On Sunday, May 30, 2021, Wesley Stai, age 80, of Bemidji, went to his Heavenly home due to complications from lewy body dementia, passing peacefully while surrounded by his loving family at Cornerstone Nursing & Rehab in Bagley. Wesley lived a full and vibrant life until 2017, when dementia began to overtake him, and his subsequent years were spent in BirchHaven Village in Bemidji with his wife Ilene, several months at Colleen’s Caring Hands of Bemidji, and his final 8 months in the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Stacy and Dan Norvold.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 5th at 11 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church of Debs. Family will greet friends one hour prior to the service at the church.
Born in the Bagley hospital on August 19, 1940, to Helmer and Gudrun (Koppang) Stai, Wesley grew up an only-child on a small farm in Debs, a close-knit rural community about 30 miles northwest of Bemidji. Although he never had any siblings, Wes managed to have numerous adventures throughout his youth with his many cousins and neighborhood pals, and by the age of 9, he was running his own trap lines and often shot more than 100 partridge during a season. Typical of many farm families of that era, he began doing chores and helping support the family at a young age. Eventually, the workload on the farm, the long commute to school, his desire to be outdoors, and the need to supplement the family income led him to leave high school during the 11th grade, after which he and his good friend, Clint Solberg, travelled to Oklahoma to work on a large cattle ranch. Wes saved most of his money to send home but said he would occasionally splurge on a candy bar to enjoy after work!
Wes married Ilene Edstrom in 1963, and their first 2 years of marriage were spent on the missile sites in Lakota and Cooperstown, ND. After several years of working for the City of Bemidji doing road maintenance, his next 40-plus years were primarily a mix of selling used farm implements and working alongside his son Steve at Stai Sand & Gravel, and with the gravel pit being on his homeplace at Debs, the many years he spent hauling gravel, sand, and rock were not so much work as joy for him. It never made him rich, but he loved that land and the community, and when he’d say, “I’m just a country boy from Debs,” you could simultaneously hear both the humility and the sense of pride in his roots. He served as a Frohn Township Supervisor for 12 years, and throughout his life, was a dedicated member of Trinity Lutheran Church of Debs, Aardahl Lutheran Church, and then Trinity Free Lutheran of Pony Lake. Wes was a faithful husband, wonderful father, funny grandpa, and friend to many. He was deeply loved and will be forever missed by his family.
Wesley was preceded in death by his parents, Helmer and Gudrun Stai, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ilene (Edstrom) Stai, son Steven (Linda) Stai, daughter Stacy (Dan) Norvold; 5 grandchildren- Hunter and Elliott Stai, Nic Thompson, Lindsey (Zach Vail) Norvold, Kyle (Chelsey Boyer) Norvold; and 3 great-grandchildren- Piercen Thompson, Harlen and Aylah Vail.
The Stai/Norvold families would like to express their deepest appreciation to the many doctors, nurses and support staff of Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, Cornerstone Nursing & Rehab of Bagley, Sanford Hospice of Bemidji, HealthStar Home Health, and Colleen’s Caring Hands, without whose compassion, kindness, and medical expertise this final year-long journey would have been unbearable. We are also exceedingly grateful to the wonderful and amazing PCA’s who gently and lovingly enabled us to care for dad in our home during the final 8 months of his life: Jade Cedar-Zimmerman, Lydia Johnson, Mikayla Miller, Ann Lundquist and Dawn Carpenter.
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