Influential native [UPDATED]Published 4:07am Monday, May 20, 2013 Updated 6:12am Monday, May 20, 2013
Kati Sasseville’s influence on people she met and in the community could be considered life changing.
“You should’ve known her,” said Mark Helland, vice president of customer service for Otter Tail Power. “Every professional should’ve known her. She was just inspirational to so many people.”
Sasseville, a Fergus Falls native, passed away Thursday, May 16, at the age of 78. She was the oldest of seven children, raised her six children, got her law degree, worked as legal counsel for Otter Tail Power and ran for state Senate in 1992. In her retirement, she turned her Fergus Falls home into the Forest Lodge Farm Bed and Breakfast.
She was described as brilliant, amazing, a great teacher, funny, outgoing, a natural leader, advocate, role model, and loving mother and grandmother. She was also part of the great generation, Helland said.
“She understood that the way to have a really good life was to be able to give to others,” Helland said. “And she had a rich life, but it was always in community. It was always advocating for people. “She really was a breath of fresh air.”
Helland knew Kati for at least 20 years. He couldn’t say enough good things about her. She experienced so many obstacles in her own life, like when her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were killed in a car crash in 2000. But she overcame her obstacles and used those to teach others and help them work through their own struggles.
“She made life a lot richer and fuller for a lot of people,” Helland said. “She taught us how to live. It was always the idea that you’re here to give.”
Rea Sasseville called her mother “an amazing mom,” adding that she’ll miss her spirit the most. Rea’s sense of politics and right versus wrong came from her mom, she said.
“She also taught us to love one another and to work out our differences if we had them,” Rea said. “It’s right to be just and fair to everyone, that no one person is better than another.”
Family was extremely important to Kati. She loved having her grandkids over during summers for “Camp GK (Grandma Kati),” said her sister, Liz Sweder. Kati also promised to take each one on a trip, and she fulfilled her promise.
Kati worked hard for women’s rights. Rea remembered marching with her mother at the University of Minnesota during the Vietnam War, when she wasn’t quite 5 years old. Kati was a good leader for her children, taking them to art museums and legislative sessions, Sweder said.
Kati was known and respected across the country and certainly made a difference on the national level, said Ward Uggerud, retired senior vice president of energy supply with Otter Tail Power. What made her so compelling and effective was her belief that business and government should be done on behalf of the people, he said.
“She was an inspiration to people across the country to be forward thinking and speak out on issues of importance,” Uggerud said.
Kati’s leadership ability went back to grade school, according to Sweder. Kati always knew she wanted to be a lawyer, but in the 1940s, people laughed at her, Sweder said.
“The first person I knew who planned to have a career,” Sweder said. “She would make up her mind about goals and then achieve them.”