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Rick Lubbers column: Cliff Gagner was a friend to all

Cliff Gagner (pictured with his wife, Anne) was a longtime employee of the Duluth News Tribune and Forum Communications Printing. He passed away last week, but his warm personality, fun conversations and infectious laughter are being remembered by many people in the Twin Ports community. Photo courtesy Landmark Lanes

Rick Lubbers

Forum News Service

Cliff Gagner could start a conversation with anybody about anything at any time.

That talent is rare, but Cliff owned that gift and honed his special conversational skills every chance he could, and also leave you feeling a little bit better about yourself and the world around you.

Cliff was a platemaker for the News Tribune, and later with Forum Communications Printing, for more than 25 years. Whether he was working to prepare the paper for printing or taking part in any of his favorite activities, Cliff always found time to spread the joy of good conversation.

Sadly, that voice was silenced by cancer on Saturday. The lifelong Superior resident was only 62, but memories of his fun stories, great conversations and his infectious laughter will endure for those of us fortunate to have known him.

And many people did know Cliff and count him among their friends. If you have spent any time bowling, playing softball, shooting pool or darts, watching local stock car racing, or cheering on the Green Bay Packers in the Twin Ports, chances are good that you are in that group.

Andy Bennett was close friends with "Cliffy," and the two spent a lot of time together at bowling alleys and softball diamonds.

"He was very outgoing. Very easygoing. Very nice and helpful," Bennett said. "He could sit down with a pile of rocks and by the end of the day they'd know his story. We spent a lot of time just talking about everything and anything."

And those chats invariably drifted into football.

"I'm a Vikings fan, so we gave each other grief back and forth about the Vikings and Packers," Bennett said.

They once made a bet before a Packers-Vikings game that the loser would not only have to wear the other team's hat for a week, but they also couldn't say anything bad about the other team during that time.

"Of course, the Vikings lost and he found the ugliest Green Bay winter hat that he could find," Bennett reminisced. "That's just Cliff. He's a prankster."

Many people knew Cliff through his devotion to bowling and his second home in Superior — Landmark Lanes.

"He was such an inspiration to everyone at Landmark Lanes. I don't think you will find one person who didn't respect him and love him," said Dianne Mencel, wife of Carl Mencel — who is owner/operator there. "Not only was he an excellent bowler himself, but he taught many the sport. He was a coach for the kids' leagues at Landmark and for the high school league that went to state many times."

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