Sheldon Ekstrom was Ordway’s “doorman par excellence” – Twin Cities
When it came time to film the opening video for her virtual fundraiser in May, the management of Ordway Center for the Performing Arts knew they had to feature doorman Sheldon Ekstrom.
Dressed in a black top hat and a crisp black tuxedo with gold buttons, brick red cuffs and panels, Ekstrom, 90, of Roseville, was the first person people saw upon arriving at the Ordway. He opened car doors, helped people get out of their vehicles, and opened the door to the downtown theater.
“He was the quintessential goalkeeper,” said Leo Rickertsen, who worked with Ekström at the Ordway. “It was all about details, timing and precision. He was like, ‘Look everyone in the eye and say hello to everyone. Sometimes there will be a lot of them piling up at the door, but make sure you walk between them and look them in the eye, because they will be looking at you.
Ekstrom, who died in August, has trained Rickertsen and many other Ordway gatekeepers over the past two decades.
Ekstrom loved being the first person to greet Ordway customers, said Tammie Weinfurtner, Director of Customer Services.
“For a lot of people, it was their introduction to downtown St. Paul,” Weinfurtner said. “He loved what he was doing so genuinely, and it was obvious. He had that incredible smile, that mischievous little glint in his eyes.
Ekstrom “embodies everything we try to instill in the experience when people come to Ordway: warmth, pride in what we do, pride in the organization,” she said. “There was a lot of grace in him as a human being, and it emanated from him.”
Ekstrom especially liked student matinees and the Flint Hills Family Festival at the Ordway, Weinfurtner said. “That’s when his smile got really big. Then his eyes would get really narrowed. You could just see the joy emanating from him.
Ekström was into the details, said Rickertsen.
“Inside, it was all about preparation,” said Rickertsen. “Everything had to be correct: where are the ropes, where are the candlesticks, and all the doors unlocked and locked at the right time. “
Once the interior work was done, “then you have become the face of the greeting,” Rickertsen said. “For me, he was the Ordway ambassador. He was the first face you saw, winter and summer.
With his shaved white beard and cropped figure, Ekstrom looked like “a Swedish gentleman,” Rickertsen said.
“He had the quality of royalty, but you never considered him an aristocrat,” Rickertsen said. “He was the friendliest person, but without the big open smiles. He nodded and you felt rewarded.
Ekstrom died on August 15 of heart failure at The Homestead in Maplewood, where he had been living since July.
Ekstrom grew up in Chisago City and graduated from Chisago City High School. He attended the University of Minnesota and received his BA in area history in 1957. He was part of the Army ROTC at the U of M and then served in the Army and Reserves of the army.
After leaving active service, he sailed on the Queen Elizabeth II to Europe and traveled on motorcycles for six months.
Upon his return to the United States, he began working as a market researcher at AC Nielsen Co. He moved with the company several times, including to Chattanooga, Charlotte, Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago and Moorhead before s ‘settle in St. Paul. .
In 1960, he married Marilyn Joy Miller, whom he had met at university. The couple had three sons, Todd, Derek and Kent, and lived in Roseville.
When he wasn’t working, Ekstrom enjoyed making elaborate snow sculptures in his front yard, gardening, cooking, canning, listening to classical music, reading the newspaper, photographing and drawing, said Todd Ekstrom of Maplewood.
He was an election official in Roseville for many years and was a usher at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Roseville.
At 89, Ekstrom took an acrylic painting class as part of community education, said Todd Ekstrom. “He loved the structure and he always wanted to keep learning. “
Sheldon Ekstrom was often recognized on his travels, but “he was quite humble,” said Todd Ekstrom. “He just smiled, waved, said a few jokes, maybe had a conversation.”
Ekstrom “always took the time to be there for grandchildren, outings and family events,” and he really cared about others, “said Todd Ekstrom. “He loved hearing people’s stories and was really engaged no matter who it was. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’ve been there too. It was like, ‘Oh, tell me more. What did you do next? Where did you eat What did you see?’ All the little details.
Derek Ekstrom of White Bear Township said his father “always had a smile on his face. He loved working at the Ordway. At his age, working until 1 a.m. is something. My mom couldn’t figure it out, but he liked it. He made a difference in the lives of many people. He always made people feel welcome.
In honor of their father, the three Ekström sons grow white beards for his funeral.
Ekstrom is survived by his wife, Marilyn; his three sons; six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
A funeral service for Ekstrom will be held at 2 p.m. on October 9 at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Roseville; visits will take place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the church. Participation is limited; the service will also be broadcast live on the church’s website.
After the service, guests are welcome to stay for dessert and drinks.