Norman Edward Midthun

1924 ~ 2021 Obit Photo Norm Midthun

   Captain Norman Midthun, age 96, died July 24, 2021. Norm was born in Minneapolis on August 18, 1924 to Pauline Marie (Leknes) and Edward Maynard Midthun, his mother died following his brother's birth 18 months later. In his early childhood Norman lived in Bricelyn, MN; later moving back to northeast Minneapolis.

   In 1933, during the Great Depression, at age twelve Norm started working in a meat market and soon learned the value of work and saving money. He was the youngest journeyman meat cutter in Minneapolis at age 15. Norm saved enough from his wages to purchase a prized Schwinn bike that he rode to school and work in all seasons; that bicycle now resides in the MN Historical Society. Norm’s grandparents on both sides were born in Norway and along with his high school Norwegian teacher, Ben Eggen, he was informed about what was happening in Norway during the initial stages of WWII.

   Norm graduated from Roosevelt High School at age 17 and tried to enlist in the US Navy Aviation components, but was deemed too young. Instead, he traveled to a small town near Toronto, Ontario and enlisted as a cadet in the Norwegian Air Force. The training was all in the Norwegian language, of which Norm spoke only a little; he wasn't expected to succeed., Through tremendous effort he completed basic training and flight school; becoming the first American to earn Norwegian wings.

   From bases in the UK, Norm flew the much-acclaimed Mosquito fighter bomber on post-bombing photo-reconnaissance missions over German occupied Norway. He also became qualified to fly the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina, which he flew into coastal sites in occupied Norway delivering saboteurs and supplies. His wartime exploits were amazing. Norm recounted his highest honor to be chosen as Crown Prince Olaf's personal pilot during a post-war tour of Norway to build morale and assess damages - the only part of the war effort he would ever discuss in detail. For a fascinating description of Norm’s wartime service, I highly recommend this Minnesota’s greatest Generation Oral History Project:

   In late 1945, while still in the Norwegian Air Force, Norm boarded the Queen Elizabeth (not QE2) at South Hampton, England for a trans-Atlantic voyage to St. Johns, Newfoundland. This was to be the last crossing for the Queen Elizabeth. At St. John’s Norm boarded a train for Toronto. Arriving Toronto, he was process out of and discharged from the Norwegian Armed Forces. Back on yet another train he made the long trip to Minneapolis/St. Paul, returning as a combat experienced veteran.

   July 7, 1946 - Norm was hired by Northwest Airlines (NWA) as a pilot, only to be laid off the following day after NWA lost their transcontinental mail contract. NWA laid off seventy some pilots and Norm was at the junior end of that list. However, NWA did set immediately him to work as a driver, machine operator, reservation age, and eventually as a flight purser.

   In his spare time Norm enrolled as a student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. Toward the end of his undergraduate time NWA recalled Norm as a pilot. He shared that the only reason he graduated was because St. Olaf was willing to accept his term papers submitted from Tokyo. Jean Roslyn Johnson, herself a student at Carleton College (also Northfield, MN), strayed while on a walk to nearby St. Olaf College and encountered Norm, who identified himself as Chairman of the Welcoming Committee. This was a welcome that would last a lifetime as they married 6 years later.

   Norm flew for nearly forty years with NWA; he was extremely loyal to the airline and its President, Donald Nyrop. His career transcended the propellor to jet eras. His total flight time amounted to more than three years flight time. In addition, during his 25 years with NWA Flight Training, Norm served lengthy tenures as the training manager (Fleet Captain) for the Boeing 727 and the classic 747. Norm finished his career as the #1 pilot on the seniority list and 747 Captain

   Norm's joy was his family. His proudest moments were as husband of Jean, a father to their four children, and as grandfather to eight grandchildren. He and Jean lived for many years in Minneapolis by Lake Nokomis and later in Deephaven, on Carson Bay of Lake Minnetonka. Their final residence was at The Waters in Excelsior, MN. He loved all kinds of ice cream (especially chocolate malts he made for the kids), corn on the cob with lots of butter, neighborhood volleyball, summer days at the family cabin on Lake Sylvia, following the market, playing bridge and Cottagewood tennis, and being a grand spectator for sports and concerts. He loved being a member of the Norwegian Club, Torske Klubben. He also loved dogs Ole, Sadie, Rozzy and Ellie and, too often, fed them under the table.

   There were pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from Norm; e.g., to know your heading, altitude, and airspeed at all times; to be humble and always strive for excellence; to pray; to be frugal to yourself and lavish those you love; to admire your children and their children for their every breath; to be a gracious neighbor; to drive a car with a little rust that gets you there just as well; to know that dogs are people too.

   He Is survived by his partner of 67 years, Jean; sons Steve (Mary), David (Vivien) and Tom (Julie) Midthun; daughter Ann (Peter) Baskin; and grandchildren Jens, Sonja, Lars, Tor, Ted, and Will Midthun, and Erik (Shelley) and Hanna Baskin.

   Memorials are preferred to the Dr. Harold Ditmanson endowment fund, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, and Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church.

(- Midthun family and Bill Day)