Gary George Hultgren, 73, of Kennedy, Minn., died Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Hallock, Minn.
Gary was born on Sept. 23, 1950, in Warren, Minn., to George and Bernice (Grandstrand) Hultgren. Gary lived and went to school in Kennedy, where he graduated in 1968. He attended Bemidji State University until his father, George, died in December of 1969. Gary then moved back home to Tegner Township, rural Kennedy, to take over the family farm.
Gary was always mechanically minded, and he fell in love with tinkering with engines and cars, so much so that he built a shop behind the house at the farm and started his own business, Hultgren’s Engine & Machine, in 1973. On Sept. 29, 1973, Gary was united in marriage to Kay Louise Malnory at Maria Lutheran Church in Kennedy. They made their home at the farm, and Tina Marie entered their lives on Oct. 6, 1975.
In addition to being a farmer and a machinist, Gary was a drag racer, and when he wasn’t driving, he was the head of the pit crew. He built his own Pro Stock race car from scratch, and additionally he built his own racing trailer. The threesome made many memories with families and friends as they drove their motorhome and racing trailer across the country from race to race. After he retired from drag racing, Gary became a well-known engine builder for the regional circle-track circuit, and if anybody wanted the fastest car on the track, they came to Gary to not only build their engine but to tune it.
In the mid-1990s, Gary expanded his machine shop business by purchasing a larger shop on Highway 75 in Hallock. He retired from farming in 2000 and continued to work at the shop until 2011. Although his retirement wasn’t official, he slowly segued to taking on only smaller jobs, and he was still tinkering on cars earlier this year.
Gary and Kay enjoyed being members of the Valley Cruisers Car Club, and they put many miles on their 1956 Chevy station wagon. In 2013, they traveled with Tina’s family to Hawaii for the trip of a lifetime, and in recent years, Gary and Kay motored to California to attend the March Meet, a nostalgia drag racing weekend. While Gary loved to travel and to cruise in his classic car, what he loved most was spending time with his four granddaughters. Gary was known as a Bearcat superfan, and he rarely missed a KCC sporting event or one of Lexi and Marlee’s college volleyball games. To most Bearcat volleyball players, he was referred to as “Grandpa Gary,” the title for which he was most proud.
Gary will always be remembered as having a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye and a kind word to say. He was good at making everyone feel special and loved, and he had friends for miles and states around. He was one of those people who everybody just knew!
Gary is survived by: his wife, Kay; and their daughter, Tina (Jonathon) Turn of Kennedy; and his four granddaughters, Lexi, Marlee, Morgan and Brenna Turn; brother, Wayne Hultgren of Hallock; and his nieces and nephews, Jennifer (Doug) Annett and their son Julian of St. Anthony Village, Minn., and Kaitlyn Hultgren of Fargo, N.D., Tyler Hultgren of Fort Collins, Colo., and Blake Hultgren of Kennedy; brother-in-law, Glenn (Bev) Malnory of Fargo, and their daughter Megan (Brad) Fredrickson and their sons Cole and Kaden of White Bear Lake, Minn.; one uncle, Carl Grandstrand of Albert Lea, Minn.; and many cousins.
Gary is preceded in death by: his parents, George and Bernice Hultgren; his in-laws, Arden and Dolores Malnory; a niece, Erin Malnory; and several aunts and uncles.
Funeral services were held Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, at 2 p.m. in Maria Lutheran Church, Kennedy. Visitation was held at the church for one hour prior to the service. Pastor Kathy Levenhagen, presiding; Patti Swanson, organist and Mike Swanson, soloist. Honorary casket bearers will be Derall Aipperspach, Nick Johnson, Tage Johnson, Robert Pearson, Greg Snare, Steffan Snare, Ken Soli and Jim Swedberg.
Austin Chapel, Hallock, was in charge of arrangements. www.austinfuneralchapel.com.