Harry E. Eliason, a prominent retired attorney in Hawaii and Minnesota, beloved husband, father, brother, colleague and friend, died of long Covid in Hilo, Hawaii Hospital on February 4, 2022. He is survived by his wife Deborah Thompson Eliason, a retired Speech Pathologist, who also was hospitalized for Covid. Harry and Deborah would have celebrated their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary on April 15. He is also survived by their son, Christopher John, a Computer Network Analyst in Minneapolis and daughter, Sarah Almi, the owner of the Paia Dance Studio & Art Gallery in Maui.
Both Minnesota natives, Harry and Deborah, met as undergraduates at the University of Minnesota at the Minneapolis main campus, where Harry was admitted to the Law School. A promising scholarship student he served as a paid intern in the Washington County Attorney’s office. Upon graduation and admission to the Minnesota bar in 1973 he began a long and varied practice in Minnesota and Hawaii.
Among his most important affiliations were with the firm Thuet,Pugh & Rogosheske in the metro area and his practice with Randall, Eliason and Murray in Hibbing, the source of life-long friendships.
He joined Thuet, Pugh & Rogosheske, the oldest firm in South St. Paul, and practiced there for well over a decade as a young lawyer in a diverse practice including banking, business and personal legal matters. Well regarded for his courtroom acumen, Harry was active in working with young lawyers to develop their skills before the bench. He also served as a public defender and strived to meet the special needs of clients who had difficulty finding legal representation due to mental illness or other disability, homelessness or poverty. This goal was no doubt influenced by his growing up in a small town, and the experiences of his mother who understood human needs and obligations. Orphaned at age 9, very intelligent and largely self-taught, she lived in service to her family, church, and community as a volunteer and a reporter, and in her work as a respected supervising nurse in the local State Hospital. Her motto: Make yourself useful!
Harry’s partnership in 1973 with attorney James Randall and former Judge Gail Murray as Randall, Eliason & Murray in Hibbing, Minnesota brought another dimension of civic duty and involvement to his practice of law as well as personal life-time friendships. When Jim Randall was appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the practice continued as Eliason and Murray. The firms had an influential and varied practice in civic, business, criminal and personal matters and were known for serving the legal needs of the entire community without regard to status or financial resources.
Harry’s final professional and personal relocation was to Hilo, Hawaii, perhaps with an eye to Hawaii as a retirement haven as well. In addition, it was an opportunity to reconnect more fully with Deborah’s family, her parents, John and Hazel Thompson, and her younger brothers, Jim and Paul, all of whom had moved to Hawaii while Harry and Deborah were still students at the University of Minnesota.
Deborah’s father, John Thompson, a Full Professor of Agronomy at the University of Minnesota (where fellow Norwegian agronomist Norman Borlaug had earlier earned his PhD and begun a career that was capped by a Nobel Prize for his work in world hunger and famine known as the Green Revolution.) Professor Thompson was appointed Superintendent of Research Facilities at the University of Hawaii, Hilo, in 1967. Upon retirement he continued his work, most notably in projects in Asia, Indonesia and the Bahamas, to improve the yield of their rice and other crops as well as continuing projects in Hawaii. He received world-wide recognition for developing better strategies to feed the rapidly growing world, and consulted and spoke on the topic worldwide, including in Columbia and the Soviet Union. John and Hazel Thompson predeceased Harry but are survived by their sons, Jim and Paul and their families.
Harry established a solo general practice in Hilo, again practicing in many areas of the law and excelling in the courtroom. Sadly, his career as a litigator was curtailed and then cut short when he suffered a significant stroke affecting his speech during a court proceeding, and smaller ones thereafter also affecting movement and memory. He assumed an inactive status in 2019 and he and Deborah retired to their lovely orchard overlooking the ocean In Hilo.
Harry E. Eliason was born in Moose Lake, Minnesota, the youngest of four children born to Elmer Eliason and Almi Kallio Eliason, both of whom were children of Finnish immigrants in the early 1900’s. Harry graduated from Moose Lake High School where he enjoyed an active social life, ran the mile, was in French Club, the school play, yearbook, school paper. A class officer, he participated in student government, speech and debate, and represented the school at Boy’s State. He is remembered by his fellow graduates with this signature quotation: “I don’t quite agree. Let me explain.”
A true Minnesotan, he loved boating, hunting and fishing which he continued to do in Hawaii, but lacked opportunities for curling. A people person, he kept in touch with his school friends and colleagues throughout his life. He always had time to talk and enjoyed meeting new people. His retirement gave him more time to enjoy the outdoors, especially the beach, and chat with friends, family and the person he just met. Harry and Debbie shared the pleasures of sun, surf, family, good friends, food, the occasional trip to Las Vegas, and their beautiful orchard on the ocean’s edge. Their lasting young love endured all.
He is survived by Hawaii residents, brother Jim Thompson and children Mason and Justine of Hilo; brother Paul Thompson and wife Jeanne and their children Aren and wife Genelle, Katie and husband Julian Lopez and their daughter Evie.
Harry Elmer is preceded in death by his parents Elmer and Almi Kallio Eliason, grandparents: Benjamin and Anna Eliasson and Hilma and Andrew Kallio, his elder sister Nancy Eliason Cleckner, his brother, Robert Marvin Eliason and his brother-in-law, Paul Lustig Dunkel and his in-laws John and Hazel Thompson,
He will be missed by his surviving sibling, Barbara Eliason Dunkel, the constant companion of his youth, connected by age, the law, and interest in their heritage, and family. His survivors include Dale Cleckner and family, Sharen Eliason McKelvey and family, and his many nieces, nephews and their children, and generations to come in Hawaii, Moose Lake &, Minneapolis Minnesota, New York and California. He will be especially remembered by his many friends, family and colleagues with whom he generously served with his skills.
Funeral services were held in Hilo Hawaii on Saturday, April 2 at 11 am at the Church of God with Pastor Jun presiding.
A service of Christian Burial, will be held on May 28, at 11 am at the Eliason family plot in Leonard Cemetery between Barnum and Kettle River, Minnesota on Highway 6, followed by a reception for family and friends at the Kettle River Community Center.
To get more information on services, consult local papers, social media or leave a message for family and friends at this website: