Friends, family, former employees and members of the Cloquet community gathered Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of Gordy's Hi-Hat founder Gordy Lundquist and eat ice cream.
"Dad did not want a funeral, so we're calling this an ice cream social," said Dan Lundquist, Gordy's son. "We're gathering to celebrate his life."
Gordy died Tuesday, July 6, at 93. He'd opened up Gordy's Hi-Hat in 1960 and it has remained a staple hamburger stop on Minnesota Highway 33 since then. Dan held back emotion as he eulogized his father at Sunday's program.
"The thing I’m most proud about my dad, Gordy, was that he had a really good heart," Dan said. "That’s probably why you guys are all here today. He touched lives in a small way and he did it every day. He made a big impact while selling hamburgers on the side of the road."
Those gathered shared stories about Gordy with each other while snacking on strawberry and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Bob Vajdl and his sister Sue Vajdl Nelson reminisced about their days working at the burger joint back in the 1960s.
"When I worked here, there was just a little porch on the front where you'd come in to order food," Bob said. "There was no seating, just standing room to order. But it was definitely the hangout spot. I met so many people who are still my friends to this day while I was working here. I was always there serving up hamburgers."
- Gordy’s Hi-Hat loses founder
- Gordy's Hi-Hat to make second national television appearance
- Rain or shine, pandemic or not: Gordy’s remains a spring tradition
Nelson worked as a fry cook and remembers Gordy instructing her to "never serve up cold buns."
"He had a specific way of doing things. That's probably why this place is still open, because he had that level of quality that he expected," Nelson said. "He taught us to never squish the burgers down. I did that on one of my first days and he said 'I don't want to see that again.'"
Bob also remembers getting to drive Gordy's classic cars. He'd be sent on errands to deliver burgers or pick up meat. He worked at Gordy's from 1966-68 but would go back every year or so to visit and grab a burger.
"And they'd remember you! Every year they'd recognize you and say something like 'There goes my best fry cook,' years on," Bob said.
"Marilyn (Gordy's wife) would sometimes point at you and say 'Double cheeseburger!' She might not remember your name, but she'd remember your order," Mary Vajdl, Bob's wife, said.
Longtime friend Dik LaPine said he always appreciated Gordy and Marilyn's memories as well. Back in the 70s, he worked as a store manager not too far from Gordy's. He'd go in when it was a little bit slower and talk with Gordy.
"He'd lean over the counter and talk for a long time," LaPine said. "One time he told me a story about how it all started for him back in the Navy. That's where he realized he had a gift for making burgers. Sometimes, when he'd be sleeping in his bunk, sailors would come in and ask him to make them hamburgers at 2-3 a.m. They'd come by his bunk looking for him to make them. That was one of his special stories."
To honor Gordy's memory, LaPine created a larger cartoon depicting Gordy in heaven standing behind the counter wearing an apron and holding an order pad.
"I make cartoons and personalized greeting cards. I just had to make one for Gordy because he was just so special," LaPine said. "He was always so personable and such an other-centered person."
Because Gordy was a Navy veteran, the short program was closed out with a 21-gun salute from the Cloquet Honor Guard and presentation of the American flag to Marilyn.