Lester Bruce Mainquist, known as Bruce, passed away at Dove Healthcare-West in Eau Claire, Sunday, April 5, 2020, at the age of 80. He was born Oct. 29, 1939, in Magnet, Neb., the son of Allan and Valdis Mainquist. When Bruce was still a baby, the Mainquist family moved to Buffalo, Minn., where Bruce and his siblings were raised on a farm located on Lightfoot Lake. He graduated from Buffalo High School in 1957. He served four years in the U.S. Navy.
Along with friends he met at college, Bruce became a founding member of the Cherry Stone Farm, which was established in 1974, as an artists’ co-operative in rural Colfax, where Bruce continued to reside for the rest of his life.
A talented and accomplished artist, Bruce frequently exhibited his works at art fairs and galleries in Minnesota, Wisconsin and other parts of the mid-west. He produced intricate and striking works of geometric shapes using steel plate and sheet metal as a medium, with each piece having its own unique patina. Using a torch he would cut the steel into pieces and then weld them together, often fashioning the metal into works inspired by nature. Many of his popular works featured a variety of small animals, including frogs, birds, fish, shellfish, butterflies and snails.
Some of Bruce’s most well-known works were the series of dancing, happy people, which he developed while working with a local arts program in Dunn County. The smiling statues, which Bruce produced in sizes ranging from very small to very large, were inspired by the children he saw playing at Cherry Stone Farm. Permanent installations of these works have been displayed in many places and can be seen at the Dunn County Fairgrounds, as well as several local parks, including Wilson Park in Menomonie, 22-Mile Ford Park near Colfax on the Red Cedar River, and Boyceville Park.
In addition to his artistic creativity, which he expressed in countless ways, Bruce will be remembered as a quiet, gentle and kind soul, who possessed a dry sense of humor and a mischievous grin. An avid reader who did not own a television, Bruce loved listening to public radio.
Bruce is survived by his older brother, Vance Mainquist and his wife, Barb, who still reside on the family farm in Buffalo; his younger sister, Linnea (John) Shinn of Stillwater, Minn.; many cousins, nieces, and nephews; and close friends, including Joe and Sally Felling and Denny and Amy Lenz. He was preceded in death by his parents; and his older half-sister, Janet Trussoni.
A celebration of Bruce’s life will be held once arrangements can be made. Memorials in his name may be made to Wisconsin Public Radio or a charity of donor’s choice.
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