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Roger Thomas AitkenJune 29, 1942 ~ February 11, 2017 (age 74)
Roger Thomas Aitken, 74, of Walker, passed into heaven in Albuquerque, NM on Saturday, February 11, 2017 with his wife, Linda, and daughter, Nina, at his side.
Roger was born in Cass Lake on June 29, 1942 to Charles and Pauline (Day) Aitken. He was a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. His Indian name was “Misk-quah-nah-guad” – Red Cloud. His pre-school years were spent in Onigum where he enjoyed a great deal of time with his grandfather, Richard Day. Roger had many fond memories of his grandfather, talking often of the time he spent with him going to Walker by boat in the summer and by horse and sleigh in the winter. Later, the family moved to Walker, a community he loved, where he lived during his school years, graduating from Walker-Hackensack High School In 1960.
Roger then attended the Haskell Indian Institute in Lawrence, KS, where, in 1962, he completed a two-year program in baking. In the Roger style, he formed lifelong friendships with many H.I. students from across the U. S. Roger was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1964, and served honorably during the Vietnam War. He was a member of the Leech Lake Honor Guard and Post 2001 American Legion.
Upon his return from the military, Roger worked for a few years in the Twin Cities until he decided to honor his mother’s wish for all her children to obtain a college degree. In 1973, he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management and Sociology from Bemidji State University (BSU).
A lifelong commitment to volunteering and education, he served 20 years on the BSU Alumni Board of Directors; the BSU Foundation Board; two BSU presidential search committees; the Chairman of the Leech Lake Tribal College Board of Directors; the Walker Area Community Board; the Leech Lake American Legion Post 2001; and the Walker Area Foundation. Roger was honored as one of the Bemidji State University Alumni Association’s Outstanding Alumni in 2003. This award is given as the Association’s highest honor. He was instrumental in the growth and development of the Leech Lake Tribal College and BSU’s American Indian Resource Center.
Roger had a long and successful career as a leader and proponent of the advancement of tribal sovereignty and self-governance. Roger started his career with the Indian Education Section of the MN State Department of Education, an exciting time during which a major Federal Indian Education law was passed. Among other tribal positions, he served as the Executive Director for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe for several years, the Superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs--Minnesota Agency, and was the first Executive Director of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes.
Roger loved sports. In both high school and beyond, Roger was a great athlete as well as a sports fan. He was a standout in high school football, basketball, and baseball, and continued playing at the Haskell Institute. While in college, he played many years on the famed Onigum Nighthawks basketball team winning numerous events and tournaments. He also became an accomplished golfer and played events in Minnesota as well as in the Southwest. He and Linda made many golf trips together enjoying each enormously. (Roger was a fan of various Minnesota sports teams, however, his passion was for the Vikings.)
Roger loved his friends and was a catalyst to keep them together. He maintained close contact with many of his high school and college classmates, they were always in the forefront of his thoughts and actions, and he greatly enjoyed arranging events for them. Roger especially enjoyed hosting BBQs at his and Linda’s home and he excelled in walleye preparation.
Most of all, Roger loved his beloved family - wife Linda, daughter Nina, son Todd, grandchildren and siblings. He also loved his Savior, Jesus Christ. It is with that knowledge, we are assured that he is now in Heaven and that, one day, we will see him again.
During his final days, Roger was surrounded by his family and the many friends who travelled the long distance to New Mexico so they could be by his side, he also had hundreds more with him on social media, and thousands more in prayer groups in Minnesota, and throughout the country. Linda, Nina, and Todd are deeply grateful for the tremendous support given to them from their family, their friends, and their caregivers--the hospital staff and new Albuquerque friends, who provided loving care for Roger and for his family during this very difficult time.
Roger is survived by his wife, Linda, daughter, Nina Nicole, son, Todd (Ina) DeLack, step-son, Stacy Dorvinen, sisters; Sandee (Steve) Haugene, Terri (Joe) Aitken Thompson, and brothers; Larry (Polly), Joe (Margo), and Bob (June), grandchildren; Taylor Dorvinen, Jayden DeLack, Christian Dorvinen, Brandon and Darren EinBerger, nieces and nephews, and by the many friends who loved him. Roger’s special pal was Nina’s dog, Mika. Roger and Mika enjoyed spending time in the woods, grouse hunting.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Duane and Bobby (infant).
A visitation for friends and family will be held at the Calvary Church in Walker from 5 pm to 8 pm on February 27, 2017 with a time of sharing starting at 6:30 pm. A Celebration of Life will be held at the Calvary Church in Walker on February 28, 2017 at 11 am with Pastor Mark Widman and Pastor Craig Smith officiating followed by internment at Evergreen Cemetery. Following internment, lunch will be served at the Calvary Church.
Casket bearers are friends: Carvin Buzzell, Jeff Wallin, Jerry Downs, John Claude, Ken Anderson, Matt Hunt, and grandsons: Jayden DeLack and Christian Dorvinen.
Honorary casket bearers are Roger’s 1960’s classmates of Walker-Hackensack High School.
Arrangements by the Dennis Funeral Home of Walker www.dennisfuneralhome.com