On May 24th this year 2022, Heaven received an angel. He passed away in his eldest sons' home, peacefully with his family at his bedside. He was followed by Essentia Hospice, who provided comfort, medical support and end of life cares. The family is thankful for Jennifer his RN, Janice and Starry his PCA’s, Jennifer Simonson, for her spiritual guidance to help him through the transition, Matt his social worker and the providers for working diligently on his quick and everchanging needs.
The man known to some as Leonard, was fondly known to his friends and family as Peewee, was born in Duluth, MN on 1/20/1930. He grew up in Hermantown where he was a lifelong resident, along with his siblings Carol, Gordy (Lois) Ernst, Janis (Rodney) Pedersen. He was very close with all of his siblings and he and Janis, his last surviving sibling, were able to come visit him just prior to his passing, which meant a great deal to him.
Peewee attended school in Hermantown and instead of pursuing high school, he left to join the ranks of the employed. As a young man, Peewee met his soulmate and the only love of his life, Ethel Louise Ahlberg, A.K.A., ” The Boss.” If there ever was a story of love at first sight their story, well this was it. He would often talk about how he looked at Ethel and he knew, she was “the one” from the minute he met her. A private joke was, he liked “older women,” Ethel was born 10 days before he was. LOL.... That always got a good chuckle... Pretty funny.... They dated for years, while Ethel finished high school and were married a year later, on December 31, 1949, they were just turning 20 years old. The couple went on to have their first child, Leonard Alvin Ernst jr. after which Ethel went to work at the Duluth Clinic in the medical records room (where she stayed and retired from.) Peewee went to work at the U.S. Steel Plant as a millwright (where he retired from.) He also was a volunteer fire fighter for the city of Hermantown for 25 years, he reported he never lost a basement...LOL
Peewee built the home for his wife and young son and four years after their first son, they welcomed their second son, Terry. Peewee and Ethel raised their sons to have a solid work ethic, a quiet humbleness and kind hearts with a “family comes first” mindset. The couple went on to teach their boys the joys of life. The boys share many wonderful memories of family vacations. They loved to camp and fish with many trips to Lake Kabetogama at The Wooden Frog Campground, fishing for walleyes, frying the fish and eating around the campfires. Peewee would instill a love of the outdoors in his boys and would go on to teach them how to hunt deer, squirrels and birds. They would go out to Black Hoof or to “little grandma’s” farm in Jacobson to hunt and enjoy time spent together. Peewee hand built a camper for the pickup truck so the family could go out on the road hunting, fishing, camping and traveling. Well, not too many people can say they built their camper!!....right? LOL
One day Peewee told his boy Punk, Yes... Peewee and Punk, LOL to go out and drain the rainwater out of the fishing boat. Well in true form, Punk went out and did just that but in his own special way.......he threw an M80 in the boat and blew a hole in the bottom of it!!!!, Well, the water did drain out!!! LOL..... Why did these boys have these M80’s you ask? They had it for a very good reason...... It was “fishing tackle” for the creek behind the house. LOL Yup, young boys out there problem solving on their own......but they caught trout, boy did they ever!!!LOL
While Peewee was busy building a house, making cabinets and furniture plus working full time, the boys developed a need for speed and loved all things fast like cars, dirt bikes and motor cycles. This is where Ethel started “earning” her grey hairs. LOL Cars would take the boys into their careers and Terry into racing. The couple were very proud of both of their sons, they had grown up into fine young men and moved out to begin their own lives and careers. The family expanded and Peewee and Ethel were not just a husband and wife, a mother and father, but also became grandparents. Their son Terry and his wife Rebecca live in Denver, Colorado, where Ethel and Peewee would go out and visit them and enjoyed spending time with the grand kids, Christopher, Jeremy and Raini. Then the great grandchildren came, (Christopher’s) Danni Jo, Noel, Landon and (Jeremy’s) Justyce and the great great granddaughter (Danni Jo’s) Jessa. It became an annual trip to Denver and they headed out after Thanksgiving and stayed through December. It became the highlight of their year. Then as the years went by the couple would retire and begin a new phase of their lives, they would become snowbirds. They bought a 5th wheeler and a pickup truck and began to experience new adventures. Although, they truly loved heading out to Denver for 4-6 weeks, they expanded their travels to South Padre Island, TX for 4 more months of sunshine and warmth. Ethel looked froward to spending time with her beloved sister, Nancy and her husband Andy, and other friends who would meet them in South Padre to enjoy their winter vacation. The group would shop, go out to eat, sit at the beach, go on day trips to Mexico, fish in the ocean and other shenanigans. NOTE: Ethel supported all the souvenir shops she could and could have started her own shop with all her doodads and what nots...LOL
Peewee discussed how he handled spring break in South Padre with all those spring breakers. He said he never minded the crowds.... He would sit on the beach with dark sunglasses and watch all the ladies in bikinis walk by. OH geeze,...NOOOOO, REALLY???? then he would just laugh. Another wonderful thing about him was his witty sense of humor. Always cracking a joke or a one liner that would always crack everyone up. He was a funny man who enjoyed making others laugh. He was a very talented wood worker, he could just about anything and was always someone you could depend on if you needed help. The man, his talents, his humor and his gentle kindness will be greatly missed.
