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When Marilyn Beddor (then Marilyn Branchaud) captured the heart of the man who would become her husband of 50 years, he professed his affection for her on a billboard overlooking downtown Minneapolis.

“I love Mike,” read the message signed by “Frankie,” aka Frank Beddor Jr., who had written his very public declaration in secret code, using the pet name he’d given his then-girlfriend.

Befitting the loving and beloved person she was, Marilyn Beddor died on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, at age 86.

Beddor grew up in Minneapolis and developed a reputation for her elegant style and taste back when she was in high school at the Academy of Holy Angels. As dances approached, all the girls wanted to know: What would Marilyn be wearing?

After graduating from what was then the College of St. Catherine, Beddor worked in fashion advertising at Dayton’s downtown Minneapolis department store, where she organized showrooms and window displays.

Beddor first met her future husband when she was 8 years old (she was a friend of his younger sister). When the two were reintroduced a decade later, she was initially skeptical of the bachelor with a reputation for larger-than-life antics — he’d once water-skied on the Mississippi River dressed as Paul Bunyan.

But Frank Jr.’s efforts (which also included having himself wrapped in a box with a big red bow and delivered to Beddor’s doorstep as a Valentine’s Day gift) soon won her over.

The couple raised four children in Chanhassen and the family lived what son Frank Beddor III referred to as “the Beddor active lifestyle,” which involved skiing, car racing and sky diving — even though the latter risked mussing Mom’s always-perfect hair.

Beddor was known for her warmth and compassion in addition to her adventurous spirit. “She had a talent for connecting with people,” her son said in the eulogy. “She had a talent for making family feel like friends and friends feel like family.”

Longtime friend Sunny Wicka explained how Marilyn and Frank Jr. were constantly expanding their social circle. “They were always looking to embrace new friends,” she said. This even extended to people the couple met when traveling abroad, Wicka noted: “Pretty soon, they’d be coming up to water ski at their house.”

Beddor was a tolerant person who possessed a subtle fierceness. When the family took up car racing, Beddor became a top 10 performer at Brainerd International Raceway. Before one race, as Beddor walked past a row of cars dressed in her jumpsuit, a male driver remarked, “Oh, don’t tell me they’re going to let ladies in this now.” She responded with a cordial, “Yes.” Then she beat the guy.

Beddor was a world traveler who enjoyed experiencing other cultures. She was active in the Catholic church as well as in supporting charitable and arts organizations. She loved tending her garden and enjoying time with family and friends. It was a life she was thankful to have lived.

Wicka, who visited with Beddor weekly in her final months, admired the calm determination with which her friend faced death. “I was really inspired by her peace and contentment in her situation,” she said.

While Beddor spent much of the last two decades living in Naples, Fla., she reserved summers for the family’s longtime house on Christmas Lake, a place packed with fond memories of so many gatherings.

Beddor is survived by children Frank Beddor III of Los Angeles and Michelle Beddor, Steven Beddor and David Beddor, all of Chanhassen; as well as nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Services have been held.

Rachel Hutton • 612-673-4569