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August 26, 1950 – September 25, 2021


Gerald “Gerry” Bakke, age 71 of Buffalo, Minnesota passed away September 25, 2021 at his home after a long illness.  Gerry was born August 26, 1950 to Elton and Eleanor Bakke in Thief River Falls, MN. Gerry married Linda Johnson on October 31, 1970.  The bride drove the getaway car, because Gerry didn’t have a driver’s license.

As a teenager in Albert Lea, Gerry was two-time city checkers champion.  He also fell in love with the sport of wrestling under the tutelage of Paul Ehrhard and won three district titles and placed sixth in the 1968 State Individual Championships.  Gerry initially wanted to be a pastor but he figured out that pastors only preach one day a week and teachers get to preach for five. Gerry attended Bethany Lutheran College, where he placed first in the 1970 State Junior College Championships, third in the 1971 Championships, and twice qualified for the National Junior College Tournament. After graduating from Bethany in 1971, Gerry continued to study secondary social studies education and to wrestle at Gustavus Adolphus College, where he placed second in the 1972 MIAC Championships and was the 1973 GAC Most Valuable Wrestler. After graduating from Gustavus in 1973, Gerry started his teaching and coaching career at Nashua High School in Iowa where he was honored as the 1978 Iowa State Wrestling Coach of the Year. In 1980, Gerry and his family moved to Buffalo, Minnesota where he continued to coach and teach social studies until his retirement in 2010.  In Buffalo, Gerry’s wrestling teams advanced to the state team championships seven times (1990 – 3rd place and 1991 – 4th place finishes).  In 1991, Gerry was selected as the Class AA Minnesota State Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the Dan Bartlema Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in 1999 and was inducted into the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

Gerry loved the community of Buffalo, where he also coached Cross Country, Boys Tennis, and Jr. High Football. His former students talk about the lengths he would go to motivate them including jumping on desks, making outrageous bets, and shaving his head when he lost those bets. Gerry was a member of the Buffalo Federation of Teachers and made lifetime friendships playing chess with Kip Wold and Charley Keifenheim.

Gerry is survived by his wife of 51 years Linda, his children: Eric Buffalo, MN; Heather, Brainerd, MN; Shawn (Melissa), New Ulm, MN; Heidi (Scott Backstrom) of St. Paul, MN; Alyssa of Pittsburgh, PA; and Kyle of Warroad, MN; his brother Darryl (Joyce) of Albert Lea, MN; grandchildren: Isaac, Asher, Levi, and Miriam Bakke, and Axes Chilton; brothers and sisters-in-law: Lorraine Holt, New Hampton, IA; Joan Jurs Cresco, IA;  Roger Johnson, New Hampton, IA; Bernis (Tom) Benzer, Buffalo, MN; Rick Johnson, Lawler, IA and Gary (Ann) Johnson, Lawler, IA, along with many nieces, nephews, and thousands of former students, athletes, and teaching colleagues.

He was preceded in death by his son; Alex Neal; parents: Elton and Eleanor; father and mother-in-law: Alvin and Theone (Fouberg) Johnson; sisters-in-law: Nancy Reyerson and Thelma Johnson; brothers-in-law: Stanley Holt and William Jurs.

A visitation will be held on Thursday, September 30th from 4:30 to 8:00 in the gymnasium at Buffalo Sr. High School (877 Bison Blvd Buffalo, MN). A funeral will take place at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church (1970 Edmonson Ave NE Buffalo, MN) on Saturday, October 2nd at 2:00.

Gerry was proud to be a Bison and his family loved being able to share him with the community of Buffalo. Gerry would want to remind everyone that: “You gotta go!”

The Peterson Chapel in Buffalo is serving the family.   Online condolences may be made to


56 Guestbook Entries

  1. Dave Frisell

    A legend. One of a kind legend. RIP Coach Bakke. Buffalo was never the same once you arrived, and it will never be the same now that you are gone.

  2. Peni Blakley Cotton

    The positive effect you had had on so many people’s lives is immeasurable. You have taught so many of us the importance of love, family, and community! Your presence will be greatly missed, but I know the family will rest peacefully knowing you are watching over them! You all are in our thoughts and prayers.💔

  3. John Deitering

    In the 90’s, we had exchange students from Berlin. The word got around pretty fast that if you went to Buffalo, you simply had to sign up for Mr. Bakke’s class. So we had this bizarre connection in Berlin, Germany of kids who wanted to come to Buffalo and take a class from Mr.Bakke. He was the best

  4. Jason Maurer

    Love ya Bak. Coaching with you was a dream come true. Rest easy.

  5. Michelle McClellan Painschab

    An amazing and inspiring teaching who will never be forgotten by his students.

  6. Julie Greely (Otto)

    I will never forget being a student in your classroom. You loved all and didn’t judge anyone. You were so full of energy! Your kindness will always be remembered. RIP Mr. Bakke.

  7. Alphonse Adair

    Mr. Bakke gave me the gift of humanity. His classes opened my eyes to the world. His lessons helped me in Iraq and helped me remember that everyone just wants to live there best life. I will miss him and will always keep his lessons near and dear to my heart. Rest in peace good sir.

  8. Someone

    The role you played in my future and the man I would marry, was shaped by your expectations. Your expectations showed me more than I could’ve known

  9. Kim E

    Such a great teacher and role model to so many in the community. You will be missed by many.

  10. Chris Bonnell

    No finer man have I met on life’s journey. Rest well Coach!

  11. Colleen Hendrickson

    So sorry for your loss. May Gerry fly high with the Angels in heaven. He will be coaching in heaven.

  12. Matthias Lang

    So sorry to hear of what has happened, and still today, 24 years after attending his class I can recall several situations; and I am one of the “Berlin” connection exchange students, and indeed, word got around… You’ve gotta attend Baks class, so still today I remember him jumping on the table or confronting us with blue eye brown eye Green eye… Best greetings to wherever you are from Potsdam

  13. Nicole Koch (Erickson)

    “Touchdown Bingo!”…never to be forgotten. Truly a memorable teacher, who made an impact on so many lives in so many ways~

  14. Mike Holslin

    One of the truly Great ones! Thanks for all the great memories Coach and rest in peace.

  15. Michelle Kocak Jones

    One of my favorite teachers! Thank you, Mr. Bakke, for the passion you shared as a coach and a teacher.

  16. Diana McCarty

    GERRY LIVED LARGE. Large dedication to his students, in the class, the field, in the Wrestling room. So many young people were successful because of what they learned from Coach.
    Nothing waa more fun than watching him foster debate and then challenge the debate by offering a different perspective.
    The world is a little darker without him but we are all so much richer because he was!

  17. Graciela Ramírez-Rivas

    I will always remember your love and acceptance towards all of your students . You didn’t turn a blind eye to our differences but celebrated them and made an effort to listen and understand . You were and will continue to be one of the most influential people in my life. Whenever I get asked about teachers that changed my life , you are always one that I mention time and time again. Muchas gracias Mr. Bakke.

  18. Sue Kuhlmann

    Mr Bakke was truly one of a kind and will be missed by everyone. He was a motivator and a kind ant caring person. “Go Rest High on That Mountain” Gerry.

  19. Mandy Vannelli

    I never had Gerry as a teacher or a coach but I was blessed to have known him & his family.
    He was a great man with a genuine love for people. Didn’t matter where you went, the man knew everyone & loved to talk!
    He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.
    The world just seems a little more empty without him in it.
    Much love to all of of you during this difficult time.

  20. Rex Morgan

    There is always that one teacher you remember the rest of your life and Mr. Bakke was that teacher for me. Whether it was in Social Studies, MLC (I was not a good student) or, trying to get me to join the wrestling team, Mr. Bakke always had time to talk with his students on a personal level. He will be missed. RIP Mr. Bakke.

