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Harsdorf planted seeds of service

His farm, his family and his community were the cornerstones of his life, say those who are mourning the death of Ervin A. Harsdorf, 88, who died Sunday, Dec. 3, at Hudson Hospital.

His daughter, state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), said her dad loved life and people and had a great sense of humor.

His son, Jim, said their dad still joked with them and nurses in the hospital.

"That sense of humor never left him," Sheila said.

Ervin had fallen in mid-October but was getting therapy and gaining strength.

He had some pains on Thanksgiving that led back to the hospital and to the discovery that his heart was "not good" and was accumulating fluid, said Sheila.

She added that she and her brother feel blessed and thankful their father died peacefully and left a legacy of being involved and making a difference wherever possible.

Sheila said her father taught his kids a passion for living life, for enjoying what they do and for working hard. The older she's gotten, the more she treasures those values and appreciates how they shaped and influenced her.

Her father had a deep faith in God and was active at church both in River Falls at Ezekiel and when the family lived and farmed in Minnesota, said the daughter.

"He had a passion for farming," stated Sheila. The family started selling open-class dairy when they moved here, so they got to know many area dairy farmers.

The last few days have included lots of reminiscing and recalling of cherished memories -- treasures in and of themselves, said Sheila.

She and Jim recall Ervin's involvement in the West Lakeland, Minn., town board and reflected how those activities impacted them.

Jim called his dad's influence in town politics "pivotal" and explained that back then, "They used to hold town board meetings in the home."

Jim remembers picking up on a lot of the town business from those meetings and learning from his father that when someone had a problem, it was right to work on helping them solve it. Jim remembers hearing people's concerns, as well as seeing the ballot-counting process at the town hall during elections.

Their dad's influence helped lead Jim to serve in the Wisconsin Assembly for four years and the Senate for eight and Sheila to serve in the State Assembly for 11 years and the State Senate since 2001.

Jim recalls his dad's hard-working nature and cites one strong example - his father's willingness to move the Harsdorfs' farm from Minnesota into Wisconsin.

"It was not easy to move a farm," said Jim, who remembers that just about every Sunday for four years, they looked diligently to find the right new place.

Even after the family moved to Beldenville in 1970, the work of establishing the Trim-Bel Valley Farms continued, building friendships and relationships.

Jim said "Trim-Bel" incorporates the names of the two rivers that touch the property.

He said of his dad, "You could put him in any circumstances, and he'd have friends all around."

Ervin and Eloise celebrated 65 years of marriage in 2011 and enjoyed traveling together. They've been to some 13 foreign countries including Sweden, Germany and Morocco.

Jim expressed the Harsdorfs' thanks to their friends and neighbors, saying, "We're just appreciative of the community we live in."

Harsdorf family friend, Greg Andrews, who has been a Pierce County UW-Extension agent for 27 years, remembers Ervin well. Dairy farmers never seem to fully retire, said Andrews.

"I think Ervin's value of community set the stage for his life," said Andrews.

He recalls both Ervin and Eloise being at the Pierce County Fair Dairy Show every year -- smiling and greeting people even after they were well past typical retirement age.

Andrews said he had many lively conversations with Ervin about dairy farming and production. He also worked with the Harsdorfs as the family transitioned the farm from one generation to the next.

"I always enjoyed my visits out to the Harsdorf farm," said Andrews.

Ervin's obituary tells of his other community involvement including as a 4-H leader, church-building committee member, and member of several dairy cooperative boards.

He is survived by wife Eloise and four children: Roxanne, Susan, James and Sheila, as well as their spouses and extended family.

The funeral was Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Ezekiel Lutheran Church.