Martin Carl Heinrich Cordes was born on April 9, 1926, in Henning, Minn., the seventh of eight children born to Dietrich and Ida (Narten) Cordes, and died of congestive heart failure on May 1, 2018, with family and friends at his side.

Marty was a longtime resident of Rochester, instructing more than 3,000 students at John Marshall High School during his 29 years as a physics teacher there.

Marty attended Henning public schools and graduated from high school in 1944, as class valedictorian. After graduation, he served in the Navy for two years, and was honorably discharged as an Electronic Technician’s Mate, Second Class.

Marty was then able to attend college under the GI Bill, first at Concordia Teachers’ College in Seward, Neb., and later at Valparaiso University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Education in 1950. Marty continued to nourish his deep desire for learning.

After teaching for a few years in Henning, Chicago, and Granite Falls, Minn., he returned to graduate school, and received his master’s degree in Education in 1958, from Washington University in St. Louis; subsequently, he attended the University of Minnesota during summers, and obtained a degree as Education Specialist. He continued to be a voracious reader even when he was no longer involved in formal education.

Marty met Elvera Ohlmann while attending Concordia. They were married for 63 years, until Elvera’s death in January 2017. Marty was also preceded in death by his parents and all of his siblings, as well as his infant grandson, Matthew Cordes.

Left to cherish his memory are his children, Joanne Cordes Schneider, Kathy Cordes, and Dick Cordes (Tricia Lawrence); and five grandchildren, Melissa Schneider (Chris Hooker), Becca, Noah, Aurora, and Sarah Cordes.

Throughout his life, Marty loved sports. He ice-skated as a child, ran track (as “Speedy Little Martin Cordes”) and played football in high school (on an undefeated six-man team) and in college, and bowled, golfed, played softball and table tennis as an adult. He attended hundreds of events as an avid fan of JM sports, and served for many years as starter for boys’ swimming meets, and scorekeeper for boys’ basketball.

A lifelong Lutheran, Marty illustrated his faith with action. In his childhood, he attended St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Henning; as a young adult, he served as a counselor at Camp Emmaus, and worked to construct the Lutheran Island Camp. He later helped to found and lead Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rochester and most recently attended Redeemer Lutheran Church. He served as an elder and an usher, in addition to singing in the church choir.

Memories of Marty include: singing in the car and eating scrambled egg sandwiches on family vacations; Marty and Elvera traveling to all 50 states (mostly by car), Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and the Panama Canal; canoeing in local rivers and the BWCA; building a cabin at “The Lake;” fishing for walleye; hunting grouse, pheasant, deer, and “squirrels;” bird-watching and star-gazing; picking apples and making applesauce; searching for bittersweet vines; making chocolate chip cookies, homemade waffles, and his special turkey stuffing; putting together jigsaw puzzles, playing cribbage and Freecell; and having conversations about life. While Marty did not always understand or agree with the choices of his children and grandchildren, he always accepted them and loved them for who they were and are.

To those who took tremendous care of Marty, especially Dr. Kris Thomas and Seasons Hospice, and for those who provided support to family members, thank you so very much!

Memorials suggested to: Redeemer Lutheran Church, Rochester, Minn.; Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (magazine), PO Box 325, Congers, NY 10920-0325; Lutheran World Relief, 700 Light St. Baltimore, MD 21230.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 8, at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 869 7th Ave. SE, Rochester. Visitation will be held 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 7, at Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes, 5421 Royal Place NW, Rochester and one hour prior to the service Tuesday at the church. Interment will follow the service at Grandview Memorial Gardens in Rochester with full military honors.

To leave a special memory or condolence please visit

Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes, 5421 Royal Place NW Rochester, MN 55901. (507) 289-3600.