  21. Tom Lair

    Bak you made me a better wrestler when we had our many scrimmages (daily) in our run at the 68 tournaments. I will never forget you!!RIP my friend.

  22. Ryan Prom

    What a great man! I got to compete against Coach Bakke’s teams while in high school and had the honor of coaching against him when he volunteered at BHS. The most enjoyable times I had with Coach Bakke was the conversations we had before matches. He always had a story that he remembered from the glory days. He always was concerned with how you were doing and how the family was. The wrestling community has lost an icon. Condolences to the family and the Buffalo wrestling community.

  23. Steve Pfleghaar

    Unmatched kindness and memory. If you didn’t like Gerry, there was something wrong with you. I hope you got that preaching job!

  24. Josie Kolasa

    No one could truly see a student like Bak. It didn’t matter if you were the biggest pain in the ass, he loved you and knew who you were in your heart. He will be so very missed.

  25. John haack

    Bakk was so special and so unique … He had a sense of humor that didn’t quit and he often called me “mr history,” lol…he had a way of making others feel special and unique too and his pride in his wrestlers is legendary. He was quite the promoter of “health bars” to support his team, much to school nurse evie hollands chagrin…Mr. Bakke and i were neighbors for some time, out at the high school…

  26. Jamie Alsleben

    Heaven is shining a little brighter now that another Gustie is up there shining down upon us and in the hearts of those you impacted each day!

  27. Sean LaBat

    A fine, fine man and a great teacher and friend. He will be remembered and missed.

  28. Tim Fournier

    Mr. Bakke set the epitome for every educator ever. Bakke’s attitude, heart, and love for everyone will truly be missed. There was never a dull moment in his classroom. Bakke fought for every student whether in his class or not to have the best opportunity and to do their best. You maybe gone, but never forgotten.

  29. Karina Anderson (Kartak)

    You will always be remembered…your energy was infectious and made school more fun! My condolences to the family on your loss!

  30. Lee and Carol Kjesbo

    Mr. Bakke was a colleague at BHS. He was unique in his teaching strategies. He loved to drop a bomb in the room and see what happened. But, he had such a big heart. He cared so much for his students. BHS was blessed to have him on staff. I am glad his struggle is over, for it was a long one. Sympathy to the Bakke family.

  31. Christine Prothmann (Röse)

    Such a great teacher. He gave me a lot of great memories for lifetime. He will not be forgotten. Condolences for the family from Germany!

  32. Kelly Griffin (Nicholson) Class of 89

    Knowing him made you want to be a better person, to try harder, and believe in yourself. Heaven won’t know what hit them!! Much love and sympathy to all of you. ❤

  33. Al Price

    Gerry Bakke was one of a kind! I loved sit and talk wrestling with him and he knew the history of Minnesota wrestling well. When I came to Minnesota 32 years ago and met him he acted like he had known me forever. He was a great person and friend and will be truly missed by the wrestling community. He is up in Heaven now telling stories to anyone. that will listen and I’m sure there’s a large crowd. Love ya Bak.

  34. Jennifer Johnson

    Gerry was a great colleague who was always ready to lend a hand. He will be truly missed.

  35. Brad Sanderson

    I’ll never forget Bakk having me quiz him on past state champions while we were in the hotel room during the state tournament. He would know the name, weight and year, and he could tell you who took 2nd and 3rd too. I’m thankful to have known Gerry Bakke and to have coached with him. He taught me many life lessons that I remember and try to pass on to others. The Bakk is a one of a kind who tried to make a difference in people’s lives and he will be missed.

  36. Debbie Welter Stewart

    He will be truly missed. I didn’t know him as well as alot you. But he was always around somewhere 🙄 when you least expect it. He was a very loved man. Great sense of humor.

  37. Bradley Hoikka

    What a great coach and character!!! I only wrestled against his teams but he was one of a kind! Very well respected!!! Thoughts and prayers to the family!!

  38. Bess Murray (Hayes)

    Mr. Bakke taught me one of the best life lessons as a student in his minorities class in 1993. We were going to watch a movie but while the lights were off, he changed the lesson and led the class in an impromptu open discussion about mental health. Bak always put people first. I’ve reflected on his compassion, honesty and love for his students many times. Thank you Bakke, you’ll be greatly missed.

  39. Jim Wolff

    Bakke was my economics teacher at Nashua. He was also my wrestling coach. Most of all he was a friend that you could debate any subject with, anything from religion to blackjack. I spent one entire summer working with Bakk in Cedar Rapids on a roofing crew. I can still see him carrying buckets of boiling hot tar in the most miserable conditions. I remember that he hitchhiked into Nashua to get to the interview. I remember how he cared just as much for the b-team wrestler as he did his state contenders. The Nashua contingent still share to this day stories of the Bakk’s exploits and he will forever be in our hearts.

  40. 2010 Student

    Bakke called me out as a pot smoker years before I ever tried it and I’m still convinced he he thought I was lying. He was a fun teacher and called everyone out to defend their beliefs. It was like watching an internet argument in real life, but he always won because he always had a lesson in mind. Easily one of the best classes I ever took, for sure one of the most memorable. RIP.

  41. Kelly Dixon

    I feel blessed to have grown up with Mr. Bakke in my life. I knew him as a child as we were members of the same church. In high school, I learned that his classroom was a festive place, full of laughter and learning. It is nearly impossible to think of going home to Buffalo and not seeing him or hearing stories about his/his wife’s delicious soup offerings. My heart goes out to his family who must be missing him dearly. Strength and prayers to you all — and thanks for sharing him with so many of us over the years.

  42. Nick Miller

    Gerry was the greatest motivator that I ever knew. He was kind and accepting of every single student. He had a presence that permeated throughout the room or gym. I have dozens of Bak stories that I will treasure forever. What a great human being. Everyone loved him. Rest In Peace Bak.

  43. Barb Aanerud Nelson

    Gerry was my 10th grade Social Studies classmate at ALHS.
    Always kind, always passionate about bringing out the “best” in people, always making that class memorable! Rest In Peace. You will be remembered by many.

  44. Brian Kass

    I’ve been friends with his sons since I was three. He took us to Twins games growing up. I always remember having to backtrack to find him as he was recognized by someone and will have fallen into habitual Midwestern discourse. Luckily he had a distinct voice because his short stature made him otherwise easy to lose in a crowd. He taught the best class I ever had, Minorities. Bakke was up on his desk trying to get kids in the whitest town in Minnesota to understand the injustice of racial oppression. He was also good friends with fellow wrestling enthusiast Paul Wellstone. I remember the phone at the Bakke house ringing non-stop during wrestling season. But the image of Gerry Bakke that will always live in my mind is of him in his Bison Purple windbreaker, wild curly hair, head just a shade or two redder than than the purple of the windbreaker, roaring at the edge of the wrestling mat.

  45. Name *

    Gerry & Linda were in our Bible Study group at Immanuel, and their knowledge of the Bible was incredible. His input and humor made for an interesting session each time, and we often went over our allotted time. He and Dave sat behind the last pew in their walkers, and kept abreast of the many topics before church began. He always asked about our girls, and as his students he was an important part of their careers and successes. The Dixons

  46. Unknown

    Your kind words and smile followed with that contagious laugh will always be remembered.

  47. Geri Gruber

    Mr. Bakke and my husband shared a bond with their love of wrestling. They both shared qualities of integrity, respect, caring and kindness. And a great sense of humor! These beautiful tributes reflect those qualities. My deepest sympathies to his family from Mesquite, Nevada.

