Community Giving

The Hedlund Family


Pat and Shelley Hedlund are sisters who look alike and often think alike. Reference to their strong faith is a natural part of their conversations. That faith and so many of their values were passed on to them by their parents, Ralph and Odette Hedlund.

During World War II, Odette was recruited for a crash course in aeronautical engineering to prepare her for her part in designing the jet engine. She could have pursued graduate study at MIT, but Odette wanted to move back home, marry Ralph, and start a family. She became a talented mathematics teacher in the Willmar Public Schools and remained involved in educational issues after retirement.

Ralph was an entrepreneur. He and Odette established and owned the Dairy Freeze in Willmar in 1948. During those years, “all they did was work;" one evening Odette fell asleep on a ladder. After selling the Willmar store, Ralph continued with Dairy Freeze by selling the ice cream mix and his own vanilla to the franchisees in the state. He also embarked on another venture—selling mutual funds. Ralph started his career as one of the first brokers for what today is American Century Investments. He maintained his investment license into his early 80s.


Both Ralph and Odette were active in their community and church. He helped launch the Community Chest, a precursor to United Way, and established the West Central Concert Series, which is still active today in Willmar.

A strong work ethic, a strong faith, and generous spirits are what Pat and Shelley appreciate from their upbringing. They speak of creating a family legacy through philanthropy. They got started through the ROMP Fund established by their father (recently renaming it the Ralph and Odette Hedlund Family Fund), and they shape that legacy through their own giving and support of various causes.