Bruce Aarestad

bruce aarestad

Bruce E. Aarestad, 70, Fargo, formerly Lisbon, passed away Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at the ND Veteran’s Hospital, Fargo.

Bruce Erwin Aarestad was born on October 25, 1943 in Fargo, North Dakota, the eldest son of Erwin and Eleanor Aarestad.  Bruce’s early years were spent on the family farm in Sargent County, North Dakota.  He attended Gwinner School (grades 1 thru 4) and then Forman School (grades 5 thru 7), all in Sargent County.  In 1956, Bruce and his family moved to north Fargo where he attended Ben Franklin Junior High followed by Fargo Central High School.  He graduated with the Class of ’61. 

After high School, Bruce attended the University of North Dakota on an academic scholarship.  While at UND, he joined the Sigma Nu fraternity and lived in the fraternity house.  He also enrolled in the ROTC program from which he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army.  Also, while at UND, he became active in sky diving and in the military was assigned to the 82nd Airborne.  While jumping in a competition for the Army’s sky diving team, the Golden Knights, Bruce seriously injured one of his knees and, after various surgeries, was medically released from active duty.

Prior to going on active duty, Bruce had begun his law studies at the UND Law School.  He was called to active duty during his law school tenure, but returned to the university to complete his law studies upon completion of his military duties.  He graduated from law school with his Juris Doctorate.  After graduation he moved to Tucson, Arizona where he opened a private law practice.  In 1976, he returned to Fargo where he continued to practice law until he had a serious stroke in March, 2000.  For the past 9 years, Bruce has resided at the North Dakota Veterans Home in Lisbon, ND, a facility that he truly loved, especially with the construction of the new facility.  He was quick to take all his visitors on a tour of the Home.  Three months ago, Bruce was diagnosed with MDS, a bone marrow disease that ultimately claimed his life. He died peacefully at the VA Hospital in Fargo surrounded by family and loving care providers.  Bruce was 70 years of age. 

Bruce lived an active life.  He loved skydiving and participated in many competitions.  He flew airplanes and owned his own plane, Petunia, in which he gave family and friends many spine-tingling rides. He loved handball and was recently given the Rudy Harris memorial by his friends at the YMCA.  He was a first rate musician and played many instruments, piano, accordion, guitar, keyboard, etc, all by ear.

Bruce is survived by his siblings:  Wayne (Debbie) Aarestad, Fargo; Janna Andrews, Nettles Island, FL; Dean (Emily) Aarestad, Centennial, CO; Dale Aarestad, Riverside, CA; and Karen Aarestad, MD, Riverside, CA.  Bruce is further survived by several aunts and uncles and his nieces and nephews.  His absence will be deeply felt.

The family requests that memorials be designated for the ND Veterans Home in memory of Bruce.                                          

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Memories Timeline


  1. Tucson AZ
    Great memories of playing indoor and outdoor handball with Bruce. Also, enjoyed listening to Bruce playing accordion and other music.

  2. Fargo ND
    Rest in peace, Bruce! We had many great handball games together and lots of good sauna/locker room conversations at the Y. I’ll always remember your zest for life, listening to you play piano at handball parties, and the day you sky dived (without permission) into the ND
    SU-UND football game I was playing in! I’m glad I was at the Veteran’s Home to see the Handball Club given you the Rudy Harris Award. You will be well remembered and greatly missed!!!

  3. Fargo Was sad to hear of Bruce’s passing. I visited him once at Lisbon and many times before that at his place on South terrace. He used to love to play the country songs he knew, with me on several occasions, there in his living room. He will be missed!

  4. Fargo ND
    Bruce was a great friend and colleague and I will always cherish the time we spent together practicing law. Bruce was truly a free spirit. I pray God will comfort the whole family as they grieve his passing.

  5. Dear Wayne, Janna (MOB), Dean, Dale, Karen, Family Members and Friends of Bruce,
    I’m sorry I will not be able to attend the Services. You all have my condolences at this time.
    Bruce I miss our telephone calls already!
    I was able to get to know Bruce through Wayne, Debbie and Karen by visiting him a few times while he lived in the North Dakota
    Veterans Home in Lisbon, ND
    (What a great facility, sign me up!) and by the phone calls to Karen’s home when I would pick up the phone. Bruce needed to know how we were doing and likewise I needed to know if he was still doing his PT (physical training), eating right, going to the chapel and riding his adult tricycle (he would always assured me that he was). He said he would ride for an hour or longer if the weather permitted. He loved his bike and PT. We just liked to touch bases regularly each other. These calls were special to me and I am sure they were just as special for him as well.
    Last October Karen and I had what she called, “The Sweetest Visit with Bruce” when we went to the ND
    Veterans Home to have lunch with Bruce. We enjoyed some good food (ham, sweet potatoes, corn, desert and coffee) which was delicious and it was fun to put our feet under the table with him. We also attended his Chapel Service where I held the hymnal while singing with him (we were a pretty good duet if you ask me!). Then after the services we visited with his good friend Tom and his wife (more desert Janna, Mmmm!). It gets better! He let me ride his adult tricycle before we left. Wow! What a day! I got a real good feel how he lived there in Lisbon, he sure did keep busy! I could tie the phone calls together with his actual daily life style. I too consider this as “The Sweetest Visit with Bruce”!
    Good job everybody who cared for Bruce! Bruce will always have a special place in my heart (especially while I do PT)! I will miss my friend and comrade! He was like a brother to me.
    Always, Love, Jack

