Ardith “Ardie” Rotto


Ardith Lorraine “Ardie” (Gulbro) Rotto, 85, of Bemidji, MN passed away on Sunday, May 9th, 2021 in her home at Neilson Place Senior Living.

Highly beloved and respected as a supportive and nurturing wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend and coworker, Ardie was born May 6th, 1936 in Spring Grove, MN, the daughter of Bennie and Myrtle (Solem) Gulbro. Known for her big, loving smile, Ardie grew up in the village of Highlandville, Iowa, nestled among the bluffs of driftless country, where her family owned and operated the Highlandville General Store and post office located next to South Bear Creek. As a child, Ardie enjoyed playing the piano, the trombone in the marching band, and the organ at Big Canoe Lutheran Church. She also enjoyed playing softball and helping out at the family store with her brothers and sisters.

After attending a two-room schoolhouse in Highlandville and high school in nearby Decorah, Iowa, Ardie enrolled at Luther College in Decorah while paying for her tuition by working at a local shoe store. She graduated from Luther in 1960 with a BA in Education and began her first teaching job in Faribault, MN as an elementary school teacher. She met and fell in love with Irvin Rotto, a Korean War Air Force veteran, at Luther College in 1956 and they married at Big Canoe Lutheran Church near Highlandville on March 19th, 1960.

The couple lived in Columbia Heights, MN, Illinois, Kansas and Arizona while Irvin attended graduate school and Ardie continued teaching, and they eventually settled in Bemidji, Minnesota in 1967 where Ardie worked as a special education teacher in the classroom and Irvin was a Professor of foreign languages. Ardie received a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Bemidji State College in 1970 and was later nominated for Minnesota Teacher of the Year from Bemidji School District #31. Beginning in the 1980s, she worked as a special education coordinator for the Bemidji Regional Interdistrict Council (BRIC) and later served as its Director before retiring in 1994. During this time, she received a Special Education Administrator of the Year award from the Minnesota Administrators for Special Education (MASE) and also served as its President as she lobbied for important statewide legislation benefiting the disabled. A leader in both the classroom and in her field, Ardie believed that all children are capable of learning and worked tirelessly to ensure their success. After retiring, Ardie enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren, tending to her flower gardens, cooking delicious Norwegian meals and treats for the holidays, spending winters in Arizona and utilizing her exceptional organizational talents to plan events ranging from family reunions to overseas trips.

Ardie was the second born of eight children and is survived by her husband Irvin; two sons Nelson (Lynn) and Erik; three grandchildren Erika, Torsten, and Benjamin; her sisters Sherry McPherson and Mary Dominguez, and her brothers Rodney and Dennis Gulbro. She was preceded in death by her sisters Janet Rychlik, Beverly Erickson, and Yvonne Hendrickson.

A memorial service will be held for Ardie on Wednesday, May 19th at 2:30 PM at First Lutheran Church, Bemidji. Family will begin greeting friends at the church one hour prior to the service. Due to current Covid restrictions, there will be no reception at the church following the service.

Memorials are suggested to First Lutheran Church Bemidji and the American Heart Association. Arrangements are under the direction of Olson-Schwartz Funeral Home, Bemidji.

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