CARL F. GRAESER, CLASS OF 1909
From the Minneapolis Times. Excerpt from the May 12, 1944 News Issue of the Norwich University Record. Carl Graeser graduated from Norwich University in 1909. See the original.
By WALTER E. QUIGLEY
One of Minnesota’s greatest highway engineers, the man who conceived, designed and superintended the construction of Highway 7 from Minneapolis to Excelsior and the famous Belt Line which skirts Minneapolis, will be buried in Minneapolis today without a single relative present.
He is Carl Frederick Graeser, 69 years old, German-born and German-trained engineer, whose dream was to encircle with a road a great city and save countless millions of miles and hours to the motorists of future generations.
Graeser was found dead at the wheel of his car Thursday shortly after he had driven it from his home garage at 4225 Unity Ave., Robbinsdale. Hennepin County Coroner Russell R. Heim said it was a heart attack, and Graeser’s obituary drew a couple of paragraphs in the daily papers. Not a relative survives him.
Graeser came to this writer’s attention some twelve years ago, when my son, appointed to a job by Gov. Floyd B. Olson, was assigned as an assistant surveyor to this engineer’s crew, then working out of Hopkins.
At first my son, George, carried home only the funny side of the man, who in broken English talked of duty. Gradually he came to unfold Graeser’s dream.
Primarily, it developed, the German engineer was not interested in politics. He wanted only to build roads which would last forever and would serve America.
He visualized a Belt Line highway that would encircle Minneapolis, and permit the millions of motorists of future years to get north or south of that city without spending the time, gasoline, tires and effort necessary for driving through the city streets. He planned, he talked and he sold his “boys” in the surveying crews and chain gangs on his idea.
Came a day when I, unconsciously, was of service. Sitting in Gov. Olson’s office, I was accosted by Graeser. He did not want just an ordinary, two-lane road, circling the city and to Excelsior. The road must be built for the future. He had spent two days in the State Highway department, demanding an additional half million dollars to build a Belt Line which would serve the future. And he had been turned down. Now he was in Olson’s office and wanted to see the chief and tell him of his dreams.
At that time the governor was besieged by thousands. The Depression was on; scores of jobseekers and hundreds of others clamored at his door every day, and it was physically impossible to see more than one in ten who called. Graeser was sitting there with no chance for an audience, since he would not tell the secretary what he wanted.
I knew what was in his soul, so I told him that the governor was going a certain place at a specified time, and Graeser was behind him, calling, “Hey, Governor.”
Olson, impatient at first, finally listened. He visualized what is now the reality. He heard the foreign-born engineer tell of a great Belt Line, a lilac-hedged road, a thoroughfare that is saving and will save countless millions of miles and countless hours of effort to drivers of the future.
Graeser prevailed upon Olson to have a half million dollars allotted to the project. He drove his assistants; he supervised the hundreds and thousands who worked on the project. He realized his dream.
He had told “his boys” that “this road will be my monument. There never will be any charge of dishonesty or inefficiency about my road. It will forever last”.
So they are burying him today without a single living relative to mourn. But the few who know, the millions who eventually drive on these roads, will, unconsciously, be a tribute to the man, the engineer, who would not let his dream fail.
The Masonic lodge will supervise the funeral, which will be from Scottish Rite Temple, Dupont and Franklin, Minneapolis. The chief mourner will not be present. He is a magnificent black Belgian dog, who was Graeser’s inseparable companion for ten years.