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Charlie Rew led Burlington Township for half a century

For 50 years, Becker County township government had no better friend than Charles Rew.

Rew, 87, passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 14, but not before leaving his mark on Burlington Township, where he served on the board of supervisors for five decades -- until ill health forced his retirement a couple of years ago.

"He was the chair for most of the time he served on the board," said lifelong friend and former colleague Albert "Ike" Fischer, who served on the township board with him for 25 years. "As chairman, he recruited a lot of others to serve on the town board -- including me. He was very dedicated."

So dedicated, in fact, that he was instrumental in organizing the Becker County Association of Township Officers, and the Minnesota State Township Officers Association, Fischer added.

It was through the county association that Rew made the acquaintance of Roger Winter, a former Callaway Township officer and ex-Becker County commissioner.

"He was president of the (county township) association when I met him," Winter said. "I think he influenced a lot of people.

"He always had good stories to tell... he used to talk about when he first took training with the (U.S. Army) cavalry unit in Fort Meade (S.D.). He got sent over to China (to work) with the mule train," Winter continued. "They used to run mules up in the mountains, bringing food and supplies to U.S. intelligence.

"His mother was a schoolteacher, and he was pretty well educated. I think he read quite a lot."

Another friend and colleague of Rew's, Gordon Sanders, said he was also a dedicated member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post in Frazee.

"He was a real easy guy to get along with," Sanders said. "We were good friends, and good neighbors for a long time."

Sanders continued to visit with Rew a couple of times a week when Rew entered the Frazee Care Center in 2003.

"He was just a good buddy, that's all I can say," Sanders added.

"He was one of the best," Fischer agreed. "He was rather serious, and rather outspoken at times -- he had to be.

"He had a fantastic memory of who lived in the township, the land ownership, the condition of the roads, how to repair them and which ones needed repair.

"That (township government) was his life, basically."

Rew also served as a weed inspector for the township, and at the county level, served on the Becker County Board of Adjustments for several years. In addition to his work with township government at the local, county and state levels, Rew was also a member of the Frazee VFW, Becker County Historical Society and was an active fire warden for Becker County for many years.

Though he never married, Fischer indicated that Rew had a girlfriend in his later years; she eventually died after a prolonged illness.

A graduate of Frazee High School, he served with the U.S. Army for five years, then came back to work on the family farm near Vergas, where he remained until entering the Frazee Care Center in 2003.

In 2000, Rew was named as Becker County's Outstanding Senior Citizen.

"He was very proud of that," Winter said.

Becker County Coordinator on Aging Judy Peterson, who organizes the Outstanding Senior competition each year, recalled that his application had stood out from the others in terms of achievement.

"He did a lot, especially for the townships," she said.

Rew is survived by three brothers, Robert (Clarice) Rew of Savage, Minn., Richard "Dick" (Hazel) Rew of Mesa, Ariz., and Merton (Louise) Rew of Pine Island, Minn. Preceding him in death were his parents and two sisters, Lois and Jean.

Funeral services were held Friday, Feb. 17 at the Congregational Church in Detroit Lakes. A full obituary appears in today's issue of the Detroit Lakes Tribune.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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