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'An all-around good guy:' Dick Dickinson dies at age 88

BEMIDJI --  The community this week is mourning a longtime businessman and friend.

Richard “Dick” Dickinson, who in 1954 founded what would become Century 21 Dickinson Realtors, died Sunday at the age of 88.

His funeral has been set for 1 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church with the Rev. Lou Ellen Hartley presiding. Olson-Schwartz Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

In his younger years, Dickinson was a business partner with his brother, Earle, as they worked together to develop the Buena Vista Ski Area, but their partnership was amicably dissolved in the 1960s as Dick chose to focus on his growing real estate business.

Three weeks ago, Dick sat in the conference room at Century 21, recalling the construction of its headquarters in 1978 at what is now the corner of Paul Bunyan Drive and Ridgeway Avenue when that location was at the very edge of town.

“There was nothing beyond this (building) then,” Dick said, fondly reminiscing the years past.

The business now is owned by his son Mark, one of Dick’s three children. Survivors also include his daughter Karen (Hollis) Treeby of Hecla, S.D., and Janet Dickinson of New York City; and Donna, his wife of 59 years.

Dick Dickinson grew up in Turtle River Township at Buena Vista Ranch and graduated from Bemidji High School in 1943. At age 18, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force and served in World War II until he was honorably discharged in 1946. He then attended Minnesota School of Business, where he graduated with a degree in business management.

Dick was active in a variety of community organizations, including the Bemidji Jaycees, Rotary, Shriner's, Masons, and the Elks Club. He also was a member of the American Legion and was a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church, where he sang in the church choir.

Having been raised in a musical family, Dick was a dedicated musician, having participated for years in Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan Barbershop Chorus.

That experience eventually led to the founding of the Century Notes, a four-man barbershop quartet that, for its entire 33 years, has always featured the same four men: Dickinson, Jerry Paul, Jack Drury and Don Papreck.

“Dick was very talented musically,” Drury said. “He could sing any part, read any music.”

Throughout their years together, the quartet performed locally and throughout North Dakota and Wisconsin, as well as several St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in St. Paul.

A highlight came in 1999 when they formed a semicircle around the pitcher’s mound in the Metrodome and sang the national anthem at the last home game of the Minnesota Twins’ season.

“Dick was very easy to get to know, to like, just a very likable person,” Papreck said.

“We always had fun together,” Drury said.

The group and their wives traveled extensively together, going to Europe a couple of times; and also Mazatlan, Mexico; England; and Ireland. One year, they took a cruise from Seattle to Alaska.

Everywhere they went, there was singing.

“One time in Mexico … we were sitting at a table in a restaurant and a mariachi band came over and asked if they could sing us a song,” Papreck said. ‘We agreed, said yes, and they went ahead. They played and then we asked them to take our chairs and sit down, and we sang them a song. They were not expecting that.”

The quartet has continued over the years to meet for weekly practices even as their public performances decreased in number. The last time they were together was Nov. 20, just days before Dick suffered a fall.

In addition to their regular practices, they also met weekly for dinner with their wives, during which they’d usually belt out an impromptu performance.

“The patrons of the restaurants, they always loved it,” Papreck said.

The quartet was as much about their friendship as it was the music and all the members this week are grieving the loss of their dear friend.

“He was an all-around good guy,” Drury said. “I’m sure going to miss him.”