Peewee had many nieces and nephews. Tammy, Todd, Gail, Gordy, Rory, Stacey, Heather, Gregg, Sandy, Laura, Ken, Doug, Kay, Scott, Linda, Diane, Rita, Joe and Gurdy. (Forgiveness for any not mentioned but this family is very big and extended) LOL..... Some had developed specific roles, like for instance, Tammy was his tech support expert. Anytime something techie needed fixing, he called her and she would be there. Todd, well he had several roles. Todd always put the “goodies” in his good mornings. Peewee looked forward to waking up and finding what Todd would bring him for breakfast and other types of yummy stuff. Todd was instrumental in keeping the driveways plowed and shoveled the porches, sidewalks and mowed the grass. Much appreciation for his thoughtfulness goes out from the family. Gail was his cribbage challenger and kept him up to date on all the latest happenings in the family, and he always looked forward to her visits. She kept a close eye on him and gave any assistance where needed. Thank you, Gail for everything you are very much appreciated. Rory and Joan, Little Gordy and Steve were always a welcome visit when they came to town. One visitor he enjoyed was, Sandy, who would bring him fresh caught fish. Of course, he would cook it up, eat it ALL!!!! Then rub it in that he had fresh fish for supper. He wasn’t sharing any of that with nobody!! Question to Sandy, Where’s our fish?? LOL Yes family was always the most important thing to Peewee. So please know that he cherished and loved every one of you.
Peewee was many things to many people, a friend, a brother, a father, an uncle, a grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather as well as a husband. The words that come to mind when looking back on this wonderful and kind soul are thoughtful, kind, generous, loving, responsible, humble, funny and never had a bad word to say about anybody. He lived to be 92 years old, and looking around at all the faces here today, you can see how much love for this man there is in this room today. It is a moving testament to a life well lived and a person well loved. A week before Peewee’s passing, it was becoming apparent he was coming to the end of his life. He was asked by this writer if there was anything he wanted to be passed on to anyone. He said, “I want my boys to know how much I love them and how proud I am of them.” He asked, “Do you believe they will think I was a good father?” The answer was a resounding !!YES!!. You could never have raised two wonderful and remarkable men like them, if you weren’t an amazing and admirable man yourself. Both of his sons are in 100% agreement.
The most heart wrenching loss for Peewee was when Ethel suddenly became very ill and went to the hospital. Sadly, she never went home again. With Peewee’s passing, he went home to the Lord, but he went home to reunite with the love of his life, Ethel. They are together and I would like to believe, here with us all today. In the spirit of which this kind man lived his life, we are not here to mourn the life of someone who passed. We are here today to celebrate the man who lived 92 years, loved only one woman, had 2 children, and was loved by so many. Today let us celebrate him and his memory, your memories of him and what he brought to your lives. May we laugh instead of cry and know he didn’t want anyone to mourn his passing but smile when his memory comes into your thoughts or when you speak of him. Pray for him. Celebrate him and enjoy each other and those you haven’t seen in a long time. For here today we celebrate the man, the friend, the father and what he meant to each of us. The large family he was so proud to be a part of. The friends he enjoyed time with. May he be with the lord and rest in peace.
On behalf of Peewee’s family thank you all for coming here today. May God bless you and keep you.
Service and reception will take place at the AAD Shriners in Hermantown on Saturday, June 18th from 12 – 4 pm.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Leonard Alvin Ernst Sr, please visit our floral store.