Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bottolf Bottolfson (1892-1976)

From the February 16, 1927 edition of the Moorhead Daily News.

   Hailing from Clay County in Minnesota, Dr. Bottolf T. Bottolfson was a prominent public figure in the city of Moorehead for over five decades, being a reputable ophthalmologist and two term mayor of that city. First elected in the late 1920s Bottolfson was reelected as mayor over thirty years later in November 1961, and served another two year term.
  Born on December 10, 1892 in Moorehead, Bottolf Thomas Bottolfson was one of four children born to Ole (1859-1915) and Randina Brandon Bottolfson (1860-1944), both natives of Norway. Bottolf began pursuing the study of medicine as a young man and went on to attended the University of Minnesota. During his time here he was a member of the Phi Beta Phi fraternity, the Glee Club, and was the president of the Sophomore Medics. Following his graduation in 1916 Bottolfson married Ms. Jeannette Elizabeth Peterson (1898-1991) and they are recorded as being childless through the duration of their marriage.

                        Bottolf T. Bottolfson's college portrait, from the 1916 Gopher Yearbook.

   Despite having a slim amount of information available on his life online, B.T. Bottolfson was a practicing physician in Moorehead for many decades, and was a member of the staff of the St. Ansgar's Hospital in Moorhead. In addition to practicing medicine Bottolfson was involved in other aspects of public life in Clay County. In 1921 Dr. Bottolfson was elected as the President of the Clay-Becker County Medical Society for that year, and was later returned to head the society in 1931. Bottolfson also held the position of president of the Moorhead chapter of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association during in the mid 1930s.
   As a prominent county figure Dr. Bottolfson was highly regarded throughout Moorhead and elsewhere in the Clay County vicinity, and with his considerable reputation came calls for him to run for public office. In 1929 he was nominated by the local Democratic party for Mayor of Moorhead and in February's election defeated Leo H. Wright by a vote of 1, 555 to 714. That year's election was recorded by the Moorhead Daily News as bringing about a record turnout for voting in the city, with 2,295 votes being cast in total (this including other candidates and ballot measures.) In 1929 Bottolfson ran for reelection against Republican candidate Herman C. Nordlie. In February of that year Nordlie defeated Bottolfson by "a majority of 91" and took office as Moorhead's new mayor, serving until 1931. Despite his loss at the polls Bottolfson continued to be an esteemed member of the Clay County medical community, and in 1931 was awarded an fellowship in the American College of Surgeons, and in October 1931 visited New York City to "officially receive the honor" at a convocation at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
   Several years after leaving the mayor's office Bottolfson became affiliated with the St. Luke's and St. John's Hospital in Fargo, North Dakota and in mid 1937 both he and his wife left the United States to visit Europe and Asia for medical work. As the State College Spectrum noted in its January 28, 1938 edition, Bottolfson and his wife spent a good majority of their time in India, where he preformed "561 eye operations in one week" and later handled "22 cataract operations." This same paper also notes that Bottolfson had been "one of two surgeons chosen to receive this special training" and after returning to the United States in 1938 gave a lecture on his work in India at a meeting of the North Dakota Agricultural College's Zoology Club. 
   In 1961 Bottolf Bottolfson ran once again for mayor, thirty-two years after the completion of his first term. The Moorhead Daily News noted that he ran "on a campaign against construction of a sewage lagoon" that had been proposed to be built, and defeated three challengers, including Robert Schutte, who had been backed by outgoing Moorhead Mayor Ingemund Theodore Stenerson (1899-1989). On election day in November 1961 Bottolfson garnered 2,555 votes to Schutte's 1,332, coasting to a fairly substantial victory! 
  Bottolfson's second mayoral term lasted from 1962-1964 and he later retired from practicing medicine in 1970 at age 78. He had been a practicing physician for over fifty years and passed away on March 27, 1976 at age 84. He was survived by his wife Jeanette, who died in 1991 at age 93, and both were interred at the Prairie Home Cemetery in Moorehead.


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