Wallace Odegard, 97, Granite Falls, died Sunday, June 11, 2017 in Riverside Assisted Living. Visitation will be from noon to 1 p.m., followed by the funeral at 1 p.m., Saturday, June 17, at United Church of Christ in Granite Falls. Burial will be in Granite Falls City Cemetery.
Wallace Burton Odegard was the sixth of seven children born to Martin and Annie (Winberg) Odegard on May 17, 1920 in rural Belview. He was baptized and confirmed at Rock Valley Lutheran Church. He attended school at Hillside School District 100 near Upper Sioux Agency State Park along the Yellow Medicine River. Wally’s father passed away when he was nine years old. After completing the eighth grade, he began working for local farmers to help support his family.
Also during those years, Wally and his siblings provided musical entertainment for neighborhood house parties; Wally playing the accordion resulting in a lifelong love of old-time music, especially polka. As a young adult, he worked for Jertsen’s Elevator in Granite Falls for several years. On October 9, 1942, Wally received his draft notice into the United States Army and on November 19, 1942 he received his notice to report to the Board Office for his orders. Wally left on November 23,1942 at 3:00 a.m. by the Great Northern train for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He spent 18 months training as a machine gunner in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and Camp Adair, Oregon. He then moved to service tent camps in Arizona, California and Fort Carson, Colorado. On November 27, 1943, while on military leave, Wallace Burton Odegard married Mildred Delilah Day in Granite Falls.
Wally was stationed in Camp Kilmore, New Jersey before being shipped out to Cherbourg, France, on August 27, 1944 as a member of the 104th Timberwolf Division, Company M, First Platoon. His unit was the first to go directly to France on the ship, George Washington – an old German luxury liner captured during WWI. The trip took 11 days. His unit was part of the Red Ball Freight Run directed to haul gas, ammunition and supplies to the front line. They spent four weeks, hauling day and night, to resupply the troops on the front line.
Wally’s unit fought on the front lines in Belgium, Holland, and Germany. Much of the fighting was done at night. Wally achieved the rank of Transportation Corporal and he and his eight jeep drivers continued to deliver all the supplies needed for the front line troops. While on a ten-day leave in France, in March 1945, Wally received a telegram that a daughter had been born in Granite Falls. He met his daughter for the first time following his discharge in October 1945.
On April 11, 1945, Wally’s unit was one of the first to enter Nordhausen Concentration Camp in Germany to help liberate the surviving victims, providing them with food and water. Wally departed Europe on July 2, 1945, on the John Ericksson ship. There were so many troops being brought back home and to accommodate them, the troops double bunked and shared time sleeping on the ship’s deck. They arrived in the New York port on July 11, 1945. After spending 197 days on the front lines, there were only 48 men in Wally’s unit out of 182 who survived to return home. Wally spent the next several months training in San Luis Obispo, California, preparing for deployment for the mass invasion on Japan.
As fate would have it, his deployment was cancelled and Wally received his discharge from the United States Army on October 13, 1945. Wally hitchhiked home rather than spending his money on a train ride to save for his young family. Wally returned to the Granite Falls area to raise eight children while farming, operating a custom corn shelling business with his brother, and working for Yellow Medicine County Highway Department as a foreman.
Wally retired from the county and began mowing parks and the cemetery for the City of Granite Falls until his early ‘80s. Wally was a proud American and was honored to serve his country. He was a VFW and American Legion member for over 72 years. He served as Post Commander and was a member of the Honor Guard serving many veterans in the area. Wally enjoyed hunting, fishing and spending time with his family and friends. He especially enjoyed sharing stories with his 21 grandchildren, 43 great-grandchildren, and 7 great-great grandchildren.
He is survived by his children: Sharon (Ray) Olson of Granite Falls, Lynnae (Darrell) Zieske of Alexandria, Dallas (Coleen) Odegard of Granite Falls, Denise (Rick) Growe of Shakopee, Lori Odegard of Sacred Heart, Loren (special friend Jean) Odegard of Sacred Heart, Brad (Dawn) Odegard of Clarkfield, and son-in-law Kent Sunderland of Montevideo.
Wally is preceded in death by his parents, beloved wife Mildred, daughter Imogene Sunderland, grandson David Torke, son-in-law Douglas Chapman, daughter-in-law Jennifer Odegard, four sisters, Esther, Alma, Pearl and Myrtle and two brothers, Orville and Millard. In a loving memorial tribute to Grandpa Wally, his great grandchildren Kody Odegard and Braya Odegard will be playing taps for him as he requested.