By Lori Cherland-McCune
Kermit Stake’s love for the steamboat Minnehaha, Lake Minnetonka, and boats in general was no secret. Along with his wife, Audre, they volunteered many an hour toward Minnehaha’s restoration and its subsequent lake travels. Audre’s grandfather was Royal C. Moore, the designer and builder of the original streetcar boats, and although Moore died five years before she was born, the love of boats had become a family legacy ever since.
Kerm was born at home in Minneapolis on April 19, 1926 to Swedish immigrant Henrik Stake and his Swedish-American wife, Mildred Mark. He arrived prematurely, so his father rushed him to the hospital. He weighed only four pounds and was not expected to survive, but the nurses kept him warm in the hospital’s kitchen oven and named him “Arby” for “Our Baby.”
He grew up in South Minneapolis at 40th Street and 40th Avenue, not far from Minnehaha Falls. He attended Longfellow Elementary School and graduated from Roosevelt High. He spent his childhood summers in northern Wisconsin with his mother’s family, who were involved in the logging and sawmill industry. He and his friends took the streetcar all over the metro area to go fishing and to attend knothole games of the Minneapolis Miller baseball team. During high school he tried to enlist in the Army Air Corp, but they wouldn’t welcome him until he turned eighteen in 1944. So, he started flight school and was sent to field artillery, where they discovered that he was color blind. He then became a communication specialist in the First Army in the French Alps, but mustered out in 1946 to attend the University of Minnesota for a time.
Kerm met his first wife Phyllis Wilke while setting up a program for alcoholics at the state hospital in Willmar. Kerm worked with the patients and Phyllis worked on the record-keeping system. They married in 1954 and moved to Minneapolis, where their first child, Pamela, was born in 1955. Within the year they purchased a home in Richfield. Son Timothy arrived in 1959.
Kerm worked as a salesman for McNeil Labs, touting a new drug called Tylenol. At that time, the drug was intended only for children and was sold solely in liquid form. He helped his cancer-stricken father-in-law manage the family farm in Stewartville, Minnesota, for many years, driving the tractor and plowing – think of Kerm’s face on the Green Acres show! He was active in his children’s education as well, serving as PTA president and school board member. He was also a district sales representative for Almay Cosmetics, traveling widely for many years. In 1967 Kerm and Phyllis purchased a home in the Clear Springs area of Minnetonka and joined All Saints Lutheran Church, where Kerm continued to serve as an active member. The Stakes put on Easter breakfasts and Lenten soup dinners there for many years. He was always service-minded.
After a long illness, Phyllis succumbed to cancer and scleroderma in June 1972. At the same time, Audre Cherland’s husband, Bob, also succumbed to cancer. Since both families attended All Saints, Kerm and Audre would catch up with each other occasionally as they shopped at 7Hi Red Owl. Together they commiserated about the difficulties of losing their spouses and raising the seven children they had between them.
Chaperoning Minnetonka High School’s senior party in the spring of 1973, Kerm and Audre appeared to their graduating daughters, Pam and Lori, to be playing Hide and Seek: “Have you seen your dad? Do you know where your mom is?” The girls laughed at the “teen-age-ness” of their parents. Exploring Lake Minnetonka on Kerm’s boat, romance bloomed between the two. By July Fourth, a combined family picnic was arranged, and on August 16, 1973 a small wedding occurred at All Saints, and the melding of two adults, five teenagers, two younger kids, and a dog or two began.
Kerm took on quite a task with the large Stake-Cherland crew. He and Audre decided he should step out of sales for a time to contemplate his next endeavor. They started K & A (Kerm & Audre) Associates, hatched with the life insurance funds with which Audre had been blessed. The company provided clean room design products and consulting for medical and computer companies until Kerm’s retirement in his mid-seventies.
During his retirement, Kerm was very active in the Minnetonka and Chanhassen Rotary Clubs and was even made president in Chanhassen. He also served with the South Minnetonka Lions Club for many years and, of course, was delighted to participate in the restoration and operation of Minnehaha. Sadly, he lost Audre to heart disease in 2006.
Up until his passing, Kerm enjoyed his involvement at All Saints, his beautiful backyard garden, and visits with the seven kids, thirteen grandkids and five great-grandkids. And, as always, he looked forward to nostalgic summer rides on board Minnehaha, followed by walleye at Maynard’s.
(Editor’s note: Kermit passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 25, 2013. He was spotted the night before enjoying none other than walleye at Maynard’s.)