  6. Fargo Nd.
    Sad to hear of Bruce’s passing..was a good
    person…Enjoyed jamming with him when he lived near Oak Hills. Fun musician to be around..always encouraging others to enjoy music.

    Jim c

  7. Walcott ND
    i came to know Bruce during his stay a the ND
    Veterans Home. He was always a very engaging individual and was very good a playing pinochle, even though he was fairly new to the game. We were very proud of Bruce for learning the game after recovering from his stroke. He will be missed!

  8. Centennial COWe will miss Bruce’s loving friendship and brotherly advice. The kids loved receiving Bruce’s cards and thoughtful gifts over the years. Fortunately, my son Gregory and I spent some quality time with Bruce in Lisbon in September, looking at pictures, having lunch, riding his bicycle and visiting Forman and the old farm. I will always be thankful for and cherish the weekend I had with Bruce in December, playing the guitar, singing his favorite country songs and reminiscing our colorful history together. As a fellow Christian, it’s never goodbye, it’s see you later.

  9. West Fargo ND
    I met Bruce many years ago when we worked down the hall from each other at different law firms. We both had a love of riding our Harley’s and would meet to take road trips wherever the road took us. Once I married, I introduced Bruce to my husband. Steve took an instant like to Bruce. Many times we went to listen to Bruce at his “jam sessions” or get together for road trips. Bruce will be remembered as a kind, wonderful, and free-spirited person. A life well-lived and person well-loved. We are all truly blessed to have known him. God Bless you all.

  10. West Fargo North Dakota
    To Bruce’s family:
    I was working at the Fargo VA as a Nurse when I got to meet Bruce for the first time. I was and still am honored to have been able to meet with him face to face several times a month. He was and still is a truly awesome veteran and I thank my stars for being able to work with such a individual. You are all in my prayers.

    God bless,
    Robin Larson, RN

  11. Fargo ND
    From the first time I met Bruce , while he was in law school with my brother John in 1969, through the many times I had the pleasure of his company since, I was always struck by civility, humor, and joy of life. The “Schneider boys”, as Bruce would call us, grew up with the Aarestad brothers and shared many good times and not a few adventures. After his stroke, Bruce lived for a time at New Horizons Manor on north Broadway and on the same floor as our brother, Richard. Bruce, despite his own ailments, always took time to visit Richard and give a shout out when the brothers came to visit. As Steve said, Bruce was indeed a free spirit, in the best sense of that phrase. Farewell, Bruce, you will missed by all who had the pleasure to know you.

  12. Fargo ND
    Siblings of Bruce: My prayers n thoughts are with you all. I met Bruce back in the mid-80s watching him and his partners dancing to the music of the Old Friends Band and was always amazed at his grace on the dance floor. Through music I got to know Bruce and always enjoyed being one of his dance partners. He was a great friend for many years. Rest in Peace, Bruce

  13. Winnetka IllinoisBruce was a great friend, we were Sigma Nu’s together, entered the US Army at Fort Knox together and both enjoyed skydiving with the local parachute club. Always enjoyed going with him to UND Homecoming when I was able to get to ND
    . Will miss his weekly phone calls. He so enjoyed the VA Hospital in Lisbon and we will all miss his cheery nature. Phil and Lucy Hoza

  14. Jamestown ND
    Dear nieces and nephews, siblings of Bruce,

    We have enjoyed watching Bruce’s life from when he was born. Many times we were together, our kids and you kids in Fargo and Harwood. The time came for all to embark on life’s work when all were together less. Thelma had her stroke in 11/99 and Bruce in 3/00 so entered into a more common bond. I visited him in VA Hosp and when he went to Lisbon got to know him better in his Sat calls. Was difficult to always get the full message but was meaningful. He became more serious in later years and we were happy to see him enjoy it. He lost some of his ‘zip’ when his ‘kinda’ dad[Orville Suhumski] passed away. He was not able to gather with them anymore. He kept an earnest spirit of Faith which we valued. I will miss my oldest nephew but know he is now resting.

  15. Fargo North Dakota
    The Handball Club of Fargo-Moorhead lost a true sportsman in Bruce. He was always a gentleman both on and off the court. For years Bruce put on the cook out at his house following our summer tournament. I will miss the monthly update phone call from Bruce. It was the Clubs pleasure to give him the Rudy Harris award for representing sportsmanship through Handball. His forever broad smile will be missed by all.

