Richard Blondell knew Scandinavian antiques

Richard C. Blondell, owner of Blondell Motel who died Thursday, was a collector of Scandinavian furniture and artifacts and a businessman who succeeded through determination.

Mr. Blondell, 68, of 1406 Second St. S.W., died at his home after a lengthy illness. He was born Nov. 28, 1921, in Red Wing.

He began collecting antiques professionally in 1972, first finding them in Minnesota, and later traveling to Norway and Sweden, according to his son, Tom Blondell.

His son recalled his father's most famous find -- a centuries old drinking horn -- was later acquired by the King of Norway. Mr. Blondell's grandparents were from Sweden and he became active in Scandinavian historical research. He was a patron member of the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah where he did appraisals and acquired Norwegian antiques.

``When he began collecting we would find antiques in surrounding states,'' his son said. ``We sold 300 Norwegian trunks during the time we were in business and now all are in the hands of collectors.''


Mr. Blondell and his wife, the former Doris Eckardt, began to travel to Norway in 1979, establishing a network of antique dealers. When Norway's own antiques became difficult to find, he turned to Sweden for collecting.

``While in Norway my father purchased a `powder horn' from a gun dealer. But it was not a powder horn, it was an Icelandic drinking horn,'' Tom Blondell said. ``There are only 12 known in existence. I carried it to a historian who said it was from the period of 1400 to 1450.''

The horn was 2 feet long, carved with figures illustrating a biblical story, and had silver rings around it. The King of Norway bought the horn from Mr. Blondell through historians and about four years ago presented it to the people of Iceland.

Mr. Blondell's interest in history may have been sparked by his mother, who was a historian. He also was interested in tracing his ancestry and researched the family tree, his son said.

``He definitely pulled himself up by his bootstraps and went to the school of hard knocks,'' Tom Blondell said. ``He arrived in Rochester 39 years ago and operated the A&W; root beer stand and later built the Heidi House Drive In in the '60s.''

But he always intended to do something else, and so in 1973 the Blondell Motel was built on the site of the Heidi House.

Mr. Blondell, who had served in the Coast Guard during World War II as a cook, knew how to run restaurants and included a restaurant in the motel.

``He was a generous man. People who have worked for us or anyone he liked, he might just be talking to them and pick up something to give them,'' Tom Blondell said. ``He always treated employees like family and they have always been very loyal to him.''


Tom Blondell said his mother and sister, Carla Blondell, will all continue to operate the motel.

He is also survived by three grandchildren and three brothers, Sam of Anoka, Douglas of Lake City and John of Rochester. A son preceded him in death.

A memorial Mass of Christian burial will be conducted at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. John's Catholic Church, with the Rev. Virgil Duellman officiating. Private burial will be in Red Wing.

There will be no visitation or reviewal.

Ranfranz Funeral Home will be in charge of arrangements.

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