Russell Edward Halaas, 92

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Russell Edward Halaas, 92, of Cheney, Washington, formerly of Kalispell and Moorhead, Minnesota, died Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, after a brief illness, in Mesa, Arizona.

Russell “Rusty” was born Jan. 2, 1926, in Nordmore Township, Foster County, North Dakota, the son of Ralph and Minnie (Schwandt) Halaas. He was baptized and confirmed at Kvernes Lutheran Church in rural Carrington.

After graduating from Carrington High School in 1943, Russell worked at the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a technical sergeant with the military government during the occupation of Japan. Following his military service, Rusty enrolled at Concordia College, Moorhead, graduating in 1948.

On June 26, 1949, Russell married Mary Helen Brenden at Scobey Lutheran Church in Scobey, Montana. After two years at Luther Theological Seminary, they moved to Scobey, where Rusty managed the Brenden Company Furniture store. A year later, they moved back to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he completed his studies at Luther Theological Seminary.

Rusty was ordained as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (later the American Lutheran Church, and now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). He first served congregations in Montana: Christ, Big Sandy; Faith, Box Elder; St. Paul, Missoula; and St. Paul, Cut Bank. Rusty was next called to serve the ALC Division for Youth Activity in Palo Alto, California, and Minne-apolis. Following his work at the church-wide offices, Rusty started two mission congregations: Holy Trinity, Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania; and Northridge, Kalispell.

In 1983, Rusty was called to serve as the executive director of C-400 at Concordia College. During his years there, Rusty was known as a passionate ambassador for Concordia by hosting national speakers, throwing numerous parties across the region, and raising money, awareness and excitement for Concordia’s mission. Following retirement, Rusty and Mary Helen enjoyed life in Kalispell at their Ashley Lake cabin, and at Casa de Paz in Mesa, Arizona.

Rusty loved God, was a radical follower of Jesus, and a prophetic voice for justice in the church and world. Rusty always made room in the church for people on the margins. Many Lutherans, young and old, were touched by his energy, humor and insights as he traveled the country helping leaders connect and listen to youth, especially at national Lutheran youth gatherings.

Rusty loved his family — his wife, his children and their spouses, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and extended family children and grandchildren.

Rusty loved people, and was blessed with the gifts of exuberant hospitality, humor, artistic talent and abundant creativity.

Rusty loved life … and antique toys, fishing, the North Dakota prairies, the Montana wheat fields and mountains, celebrations of all kinds, and planning his own birthday parties.

Rusty loved community ... and was actively involved in many community organizations: Lions, Toastmasters and Rotary International. Pastor Rusty was instrumental in starting Little League in Cut Bank, and a rural ambulance service in the Poconos of northeast Pennsylvania. In his later years, when asked how he was doing, his reply was always an immediate “Grateful!”

He is loved and survived by his wife, Mary Helen; and children, the Rev. Mark (and Dr. Gwen) Halaas of West Fargo, North Dakota; the Rev. David (and the Rev. Lorna) Halaas of Sioux City, Iowa; the Rev. John (and Rebecca) Hulden of Taylors Falls, Minnesota; and Dr. Beth (and Rob Driscoll) Halaas of Cheney, Washington; grandchildren, Katie (Chris), Per (Emily), Joseph (Andrew), Liv (Andrew), Erik (Mallory), Maren (John), Brian, Carl (Vincent), Britta, Jens, Audrey, and Robert; great-grandchildren, Isaac, Elliot, Anelise, Bror, Casper, Adrian and August; and many relatives and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his siblings, Arthur, Lillian and Wallace; and his in-laws, Casper and Mildred Brenden.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be shared with Concordia College, Luther Seminary, or the Montana Synod ELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission.

The funeral service for Rusty Halaas was held Feb. 10 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Moorhead. Rusty will be buried at Prairie Home Cemetery, Moorhead.

Arrangements are by Wright Funeral Home. View a video tribute and online guestbook at

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