  16. Fargo ND
    So sorry to hear the news about Bruce. My family goes back a long ways with the Aarestads. Bruce was a kind and free spirit. I always enjoyed any time that I was fortunate to converse with him. I regret I didn’t do it more. Steve S.

  17. Fargo ND
    Dear Aarestad Family,
    On separate occasions, while we lived near Washington, DC in Virginia, we had visits from Eleanor and Erwin. Karen accompanied her mother. Our teen aged daughters, especially Bonnie, enjoyed good times with Karen. Erwin occupied a last minute vacancy on a tour bus of high school students visiting the Capital. We are so glad they included us among their many activities!
    Since moving to Fargo, we have appreciated getting to know Bruce! And through him, to become acquainted with Wayne and Debbie who were so kind to him! We regret that we will be travelling at the time of the funeral. We will be visiting our daughter, Bonnie, in Manitoba. She joins us in extending our sincere codolences. Ruth and Bob Farring

  18. Moscow IDDear Wayne, Debbie,Janna, Dean, Dale, and Karen,
    I am so sorry for your (and our) loss of Bruce. I am glad I had the opportunity to re-connect with him in a small way when Dad took us to visit him in Lisbon. He was a remarkable person, before and after his disability. I honor all you have done for and with him, Wayne and Debbie, since he was unable to live on his own. I hope your memories are a comfort to you all.

  19. We will miss Bruce’s upbeat spirit. Ted has missed getting Bruce’s weekly calls these last few months. They were so encouraging and he always expressed his happiness in his heart. His calls were certainly a hi-lite of our weekends.

  20. EVERSON WashingtonDear Aarestad siblings of Bruce.

    Our condolences to all of you as you bid goodbye to your brother. We both at separate times boarded at the Aarestad home on 10th St. N. in Fargo while Bruce was still in High School. We both have fond memories of those days. We have visited Bruce only twice in the 49 years we have lived on the W. Coast. Once in the soldiers home and once in his own home in N. Fargo after his stroke. We have enjoyed his cheerful attitude on each occasion. Wish we could be with you all on the 19th, but our greetings will have to take our place. Wish we could see each of you.

  21. Crestline CAI am Jack Phillips’ sister Gayle and my husband Bob. My daughter Heather was born in Grand Forks ND
    during the time my dad was stationed at Grand Forks AFB. We have always had a heart for your beautiful state. So of course when we met Karen many years ago, we hit it off! We have had the privilege of sharing our home, enjoying fellowship with Janna, Wayne and Debbie as well. We met Dale at my brother’s graduation party so that makes “four” of the “five Aarestad kids!” What a remarkable and loving family you all are. We were not able to meet Bruce but reading and learning more about him we feel very connected because Bob and I are of the same age and era. We are so very grateful for his service to our country. We send our love to all the Aarestad family and those who knew Bruce well……May the Lord comfort you and draw near. Love, from your California friends, Bob and Gayle Stafford

  22. Fargo ND
    We both worked with Bruce during the years he was practicing law in Fargo. He was a genuine person who will be missed. Our sincere condolences to his family. We are unable to attend the service as we are wintering in Florida, but we will keep you in our prayers as we fondly remember Bruce.

  23. Longmont COTo the Aarestad family,

    My heart is heavy! Bruce and my dad Willie played in many of “jam sessions together in the day at the Legion Club and Saturdays were their day to play at the VA hospital. Dad had many of wonderful stories of Bruce and knew there were not many men like Bruce.

    God Bless your family during this time of sadness.

  24. Dear Aarestad Family, It was so good to be able to get to know Bruce just a little bit in these later years as you were all raised close to us and we lost contact through the years……. I enjoyed Bruce’s countenance in the face of adversity! Wish I could be there for the funeral but that won’t be possible so please know I will be thinking of you all! My condolences to all the rest of you! Karolyn

  25. Stockholm SwedenI am very glad I had to opportunity to “reconnect” with Bruce, and will remember visits with him for a long time. I will be thinking of you as you gather, and wish I could be there.

  26. Neenah WisconsinVERY special thoughts are going to all of you dear cousins. I wish I could be at Bruce’s funeral on the 19th, but please know I will be with you in heart and mind. Bruce left an impression on all who came in contact with him…his beautiful contented spirit radiated. Please accept my deepest sympathy. With love and care, Gwen Aarestad

  27. I don’t know why I was just thinking about Bruce I knew he was in the VA but could never get back there We practiced law together in Tucson and had some mining claims He taught me how to fly an airplane He came to visit me at my office just before he got sick. He was a wonderful guy and we were good friends. I have thought of him often. I ‘m sorry nine years to late to learn of his passing

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