authoring his many coffee table books about the lake and its history.

“Jim was also a true ambassador for the boat. It was pure joy to watch the family Ogland work our booth at the Art Fair or James J. Hill Days. Jim, wife Peggy, and daughter Summer all in uniform and even daughter Savannah being recruited to encourage people to ride. I think Jim was equally comfortable and happy driving people to the boat as he was driving them on the boat. Jim dove in and excelled at everything that was essential to keeping our mission alive and the boat afloat.

“As an ambassador, Jim was always telling the story of the boat to groups and anyone who was interested. He helped make riding the boat a ‘cool’ thing to do. Jim also was a tireless mentor to new volunteers, teaching them not only the how-to of the boat, but also the why of the boat. Those lessons carry through to today, and new volunteers might not even be aware that what they’ve learned was passed down from Jim.

MLM Award
Jim Ogland, first member of the MLM Hall of Fame

“Today we all stand on Jim’s shoulders. The Minnehaha volunteers who have followed Jim owe him a great deal of gratitude. Without his efforts and those of the other early volunteers, the Minnehaha would never have had a second life and an important part of our history would have been lost forever. His contributions and memory will live on, as Jim became the first member of the Minnehaha’s Hall of Fame [in 2012]. His plaque will remind all who never had the privilege to know him what a giant force he was in our organization.

“I told Jim and his family that I’ve only had a few heroes in my life, and Jim was one of them. He was kind, generous, enormously talented, and a true and loyal friend. It was an honor to know him.”

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