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Council Member Rutherford passes away at the age of 76

Rutherford will best be remembered as playing Santa Claus for over 40 years in the Park Rapids area. (Enterprise file photo)

Park Rapids City Council Member Richard "Dick" Rutherford, Sr., 76, passed away on Sept. 22 at the Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.

Rutherford, a lifelong Park Rapids resident, was a co-owner of Rapids Stone Company, P & R Parts Unlimited and Toys for Boys throughout his life.

He was a member of the Park Rapids Downtown Business Association since 2009. He was a lifetime member of both the Otto Hendrickson American Legion Post #212 and the Minnesota Street Rod Association, where he served on the board of directors. He was a member of the Northern Knights Car Club and for a long time he served as a member of the Park Rapids Jaycees.

But most people will remember Rutherford as the man in the red suit. According to his obituary, "he had especially enjoyed playing Santa for over 40 years bringing the Joy of Christmas to many local families and the community."

Rutherford, who attended nearly every meeting, was appointed to the city council on Jan. 24, filling the seat vacated by Paul Utke who was elected to the state Senate last fall.

According to Minnesota State Statute 351.02, "every office shall become vacant on the happening of the death of the incumbent." Therefore, the Park Rapids City Council will now need to fill a vacancy following the death of Rutherford.

Rutherford's term will expire at the end of Dec. 2018, but the law says the council has to first declare a vacancy due to the death of a council member.

The council can choose to hold a special election to fill the vacancy or they can appoint a successor. No decision had been made by the council as of Tuesday morning when the Enterprise went to press.