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George Hulstrand retires after 64 years practicing law

Attorney George Hulstrand Sr., right, speaks Wednesday with Wayne Hulst during a retirement celebration for Hulstrand at Bethel Lutheran Church in Willmar. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)1 / 3
George Hulstrand Sr. is retiring from law practice at age 91. Slowing down, however, is not part of his plan. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)2 / 3
Mabel Hulstrand has been married to George Sr. for as long as he's been practicing law. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)3 / 3

WILLMAR -- George E. Hulstrand has been a fixture of the Willmar legal community since 1946.

This week, after 64 years, he finally retired. That's not a sign that the 91-year-old intends to slow down, though.

Hulstrand's children are looking forward to him writing down some of the stories they've heard from him over the years.

The stories are many. There's the talk of how he grew up on a farm by Spring Garden, a farming community centered around a little Lutheran church near Cannon Falls. He took high school courses through correspondence, then went to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.

At Gustavus Adolphus, Hulstrand, as president of the student council, helped lead a protest against a college president who wanted to do away with student activities. The students won.

After that, it was off to Yale Law School. While there, he went to a Lutheran church recommended by his pastor at home. He remembers "hearing a pretty girl sing in the choir." It was his future wife, Mabel. They have been married as long as he's practiced law.

"I don't think he had been out with a girl in his life," Mabel Hulstrand said this week in their home in northwest Willmar.

"Well, I couldn't go out with anybody in Spring Garden, because I was related to them all," he responded.

Hulstrand said he does plan to do some writing, but he is also considering dipping a toe into local politics again. His still-quick mind has been occupied lately with education and with city planning.

He has some thoughts on both that he may be sharing with the proper authorities. Actually he was more direct than that -- he said, "I'm going to wake up the City Council."

He has been known to offer his viewpoint at City Council meetings in the past. His views are informed by serving two terms on the City Council in the 1950s and serving as chairman of the Planning Commission for 16 years after that.

Hulstrand spent his entire legal career working in the Willmar Building on Fourth Street in downtown Willmar. His specialties included probate and real estate. As recently as last week he was still walking to work.

About 60 people attended a retirement reception this week. The people there represented Hulstrand's passions: his family, the local legal community, Bethel Lutheran Church and the DFL Party.

During a program, retired District Judge John Lindstrom praised Hulstrand for his civic engagement. "It's important for people to contact their representatives and express their view, and George was never afraid to do that," he said.

Lindstrom said he believed Hulstrand to be the longest-serving lawyer in Kandiyohi County and one of the longest-serving in the state.

The program was filled with praise and some gentle ribbing about Hulstrand's "early" retirement. Three of the Hulstrands' children, George Jr., Darlene Schroeder and Jeanne Berget, were there along with several grandchildren. Another son, Brian, died in January.

Hulstrand, in addition to his service to the city, was a longtime chairman of the county DFL and held many positions at Bethel Lutheran.

Shirley Hulst was a DFL co-chair with Hulstrand. She and her husband, Wayne, said he was an even-handed chairman who taught members a lot about politics. "Working with George was fun," Shirley Hulst said. "He knew about everything; he really has a mind on him."

Others at the group remembered Hulstrand's attention to detail in training young attorneys to handle real estate. "You taught me to love the law," one man said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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