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Thomas Martin Heike Ehlers

Jun 28, 2017

Thomas Martin Heike Ehlers died in Fort Myers, Florida, on June 8th, 2017.

Tom was born on February 5th, 1937 in Worthington, Minnesota, to Genevieve and Martin Ehlers. He inherited his mother’s kind nature and quick wit, his father’s wisdom and work ethic, and their shared generosity.

Tom grew up in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, where he graduated from Redwood Falls High School. He received an undergraduate degree from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received a master’s degree in retailing from New York University. He worked for Dayton’s Department Store in downtown Minneapolis before returning to Redwood Falls to head Ehlers Department Store. Over the next twenty-five years Tom grew the Ehlers chain of stores from three to twenty-eight, prior to selling them to a business associate in 1984.

Tom served on many business, educational, and nonprofit boards. He was a business advisor to Minnesota’s Episcopal Bishop Robert Anderson, and a member of the Lower Sioux Episcopal Church in Morton, Minnesota. He was a trustee of Hamline University in St. Paul, served on the board of Courage Center in Minneapolis, and on the board of Dooley-Intermed in New York City. Tom was president and treasurer of the board of associates of Chapel by the Sea on Captiva Island, Florida. He was also actively involved in conservation efforts, and state and national politics.

In 1963 Tom married Sandy McCartney Ehlers. They made their homes in Redwood Falls, Spicer, Minnesota, and Sanibel Island, Florida, before moving to the Shell Point Retirement Community in Fort Myers in 2010.

Tom loved life. He delighted in travel, found happiness in the garden, and had a soft spot for boating. He relished a good book, closely followed current events, and enjoyed talking politics. He embraced the culinary arts.

These experiences were made better when shared with his greatest enthusiasm, family and friends. He had a deep affection for his wife Sandy and their three children, Joseph Martin (married to Sarah Nelson) of Duluth, Minnesota; Genevieve Elizabeth (married to Rick Drutchas) of Worcester, Vermont; and Thomas Michael of Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as grandchildren Gabriel Joseph Ehlers-Nelson and Claire Sarah Ehlers-Nelson of Duluth.

We will miss Tommy’s wisdom, his kind and gentle spirit, his wry sense of humor and above all his magnanimity.

Tom will be laid to rest at a private service in the Chapel by the Sea Cemetery on Captiva Island this winter.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, and local organizations that advance Tom’s desire to care for and lift up those in need.