Ray Kriisa Sibul, age 85, passed away surrounded by family on July 21, 2023. He had been battling heart failure and post-polio syndrome for several years, but up to the bitter end he exuded his fierce spirit of independence and lived mostly on his own. He is survived by his twin brother Joel Sibul, kids Jenny, Matt, and William, five grandkids, and by many cousins back in his birth country of Estonia. Ray was preceded in death by his wife Lenny of 55 years, who died in 2020.
Ray was born November 29, 1937 in Estonia which is right next to Russia, and like so many others due to WW2, he and his family were split apart and soon became refugees. His father, Aksel Kriisa, was sent to a Siberian labor camp and Ray never saw him again. Along with his mother Johanna Toss, young Ray and Joel lived in post-war Germany in a Displaced Persons, or DP camp for about 10 years. That’s where Ray learned his native German language, and also where his love of cinema first started. Ray was afflicted with polio at a young age, and therefore spent a lot of time in small makeshift movie theaters instead of playing sports like most other kids.
Johanna re-married in the mid 1950’s while at the DP camp, and the small family immigrated to the US, with Ray and Joel’s adoptive father, Karl Sibul. They settled near Detroit, Michigan where Ray quickly learned his new language and attended the remainder of middle and high school. He stayed in Detroit and attended Wayne State University, where he met Lenny. They were married in June 1965 and soon thereafter moved to Morris, MN, where Ray would spend his entire 38 career teaching German at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He would walk to campus across town, rain or shine, refusing rides from friends and colleagues, even in the absolute worst weather that the prairies of western Minnesota could dish out. He would greet people in town wherever he walked, with his charming smile, German accent, and slight limp residual from the polio of his youth.
Although Ray had other hobbies like fishing and arguing about politics, his true passion was collecting books, art, classical music, and cinema. He was a true Renaissance Man, uninterested in cooking for himself or building things with his hands, but someone who could recall the entire plot line of a 1930’s Western, along with its director, producer, studio, and major and minor actors. He amassed a world-class collection of movie posters, with specific focus on Film Noir, Westerns, and B-movie horror and zombie movies. His kids joked that Amazon, UPS, and the USPS suffered a great financial loss when he was finally unable to get to his home computer and order more treasures from the myriad gallery websites he visited.
The family would like to thank the tireless staff at Stevens Community Memorial Hospital, West Wind Village, and Knute Nelson Home care for all the service and attention to Ray over the past few years. We would also like to thank Ray’s neighbors and friends who checked in on him, brought him food, cleared the snow, and engaged in lengthy conversations with him.
Although he didn’t want any sort of funeral service, his kids would always remind him that memorials are designed for the living and therefore they plan to hold a small gathering to celebrate his life and accomplishments at a later date, likely in the fall of 2023.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate that any donations be made to the independently run Morris Theatre, a small-town theater that has been showing first-run movies since 1940 and is currently striving to make renovations; they can be reached at MorrisTheatre.net.
Pedersen Funeral Home is in care of the arrangements for Ray. To send condolences to the family, please visit www.pedersenfh.com.