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Resort industry loses a leader

Karl Dyre would head to Alaska, come fall. He's shown with a moose harvested in 1987. (Submitted photo)

Karl Dyer, an iconic member of the area tourism industry and former Park Rapids social studies teacher, has died of heart failure at 79.

"He was a people person," said wife Kay of 56 years. "The resort was his first love," she said of Evergreen Lodge on Big Sand Lake. "He was always down at the lodge, meeting, greeting and running the world."

"I'll have to do the talking now," said son Dan, 53, a former bush pilot in Alaska who's now part of the resort operation.

Karl's wry sense of humor and great storytelling endeared him to all.

"He said what he felt," Dan said.

"And more," Kay added.

"When I first met Karl Dyre, it was at a marketing meeting at the Chamber in 1999," Chamber executive director Katie Magozzi said. "I drove up in my Cadillac and Karl pulled up next to me. He greeted me with the comment, 'We don't do business here with people that drive that kind of car.'

"You just pulled up in a fully loaded suburban that probably cost more than my Cadillac," was Magozzi's reply.

"Well," said Karl, "The jury is still out."

  "This exchange was the beginning of many years of good natured sparring," Magozzi reflected this week. "Karl deeply cared and worked along with the Chamber on many projects. Karl was a man of action. He wasn't afraid to do the work needed and the community benefited through the completion of his many terrific ideas."

His contributions would not only be that of time and talent. Dyer donated the land on which the Chamber and All Veterans Memorial sits today. 

'100 kids for 100 days'

As a freshman in high school, Karl had made the decision that he'd one day own a resort, his high school sweetheart, Kay, recalled. He worked a summer in the late '40s at a resort near Detroit Lakes, their hometown, and was smitten.

The resort owner, a high school principal, advised him that resort ownership shouldn't be relied upon as a primary source of income.

So he headed off to Concordia College after graduation, earning a degree from Moorhead State Teachers College Dec. 18, 1954.

Ten days later, Kay and Karl were married. Jan. 16, his birthday, he was inducted in the U.S. Army for a two-year tour of duty.

"When he got home he was looking for a teaching job in resort country," Kay said.

Karl was eyeing property on Bottle Lake when he was approached by Sam Wearley and his son-in-law, Theron Hatch. They asked if the Dyres might consider a contract for deed for Evergreen Lodge on Big Sand.

The resort had originated in 1917, five cabins housing guests at the time.

"It was a good deal, reasonable terms," Kay recalls of the 15 cabins on the original 25-acre lakefront property. The largest cabin earned $96 a week. The lake was home to five resorts in the late '50s.

The Dyres moved onto the resort in January 1958, "and we've been running it ever since," Kay said of what's now an 18-cabin resort with a nine-hole golf course and tennis courts. The tourist haven is situated on 265 pine-covered acres with a thousand feet of sand beach.

Karl's definition of the resort: 100 kids for 100 days.

Both sons, Dan and Jon, 51, an attorney, were raised on the resort.

Any debates on tasks were referred to the chief magistrate. "We'd do it his way," Dan recalled. "But here was no family animosity. We had our own duties. Nobody crossed the line."

An 85 percent repeat business, some of whom are fourth generation guests, speaks to his congenial spirit.

Defying gravity

"In August of 1974, Karl got sick," Kay recalled. The viral infection sent him to the hospital. "While he was lying there, looking at the ceiling, he decided there were things he'd been putting off.

"He wanted to learn to fly."

Karl started lessons that December and by the next spring, he was a licensed pilot.

"Flying opened up a new world for him," she said.

He owned several planes, in partnership and his own, over the next few decades. Karl recently learned to fly float planes.

"He loved the outdoors," Kay said of his 18 trips to Alaska where he hunted, fished and broadened his friendship base. "He loved people."

Interest was in kids

Karl taught high school social studies for 26 years, "13 in the old school, 13 in the new," Kay said. He retired from teaching in 1983, his students fondly recalling his presence in the classroom.

Gary Gauldin taught with Karl and said he was very committed to his role in teaching students.

"Karl's interest was in the kids," he said. "He brought a lot of real life experience to his teaching, especially in the advanced classes."

Gauldin said Karl was very opinionated but was always sincere. Even in his later years, Karl was one of the few citizens who would regularly attend Truth in Taxation hearings and public meetings.

"He always came to learn, never to complain," he said.

As a resort owner, Gauldin said Karl was one of the best resort owners in the area and built Evergreen Resort into a great place.

An occupation of choice

Karl died Friday morning, having returned from gopher trapping. Kay met him on the driveway on her way into town. They stopped to talk briefly. She came home to find the truck running, and knew something was amiss.

"He was fine one minute and gone the next," Dan said.

Not long ago, Karl was perched on a snow bank painting a building when the mercury climbed to 50. And he was about to begin planting a thousand trees.

He'd been diagnosed in 2001 with early stages of heart failure. And five years ago he overcame hydrocephalus, fluid on the brain, amazing doctors with a full recovery.

"It was not a surprise, but it was still a shock," Kay said of her husband's death.

"We had a unique life. This was a great place to raise kids. He loved the resort business, but most of all, the people. It was his choice from day one."