Joseph "Joe" Anton Lueken died peacefully at home on Sunday, July 20th, 2014 surrounded by his family. He was a 30-year survivor of colon cancer and a 20-year survivor of Parkinson's Disease who succumbed to cancer at 72 years of age. Joe never allowed those adversities to change his positive attitude or his goals.
Joe was born on December 10, 1941, in Ainsworth, Nebraska, the son of Henry and Sylvia Lueken. He spent most of his youth in Springfield and Mitchell, South Dakota, where he worked at the bakeries owned by his father. During that time he attended several baking schools to become better at those skills. He attended and graduated in 1959 from Mitchell High school where he was very active in sports programs.
He married his wife Janice (Ziebart) on April 29th, 1962. Several years later they moved to Yankton where Joe continued his studies at Yankton College.
Along with his wife and two of their four sons, he moved to Bemidji in 1966 so he could manage his brothers lakeside grocery store. He later purchased and expanded the business, opening a larger store on the north side of town in 1978 and a south store in 2000. He opened an Econofoods grocery store in Wahpeton, North Dakota in 1986. Joe's reputation for being a hard worker was not only to achieve success for himself but also for those around him. He was well known to conduct business transactions with a handshake because of his reputation for honesty and integrity.
Joe was very active in the community as a member of the Bemidji Jaycees and serving as a board member for First National Bank, North Country Business Products and the Bemidji State University Foundation.
Because education was so important to him he focused his attention on many areas at BSU, including sports programs and facilities. Due to his commitment there he was granted a place on the Founders Walk and received an Honorary Degree. He was also among the first to set up scholarships at BSU, where one of early recipients went on to become the neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who performed DBS Surgery on Joe for his Parkinson's Disease. Recently his attention was turned to the Safe School Ambassador's Program by funding the costs to incorporate it into the Bemidji School System.
It became very important that any success he had in business be shared to support needs within the Bemidji community. In 2009 Joe and his wife Janice created their own philanthropic foundation. As they became more focused on giving, Joe decided in 2012 to sell the grocery stores to his employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
Joe Lueken was an active member of the Bemidji Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses and is survived by his wife of 52 years, Janice; sons Michael (Wanda) of Wethersfield, CT., Jeffrey (Andrea) of Chino Hills, CA., Joseph jr. (Heather) of Billerica, MA., and David of Seattle, WA.; three grandchildren Joseph III, Cheyenne, and John; two brothers Lloyd (Darlene) Lueken of Florida and Don (Valerie) Lueken of Texas and numerous nieces and nephews.
A public visitation will be from 3 8 pm Friday July 25 at the Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji. Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for memorial donations to Sanford Hospice of Bemidji.
Condolences may be left at ceasefuneralhome.com.