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Al Hylland gave credit to his mother for his four-decade career with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“He always said that his mother found him the job,” son Bob Hylland said, retelling the story that took place in the small cafe his grandparents owned in Grygla, in northwestern Minnesota.

“One day there were a couple of highway department employees eating at the cafe and my grandmother overheard them say they were looking for help,” he said. “She told them they should hire her son.”

Upon his mother’s successful recommendation, Al Hylland began his MnDOT career in a district office in Crookston. He spent the majority of his career in the Twin Cities as a manager.

Hylland died June 19 at a memory care unit in White Bear Lake. He was 87.

“He said he had been on nearly every road — state highway or trunk highway — in the state,” said Bob Hylland. “He started out in the field, checking concrete and doing tests on bituminous and asphalt overlays. He moved to the Twin Cities and went into project design.”

After moving to the metropolitan area, Hylland originally worked out of the District 9 (East Metro) office in Oakdale. He eventually moved to the agency’s headquarters in St. Paul.

Much of his work as a preliminary project design manager involved environmental impact statements and attending public hearings to get feedback.

“I think he found it interesting,” said Bob Hylland. “That kept him going. Every project was a little different.”

Former MnDOT employee Jack Caroon said he worked with Hylland and got to know him in the Preliminary Design department. “He had a lot of good advice and was very helpful to a young engineer,” Caroon said.

Caroon said Hylland had a good temperament for the job.

“He attended public hearings and received the public feedback about projects,” said Caroon “He was pretty low-key and level-headed. He did his job [well.]”

Caroon said they collaborated on all kinds of projects.

“From low-level to high-level,” he said. “He had a wide spectrum of duties and reports to do. Among the [bigger] projects we worked on were Mendota Bridge and Wakota Bridge.”

Bob Hylland said some of the projects his father highlighted were the Cedar Avenue Bridge (over the Minnesota River), the Interstate 35E project and the redesign of Snelling Avenue near the State Fairgrounds.

Hylland retired in 1993 and enjoyed maintaining a vegetable garden.

“He had a garden that was probably bigger than normal,” his son said. “Probably because he grew up on a farm. He liked to pull a wagon, with the vegetables he had grown, through his neighborhood and give them to his neighbors.”

Hylland was born to Elmer and Mabel Hylland on April 12, 1933, in Grygla. He attended Fargo (N.D.) Oak Grove Lutheran High School before graduating from Grand Forks (N.D.) Central High School in 1951.

After high school, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War as a quartermaster at Fort Carson, Colo., and as a military police officer at Mannheim Army Base in Germany. After his service he went to work for MnDOT.

Hylland is survived by his wife of 12 years, Lois; two sons, Bob of North Branch, Minn., and Joel of Mendota Heights; daughter Wendi of Lakeville and four grandchildren. His first wife, Orianne, died in 1999. They were married for 39 years.

Services have been held.