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Fishing pioneer, downtown staple dies Saturday

Jerry Fuller, a pioneer of tourism and fishing in the Park Rapids area died Saturday, Dec. 3 at age 76.

"He was just a great guy, a fixture on Main street," said his brother-in-law, Royce Holland. "He liked small town life and it showed."

Jerry worked with his family at Fuller's Tackle Shop in Park Rapids while also operating Fuller's Wholesale Tackle Co. and Fuller's Tackle Shop in the Paul Bunyan Mall in Bemidji.

"Fuller's Tackle Shop and Fuller's Wholesale are a major part of Park Rapid's history, starting with his father," said former Park Rapids Enterprise publisher Doug Hirsch. "My first Enterprise office was next to Jerry's on Main street and tourists always gathered there to view the big fish (and small fish that people thought were big) in his window."

Holland also recalled the fish in the window as being a major Park Rapids attraction.

"The first thing people did when they came to town was to stop and look at the fish on Main," Holland said.

Frank A. Fuller started business in Park Rapids as Fuller & Denning Hardware in 1885. Earl Fuller took over the hardware business in 1913 and in 1930 went into fishing tackle and area promotion full time. His son, Jerry, operated the wholesale and retail businesses later on, adding firearms, archery supplies, tennis and golf accessories. He later sold the businesses. For the last several years he owned and operated a pawn shop on Main.

Jerry was the source of current fishing information for radio and TV sta-tions across Minnesota.

"I used to stand by him when he would let loose with a string of fishing rhetoric that was amazing and, of course, not always the most accurate," Hirsch recalled. "But they always put the best spin on PR."

Holland said that over the years Jerry's businesses have always been the place to go to "soak up the flavor of the area. His presence will be missed."

He also wrote a column for the Park Rapids Enterprise for more than 30 years called "The End Of The Line."

He was dedicated to promoting Park Rapids through the Golden Book, a fishing directory.

"The DNR still uses the Golden Book for historical data," said former Park Rapids Enterprise general manager Mike Gravdahl.

Hirsch remembered Jerry's work on the Golden Book as being one of Park Rapids' best promotional tools for many years.

"Anyone could have their name and fish published in there - a 20-pound muskie or a 1-pound northern," Hirsch said. "People were so happy to see their name in there."

Fuller was close friends with several other well-known fishing pioneers such as Carl Lowrance, who developed fishing sonar devices; Virgil Ward and Harold Ensley, who had televised fishing shows and fishing legends Al and Ron Lindner.

Jerry enjoyed music as well, especially barber shop chorus and quartet singing and was a member of the Headwaters Barbershop Chorus. He was also a member of several other organizations, including the National Rifle Associa-tion, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Ducks Unlimited, the Hubbard County Historical Society, the Otto Hendrickson American Legion Post 212 of Park Rapids, the Park Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the Park Rapids Jaycees, the Park Rapids Rotary Club, the Park Rapids Flying Club, the Dakota Territory Gun Collectors Club, and the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Singing in America. He is past president of many of these groups.

He served for two terms for the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners, one for Todd Township and one for Henrietta Township. Throughout his life, Jerry was the recipient of numerous accolades for his service to the Park Rap-ids community and the state of Minnesota.

He was a lifelong member of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Park Rapids.

"Jerry and Betty (his wife) are inspirations not only because of their faith, but their 'never give up' attitudes," Hirsch said. "I hope Park Rapids people recognize the Fuller accomplishments this week as Jerry is put to rest."

A Memorial Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Park Rapids. Visitation is from 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8 at Cease Family Funeral Home in Park Rapids and one hour prior to the service at the church on Friday. Recitation of the Rosary will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.