Cover photo for Francis Leo Lair's Obituary
Francis Leo Lair Profile Photo
1919 Francis 2016

Francis Leo Lair

October 12, 1919 — October 23, 2016

Funeral services for Francis Leo Lair, will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 29, 2016 at St. Theodore Catholic Church. Father Russell Scepaniak will officiate. Interment will be at St. Theodore Cemetery. Visitation will be 5:00 -7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 28 with a Prayer Service at 6:30 p.m. at Bayview/Freeborn Funeral Home and one hour prior to the service at the church on Saturday. Online condolences are welcome at

Precious husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Francis Leo Lair of Albert Lea, Minnesota (most recently of Burnsville, Minnesota) left this world at the age of 97 on October 23, 2016, surrounded by loved ones.  

Francis will always be remembered for the Irish twinkle in his eye, his wit and wisdom, his respectful and polite ways, his leadership skills, and his courage in the face of physical pain.  He was passionate about his faith, his family, his friends, and his business career.  

Francis was born on October 12, 1919, in Freeborn County, MN and was a graduate of Emmons High School. He was a proud patriot who served his country during WWII as an Army cryptographer for 3 1/2 years in the Aleutian Islands. He married his beloved wife Dorothy in 1949 and moved to Albert Lea where they raised their family. Francis spent 42 years in farm and consumer cooperatives, serving in various capacities at National Cooperatives, where he became President and CEO in 1961. He remained in that position through a merger with Universal Cooperatives in 1972, relocated to Alliance OH, followed by a return to Bloomington MN, where he retired from that position in 1982.

Francis' dedication to his community and cooperatives throughout his professional life was significant: the first congregational President of St. Theodore's Catholic Church, Director of the Albert Lea Chamber of Commerce and Freeborn National Bank, member of the Knights of Columbus, American Legion, VFW, Elks and Rotary, Board of Directors of the Minnesota State AAA, Directors Group Health (now Health Partners), Chairman of the Board MSI Insurance, and Cooperative League of the USA (CLUSA) where he served as their international representative in Switzerland. Francis was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C. in 2002.

Preceded in death by his devoted wife of 65 years, Dorothy (Sullivan) Lair; parents Frank and Gert Lair, brother Webster Lair, sisters Betty Martinson, Margie MacKay, and Maxine Lair, as well as many sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law.

Survived by his brother, James (Pat) Lair of Albert Lea, sister Eileen Hengesteg of Lake Mills, children Kathleen (Bob) Zakoski of Carlsbad, CA, Mary Beth (Greg) Senske of Burnsville, MN, Jeanne (Jack) Flickinger of Poynette, WI, and Patrick (Mary) Lair of Bloomington, MN, as well as several sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and many nieces and nephews.

Francis was so proud of his 9 grandchildren:  Megan (Mike) Bireley, Kari (Rob) Nick, Brian (Jacquelyn) Senske, Katelin (Chris) Swanson, Loreena (Cody) Hilton, Laura (Chau) Le, Matthew Freer, Jamie Zakoski, and Bryce (Lindsey) Zakoski. He was adored by 13 great-grandchildren: Emmie, Jackson, Grace, Parker, Jamison, Connor, Logan, Bennett, Kellen, Evan, Alex, Leona, and Calvin. His family was his greatest legacy.

A special thanks to his special nurse Lindsey and all of the caregivers at Emerald Crest Burnsville and Grace Hospice for their tender love and compassion.  

Memorials preferred to Emerald Crest Burnsville.

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