Victor Charles Vanecek, of Mora, died peacefully at home on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021 after a nine month battle with an aggressive, rare cancer. He was 74 years old.
He was born and raised on the Iron Range in Virginia, Minnesota - the eldest child of the four children of Toini and John J. Vanecek. The grandchild of Finnish and Czech immigrants he embraced his “Range” and cultural identity throughout his life.
As a child, he played sports with his friends, collected baseball cards, picked blueberries with his grandfather and had his own paper route for the Mesabi Daily News. A turning point in his life came at age 13 when his mother had her first heart attack and again two years later when she passed away. It was then that he became introspective, thoughtful and religious as he helped his father raise his siblings who were only 12, 10 and 8 years old.
After graduating from Virginia High School, he attended Mesabi State Community College and the University of Minnesota where he earned a degree in social work. In 1969 he participated in a YMCA summer service-oriented exchange program in Chile. This experience expanded his belief in service to others and fostered a lifelong interest in travel and cultural sensitivity. It was there that he met the love of his life, Paula Gail Rodecap, a student at Virginia Tech.
They were united in marriage in 1970; they celebrated their 51st anniversary shortly before his death.
In 1979 the couple moved to Mora, where they raised their three children. They were involved in all of the children’s activities. He never missed a game, a dance recital or theater production.
He was active in many community organizations, his favorite being coaching his sons’ baseball teams. He also shared with his children and grandchildren, his love of nature through hikes, fishing, hunting agates and foraging for wild mushrooms.
He led his life with integrity and authenticity. He spent time thinking about and analyzing issues, never being swayed by the popular thought of the day. He fervently believed in living an ethical and honest life, always putting others before himself, without judgment or exclusion and always rooting for the underdog. He lived his favorite poem, “Outwitted,” by Edwin Markam: “He drew a circle that shut me out, heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in.”
He believed in social justice and personal and civic responsibility for the greater good. He lived the motto of the United Methodist Church to which he belonged, “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.”
He was an avid sports fan, following not only professional teams but also collegiate and local high school teams, but his greatest love was baseball and the Minnesota Twins. In the last four years of his life he fulfilled his “dream retirement job” as an usher for the Twins at Target Field.
He loved to compete both with others and against himself, always trying to challenge himself physically, especially in racquet sports. He also skied the Vasaloppet 10 times, the Mora Classic four times and ran four marathons.
At the time of his diagnosis he was walking over 10,000 steps a day and playing pickleball three times a week. He was also a competitive Scrabble player.
He and his wife often opened their home and hearts to international students, a love they shared with another local couple, their dearest friends for over 30 years, who also hosted exchange students from a 4-H exchange from Costa Rica and “Up With People.” Their exchange sons, Oldemar Salgado and Alberto Rodrigues have become permanent family members. Because of these programs the the couple have a daughter-in-law from Costa Rica and one from Sweden as well as many friends in both countries.
He spent most of his professional life as a State of Minnesota employee. He was also an insurance agent in Mora for several years.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Toini (Ketokoski) Vanecek; father, John Vanecek; and brother, Albert Vanecek.
He is survived by his wife, Paula Vanecek of Mora; son, Aaron and Rebeca Vanecek of Costa Rica; son, Andrew and Madeleine Vanecek of Sweden; daughter, Valerie and Dan Cavanagh of Texas; seven grandchildren; sisters, Bonnie Vanecek of Denver, Colorado and Jean Morgan of Bloomington; many nieces and nephews; and best friends, Paul and Betsy Hoppe and their family.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, at Mora United Methodist Church with visitation at 1 p.m. Masks are required at the church. Memorials preferred to Mesabi Range College, Mora Dollars for Scholars and Doctors Without Borders.
In his last act of generosity Vic gifted his body to the Anatomy Bequest Program at the University of Minnesota.