Kenneth Koehnen of Excelsior, one of 18 children, grew up on the family truck farm, worked hard and did all he could to help his family, including helping seven of his siblings join him as service station owners in the Lake Minnetonka area.
Koehnen, who served in the Navy during World War II and later led several civic organizations, died June 8 in St. Louis Park.
He was 83.
While growing up on the family's 35-acre truck farm, Koehnen and his siblings picked berries and beans, weeded and carried water from a well to the house.
The children were paid for their work, but had to buy their clothing, learning to manage their money.
The family also had some livestock, and his father, Leonard, would work as a butcher, and take parties on horse-drawn sleigh rides during the winter.
After graduating from Excelsior High School in 1943, Koehnen went around the world twice, in two different ships, transporting troops and prisoners of war.
After the war, he worked for the former Northern States Power Co., later going to work for a man who owned a service station. Koehnen bought the station in the mid-1940s.
Daughter Karen Green of Excelsior, his only child, worked at the station while growing up.
Originally, there was no lift for the cars. He worked beneath vehicles outside, standing in a pit. In the winter, he'd put a torch to his grease gun to heat it up, said his daughter.
"He worked hard," she said. "He knew how to treat his customers, and he didn't take advantage of anybody, and he always got repeat customers."
Over the years, he expanded the garage several times, later replacing it with a new one at a nearby location.
He helped seven brothers start stations, most of them scattered around the Lake Minnetonka area.
He helped lead many civic groups, and was a former president of the Excelsior Rotary Club and commander of the Chaska VFW.
John Huber of Chanhassen, a retired funeral home director in Excelsior, said Koehnen "was always willing to get involved himself."
"If you needed an extra hand, you could call on Kenny," said Huber.
Koehnen also served as a volunteer fireman for 30 years.
"When the fire alarm went off, you knew my dad was going to be one of the first to the station," said his daughter. "He loved to drive the fire truck."
He retired in the mid-1980s and embarked on a successful effort to erect a memorial to military personnel killed in action.
His wife of 54 years, Nancy, died in 2006.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his brothers Leonard of Victoria, Gene of Las Vegas, Leslie of Parker, Colo., Lester of Shakopee, Leroy of Mound and Jim of Minnetonka; sisters Lorraine Braunworth of Victoria, Virginia Aghevli of Sacramento, Calif., Della Hartmann of Minnetonka, Pat Kirsch of Gaylord, Minn., Lorna Hounder of Mankato, Laverne Nelson of Minnetonka, Jane Boubelik of Eden Prairie, and Joan Felt of Chaska, and three grandchildren.
Services have been held.