  48. Mike Vassar

    I Loved the Relentless Attack on everything you did. Your pride & passion showed. I will sincerely miss you. Heaven got one of the great ones. Be Relentless Teacher & Coach

  49. Caly Muniz Castro (Mackey)

    “Bakke” was such an amazing teacher and wrestling coach that all 5 of us Mackey kids were touched by him over the span of our 10 year between us, and thousands of others.
    Gerry Bakke was one of those teachers that saved kids’ lives, that shaped them through the high school years, that brought us from point A to B whether we were in his classroom or on the mats.
    And he believed in me so much that the year i graduated i received the scholarship his family had set up in memory of his son who died in infancy.
    My whole family is feeling the loss of him. Rest in peace Mr. Bakke.

  50. Mark Minkler

    Gerry Bakke….A special gift to many. He came to the STMA celebration when we won the State Tourney. He stood up and took the floor (away from Greg Greeno STMA Coach) and talked wrestling, coaching, and individuals stats for about 20 minutes. Always smiling and never failed to say hello to “Mr. Minkler” RIP Mark Minkler

  51. Janice Luoma

    So sorry for the loss of your father. His memories will live forever in your heart. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  52. Michael Niemczyk

    Sympathies to the family of Gerry,
    always a coach and a mentor to all, he will be remembered for his passion of the sport of wrestling and his passion for life.

    Gone but not ever forgotten. Rest in peace Gerry.

  53. Jody Decker

    It’s been 33 years, but I can still see Bakke’s face (red, vein’s popping, spit flying) and hear his voice (“Get her, Decker! You can do it!) cheering me on in the last 100 meters of the 1600 meter conference track championship. The 1600 was not my race; I didn’t have the speed for it. I often just held on, tried to maintain, and not get outkicked in the final stretch. I was in 2nd place. But Bakk was jumping up and down, arms flailing, urging me on. It seemed like he was expending as much energy as I was. He believed that I could do it. And his impassioned belief convinced me that if I dug a little deeper, I could pull it off. At the finish line, I outkicked Christy Carrier to win the 1600. Thanks to Bakk. In the grand scheme of things, our little successes seem pretty insignificant. But these moments help shape us. Bakk knew that. He was a wise soul. He knew that a success built us up and offered a little protection to withstand the difficulties in our lives. It meant so much to me to have Bakk in my corner, rooting for me, someone who gave a damn. What a great teacher and human being. I will never forget him.

  54. Jeremy Graybill - BHS Class of 1994

    Bakke was one of the most memorable and influential adults in my teenage years. He was my cross country coach, and one of the greatest motivators I’ve ever known. He personally motivated me to become my best in everything I did, as he also motivated everyone around me. He truly cared for everyone he taught and coached, and everyone knew it and could feel it. He celebrated your victories, helped pick you up when you were down, and motivated you to do more when you weren’t giving it your all (he always knew). I have so many fond memories of Bakke at Cross Country meets, at practices, of stretching as he told us amazing stories (some true, and some likely not, but all motivating just the same), of checker games at team dinners, of bus rides singing Yellow Submarine and him making sure we thanked and cheered the bus driver each time. He made students into great young women and men. I’ve never known someone quite like Bakke, and he cared, he truly cared, for every person he met, taught, and coached. He loved people, and that love made this world a better place. Bakke, I will never forget you, and I know there was great rejoicing and applause in heaven when you passed from this life. A life very, very, very well lived. Well done. Rest in Peace.

  55. James Hanks

    Mr. Bakke! A man you can never forget! He use to remember everyone’s name otherwise he’d owe you a quarter! 14yrs later and I’ll never forget him as one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. So much passion an love in his class! I will take carry his advice with me forever! Heaven gained a wonderful person!

  56. Gregg Adler

    Gerry was a real character as a coach. The wrestling was almost secondary to watching him passionately contort and shout instructions to his wrestlers from ringside. He was perhaps the most intense competitor I’ve seen in 50 years plus of sports. You don’t get to any Hall of Fame without major life sacrifices to the sport and the athletes he coached. Gerry was a great teaching colleague during my time at Buffalo in the ’90’s. Perhaps my greatest coaching accomplishment was when a Buffalo parent after a game told me I was “almost” as great a motivator as Mr. Bakke. I had a long way to go to catch the “Bak”.


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