Robert A. Thorsten

Thursday, October 19, 2017 2:45 pm

Robert A. Thorsten, 89, of Decorah, died Tuesday evening, Oct. 17, 2017, at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah, surrounded by his family. Robert’s wish was to be cremated. His family greeted friends Saturday, Oct. 21, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah. Private family services and burial will be held later. Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah served the family. Online condolences may be made at

Robert Allen Thorsten was born Dec. 16, 1927, in Chicago, Ill., the only child of Roy and Mabel (Kirkeby) Thorsten. The family moved to Lansing when he was four years old. He was baptized at his grandmother’s home by Rev. Paul Noeding. He was a member of the Federated Church and was confirmed in September of 1943. He graduated from Lansing Key High in May 1946.
Robert was united in marriage to JoAnn Keefe Aug. 26, 1957, in Dubuque. They were blessed with two children, Robyn and David.

He enlisted in the U.S Army in September of 1946 for 18 months and received his honorable discharge in March of 1948 from Fort Lawton in Seattle, Wash. He started to work for Interstate Power (now Alliant Energy) in Lansing in May 1948, and then transferred/moved to Decorah in 1953. He retired Aug. 1, 1991, after 43 years of service. He came out of retirement and started to work part time at Camcar for one year and then Gemini for seven years.

Robert was very active in sports. In 1946 Lansing was one of the 16 teams to play at the state tournament in Iowa City. To this day, they are the only men’s basketball team from Lansing who got through to the state tournament. It took 79 games to get there and only one winner.

He also played a lot of baseball and played on the Fort Lawton team in 1947 in Seattle. They ended up playing in the Sixth Army tournament at The Presidio of San Francisco. They played 94 games that year. He also played on many teams in Northeast Iowa and ended his baseball playing for Desoto, Wis. in the Western Wisconsin League for one year. He retired as he damaged his shoulder and was unable to play anymore. He was asked if he would be interested in pitching batting practice for the Milwaukee Braves but was not able to with an injured shoulder.

Robert was also active in the community and at Decorah Lutheran Church. He taught Sunday school for 10 years, ushered, read scripture and counted offerings. He was secretary of the Winneshiek County Fair Board for three years, was in charge of the antiques show during Nordic Fest for two years, and he was very active in the Decorah Elks competing in state and national contests. He was also a ritual judge at the National Elks Convention in Portland, Ore. in July of 1993. He truly enjoyed his Wednesday afternoon card games with the guys at the Hay Market and other days watching his grandson Ryan playing baseball through the years. He was a life-long Chicago Cubs fan.

He was preceded in death by his father and mother, Roy and Mabel Thorsten; his mother- and father-in-law, Leonard and Hattie Keefe; and one sister-in-law, Carol Hammel.

Robert is survived by his wife, JoAnn; two children, Robyn Burton (Mark) of Marion and David Thorsten of Decorah; two grandchildren, Ashley Eckhoff (Brian) of Marion and Ryan Thorsten of Decorah; one great-grandson, Lucas Eckhoff of Marion; sisters- and brothers-in-law: Rosemary (Alton) Lovstuen, Thomas Keefe, Kay (Norman) Ihde, William (Gail) Keefe and Roger Hammel; and one cousin, Ruth Belich of Lansing.

A note from Robert: I leave you with a thought – there’s a legend that charity is the greatest of all virtues and that it should forever rule us. Leading us to speak no unkind words, to harbor no evil thought, to hear no malice, to support no wrong, but to nurture love, protect, forgive and forget.

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