Howard Mohr, author of ‘How to Talk Minnesotan,’ dies at 83

Howard Mohr, a writer for “A Prairie Home Companion” whose book, “How to Talk Minnesotan,” took a humorous look at Minnesotans, died Sunday. He was 83 years old.

First published in 1987 and later made into a Plymouth Playhouse musical, “How to Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor’s Guide” expanded on Mohr’s writing for Garrison Keillor’s weekly radio variety show. The book was considered an essential look at what makes Minnesotans Minnesotans, detailing “goodbye Minnesota,” the art of waving, the intricacies of hotdish, and the difference between “a not so bad” and “incredible treatment”.

“Anyone who moves to Minnesota, give them a copy of his book,” said Marcy Olson, who in the 1980s took Mohr’s popular class as a freshman at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, then known as Southwest State University, and became a lifelong student. dude.

Mohr was a Minnesota outsider turned insider.

Speaking candidly, gently, and kindly, he spoke of the quirks of Minnesotans with a loving gaze. She was born in Des Moines, spent a few years in San Jose, California, then, as a teenager, returned to a farm in Ferguson, Iowa, where she lived with her parents and four younger siblings. He transferred to Abilene Christian University in Texas to be near the woman he would become his wife.

“We didn’t have any negative years in our marriage of 59 years and three months,” said his widow, Jody Mohr. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Arkansas before studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. She had a gift for language, a keen eye, and an even sharper wit.

Mohr became part of an impressive cohort of professors in the department of English at Minnesota Southwestern State University in Marshall. In 1970, Mohr and two other professors joined the English department: Stephen Dunn, who would later win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and Philip Dacey, an accomplished poet. That trio, along with Bill Holm, a poet and frequent guest on “A Prairie Home Companion,” and Leo Dangel, author of six poetry collections, garnered national attention for writing about rural life.

The Mohrs were pilots who loved to travel and flew single-engine planes to locations across the country. They lived on 5 acres in Cottonwood, where Mohr stayed until just a few weeks ago, when his Parkinson’s disease worsened. Even as they got older, he still felt like they were dating; A decade ago, the couple took dance classes together.

“I’d put on records and we’d do polka from the dining room to the kitchen,” said Jody Mohr.

Mohr is survived by his wife; his daughter, Susana; and the four younger brothers of him. Services are held at a later date.

“She had an appreciation of the Midwestern, rural Minnesota lifestyle, and her writing reflected that,” said Dana Yost, a former Marshall Independent editor and close friend. “It wasn’t like Sinclair Lewis attacked us. He wrote observational stuff that was true, but he found a way to make it funny. He saw the stereotypical definition of Minnesotans, the ‘you betchas,’ and the long goodbyes, and he found the humor in that”.

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