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Wayne Haskell had everything going for him when he graduated from North High School in Minneapolis in 1960. He was an honors student, senior class president and voted "most ambitious."

As a ninth-grader, Haskell won a public affairs contest that earned him a trip to Washington, D.C., which fueled his interest in politics and government. Classmates nicknamed him "Senator."

"We all thought he would be a politician," said Stan Dobrin, a friend of nearly 70 years.

Both irascible and brilliant, mental health problems surfaced after high school and robbed Haskell of his potential, Dobrin said. Complications stemming from COVID-19 took his life. Haskell died April 15 at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. He was 77.

Haskell outlived his parents and two brothers, but the deep friendships he developed at North High were his family. Scores of classmates and school acquaintances watched his virtual memorial service and sent notes, Dobrin said.

Haskell worked for the post office and as a Twin Cities real estate agent, but generally bounced from job to job. By the time he was 60, Haskell was unable to earn a living or to live on his own. Dobrin and four other close friends raised money to support him and found him a place at Sholom Home West in St. Louis Park. Haskell lived at the care facility for the past 13 years.

Haskell had an unending thirst for knowledge. He was a prolific reader who dug into topics ranging from foreign films to philosophy, from public policy to Italian cuisine.

"He was interested in so many things," said longtime friend Louise Yim of Minneapolis. "He had more curiosity than anybody you'd ever meet. He wanted to know more."

Haskell had strong political opinions and was never afraid to share them, decrying Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' decision to drop out of the race for the White House.

"Agree or not, you could have a spirited chat," Yim said. "He was sharp in conversation, but he didn't pontificate. He was humble about his knowledge."

Haskell was one of Sholom Home West's youngest residents and was an advocate for his older neighbors. If he thought something was amiss, he pointed it out, Yim said.

At times feisty, Haskell also was known for his empathy and engaging others in conversation, said Sarah Conley, who works in Sholom's business office.

"He'd come in, sometimes grouchy, and ask how are you doing," Conley said. "We talked. I enjoyed that. He left me happy. He was very well liked around here."

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768