BEMIDJI -- Ken Traxler, beloved chemistry professor and assistant football coach at Bemidji State University, died Wednesday morning at the University of Minnesota Hospital, his family said.

Traxler, 53, grew up in Le Center, Minn. He earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of Minnesota-Morris and played football for the Cougars. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Denver.

Tributes and well wishes began flowing to Traxler’s CaringBridge site last weekend after his sister, Megan Holicky, posted details about his condition. Friends, family members, former students and football players expressed their love and admiration for Ken.

According to the CaringBridge site, Traxler checked into the emergency room at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center on April 21 “after noticing significant weight gain and experiencing shortness of breath.”

It was determined that he had infected fluid in his abdominal compartment. His condition worsened, and he was transferred to the University of Minnesota Hospital on Friday, May 1.

Matt Holicky, Ken’s brother-in-law, said funeral arrangements are pending, and that Traxler’s wishes were to have a celebration of life in Bemidji.

Traxler was chair of the chemistry department at BSU. He was on the football coaching staff for 22 years. He also was active in the Bemidji Elks Club.

A GoFundMe campaign that was created Wednesday in honor of Traxler raised more than $7,000 of a $50,000 goal in its first four hours. Money raised from the campaign will be used to establish a memorial scholarship in his name for graduates of Le Center High School. To view the GoFundMe campaign, click here.