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Memorial: Friends, colleagues remember Ron Gearman

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Ronald Gearman works with students in the Bemidji State University Music Education Club in this photo from 1950. Submitted Photo2 / 2

Friends remember Ronald Gearman as a musician gifted with a wide range of skills.

"He was a very multi-talented guy," said Dick Beitzel, Bemidji State University emeritus professor of chemistry.

"He could do anything - he was a jack of all trades," said Buster Spaulding, former owner of Spaulding Motors.

He said they met when Spaulding was a senior at BSU and was playing piano at a music festival. They became friends and spent time fishing and on car-buying trips together.

Fulton Gallagher, Gearman's colleague and friend, described him as "as graceful person, very much a gentleman."

"He taught me a lot about the outdoors, mechanical things, how to make a tractor run, those sorts of thing," Gallagher said. Gallagher is BSU professor emeritus of music.

Besides teaching and performing music at BSU from 1946 to 1977, and serving as head of the Division of Fine Arts, Gearman was a piano tuner and repairman, auto mechanic, carpenter and organ builder. He was a World War II veteran who served on the USS Corregidor aircraft carrier and as chief aviation mechanic.

Gearman also oversaw the building of the BSU Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex faculty captain, Beitzel said, and made many improvements to the original design.

"Bangsberg is a beautiful building, and it was his doing," Beitzel said.

"My father always had to be busy doing something," said Jana Skradski, Ronald Gearman's daughter in a fax from her home in Johnstown, Colo. "Teaching, tuning pianos, working on the many automobiles he owned, building houses, developing land on Lake Beltrami."

She said her father and mother, Mildred Gearman, moved from Bemidji to White Bear Lake, Minn., about six years ago. He fell in September and entered Ramsey County Nursing Home in December, where he remained until his death Saturday, March 28, at age 90.

Joe Vene said Gearman helped him when he made a career change from being a miner in the Iron Range to a BSU music student at age 31.

"In those days, you had to find a minor," Vene said.

So, in addition to a major in music education, Vene signed on to Gearman's piano technology, that is, tuning and repair courses. When Gearman retired in 1977, he and Vene partnered in taking care of the 70 pianos on the BSU campus. When Gearman entered the nursing home in December, he sent Vene his piano-tuning tools.

Vene also remembered the pipe organ Gearman picked up in Kelliher. The instrument was torn down into hundreds of pieces, but Gearman was able to reassemble and repair it and install it in the house he built on Lake Beltrami.

"He was very kind to me always," Vene said. "We went from mentor to friends."

Gearman made a list of some of his life's memorable events:

- Solo piano recitals.

- Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.

- Watching the BSU Music Department grow.

- Writing his three books.

- Earning a doctorate from Columbia University in New York City.

- Creative Music Convocations where students developed and performed their own compositions.

One of those classes during the 1947-1948 school year developed the BSU pep song "Go Bemidji Beavers." Gearman wrote in his book "Music in the Pines," "Students suggested words and melody phrases, and then the class chose the words and phrases they liked the best. These were written a phrase at a time on the black boards."

That legacy is repeated at BSU games and rallies today and will continue into the future.