Former Oakdale Mayor, Tree Enthusiast Dies, Age 88
Peter F. Graske — former mayor of Oakdale — died of health-related issues on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Peter Graske was known around town as more than just a former mayor.
Graske served the city of Oakdale in many ways, but he was most notably known for sharing his "green thumb" with the community.
"He was a wonderful, gentle, generous man," said Sue Barry, the city clerk. "He's Oakdale's version of Johnny Appleseed."
Graske died from health-related issues on Sunday, Sept. 30.
The 3M retiree was Oakdale's mayor from 1975 to 1976 and served on the city's tree board up until his death.
Graske was passionate about stewardship in Oakdale and bringing the community together to beautify the city, said Chris Larson, the city's forester. Larson worked with Graske for more than eight years on the tree board.
One of biggest ways Graske brought people together was by starting a tree giveaway event — which was later dubbed the Pete Graske Arbor Day Tree Giveaway.
This year the city celebrated the 37th annual Pete Graske Arbor Day Tree Giveaway event at Richard Walton Park. During the event the city distributes a variety of trees and seedlings for residents to plant in their yards.
"It's amazing because as the city forester I do tree inspections and as I'm visiting some of these different properties some say that they got this tree from Pete," Larson said. "So there are lots of trees around town planted because of Pete's Arbor Day."
Graske was also known for grafting fruit trees. Larson said Graske had a tree that grew pears and apples.
In addition to the tree giveaway, Graske would often share his homegrown tomatoes with city staff in addition to delivering food from his garden to nursing homes and various shut-ins in the city.
In one of Graske's last projects he planted several raspberry bushes in the Oakdale Nature Preserve so people walking along the trail could pick fresh raspberries, Larson said.
"He epitomized community stewardship," Larson said. "A lot of people will remember his role with Arbor Day and planting trees, but he did way more than that."
The Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 10 a.m. on Oct. 9 at Transfiguration Catholic Church. The visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. on Oct. 8 at Maple Oaks Funeral Home and at the church one our before the Mass.