Bartholomew John Fena’s family gave him many names, most famously “Boots” and “Bartski” and “Lalow,” the last because his younger siblings could not quite pronounce his full name. His kind and gentle soul was born into the world on July 26, 1961, the eighth child in our large family. Bart died in his sleep on Friday, June 11, 2021, in Proctor, Minn. His absence leaves a hole in our hearts.
Sadly, as a very young adult, Bart began a life-long struggle with mental illness which started in the spring of his freshman year at the College of St. Thomas in 1980. Several years later, his illness was compounded by a serious seizure disorder. Finally, in early 2020, he was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, which caused his death. He would have been 60 years old next month.
Throughout his life, Bart was engaged in family and community life. He was a playful brother who loved a good joke, a proud and generous uncle, a loving and devoted son. To his high school friends, Bart was known as “Bulldog” because of his short stature and great strength. He was the strongest man per pound on the HHS 1978 state qualifying football team. He carried a strong work ethic throughout his life, willingly moving rocks, splitting and piling wood, shoveling after a snowstorm, crushing cans and offering to lend a hand as long as he could. He visited cousins and family members in the hospital. He collected coins and antiques. When he was 16 years old, he spent the summer making and selling wild blueberry pies with his sister Sue for a resort at Side Lake.
Bart graduated from Hibbing High School, was accepted at the college of St. Thomas and completed an Associate of Arts degree in accounting practices at Vermillion Community college in May, 1985. He was a member of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Hibbing where he served as an altar boy. He held to his Catholic faith and attended St. Raphael’s parish in Pike Lake. Much of his adult life was spent in the Duluth area. He owned a home in Morgan Park for several years, lived at Seville House in Saginaw, and most recently, he lived at Lifestone Assisted Living Center in Proctor.
Bart is survived by his brothers: Jim Fena, Hibbing, Peter Fena and Andrew Fena (Libby), Duluth, and Christopher Fena, Stillwater; and sisters: Marianna Nelson, Minneapolis, Lynn Fena (Jerry Bakke) and Susan Fena (Lee Holte), Duluth, Sally Fena, Kansas City, Mo., Margaret Coldwell (Bill), Excelsior; Mary Ann Benke (David), Gilbert, Ariz., and many nieces, nephews and cousins who knew him well.
Bart was preceded in death by his parents, Jack and Kay Fena of Hibbing.
Our family appreciates the support and care Bart received over the years from community support programs in our area and in particular the kindness of staff at Lifestone in Proctor through the particularly difficult days of the pandemic during the last year. We are grateful as well for the Northern Minnesota ALS Support Group services available to our family. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Northern Minnesota ALS Association are recommended. www.alsmn.org
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at noon Thursday, June 17, at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Hibbing. The Rev. Father Gabriel Waweru will preside over services. Visitation will take place one hour prior to the mass at the church on Thursday.
Interment will be at 10 a.m. Friday, June 18, at the Chisholm Cemetery.
Arrangements are with the Dougherty Funeral Home of Hibbing. To leave an online message of condolence, please visit us at; www.doughertyofhibbing.com.