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Eldor Omdahl dies at 101; Warren-area Audubon sanctuary his legacy of nature

Eldor Omdahl of Warren, Minn., stands in the loft above a pond he dug at the Wetlands, Pines and Prairie Audubon Sanctuary.

At the start of deer hunting season in November 2008, Eldor Omdahl sat in a heated shack atop a hill near Warren, Minn., visiting with Herald outdoors writer Brad Dokken.

Omdahl wasn't carrying a rifle that day. "I'm slowing up," he told Dokken. "My gun feels a lot heavier than it used to."

He was 98 then, and he was there in the shack to talk and to savor the natural beauty of the land and the creatures that thrived on it, a sanctuary he had done much to create: The Wetlands Pines and Prairie Audubon Sanctuary, renamed in his honor this year as the Audubon Center of the Red River Valley and Omdahl Arboretum.

Omdahl, 101, died Sunday at the Good Samaritan Center in Warren, Minn.

The 480-acre sanctuary was started in 1982 when Omdahl, a member of the Agassiz Audubon Society, began donating land to the society. Naming the sanctuary's arboretum for him reflected his love of trees -- and the fact that he had planted many of them, an Audubon Society official said at the time of the renaming.

Omdahl was born in rural Warren and attended country school there. He left for a time to work construction in the west, especially the building of dams, but returned to the area to farm.

Throughout his life, he enjoyed fishing, hunting, bird-watching and tapping trees to make maple syrup. The sanctuary he created continues to host nature tours, school programs, citizen science projects, workshops and festivals focusing on regional wildlife.

His wife, Stella, who gave the land with him for the sanctuary, died in April. She was 92.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at DuBore Funeral Home in Warren. Visitation is one hour prior to the service.