Richard Pontinen

d. July 28, 2022

Dr. Richard Ernest (Dick) Pontinen of Shoreview, Minnesota passed away on July 28, 2022 at the age of 88 in Oakdale, Minnesota.

Dick was born September 21, 1933 at home in Sparta, Minnesota to Ernest and Pearl Pontinen, the first of three boys.  After earning his Eagle Scout award and graduating from Gilbert High School, he went on to Hamline University for a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and math in 1955.  He met his wife, Arlene, at a nearby Lutheran church and they married September 22, 1956.  He earned his Ph. D. in low-temperature physics from the University of Minnesota in 1962 and did four summers of research at Hudson Labs of Columbia University in New York.  He went back to teach physics for 41 years at Hamline University to over 4,000 students.  For many years he was chair of the department of physics.  He used a strong sense of humor to engage the students, even those not too interested in physics. Some students became lifelong friends.  Dick’s brother Paul and eventually Dick’s two children, Kathy and Gary, were in his classes at Hamline (and passed)!  Outside of class, choir singing was an important part of his life and he sang tenor in the Hamline A Cappella choir, church choirs, and as a charter member of the Oratorio Society of Minnesota.  He listened to classical music at home and at the Minnesota Orchestra and St Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts. He enjoyed golf and according to his records, he golfed on over 250 different courses, from Fairbanks, Alaska in the north to Capetown, South Africa in the south.  Clearly, travel was also a big part of his free time, starting with yearly canoe trips in the Boundary Waters and camping trips out west with the family.  He painted oil paintings of mountain landscapes he visited and enjoyed photographing wild birds.  He and Arlene finally discovered cruising and went on 42 cruises with family and friends in Europe, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, Africa, South America, and Australia/New Zealand.  They saw two total solar eclipses from cruise ships on the Black Sea and near Madagascar and enjoyed a safari in Kenya.  They liked to spend time at Gary’s cabin near Alexandria, Minnesota since Dick helped to build and finish it.  They also visited Kathy’s home in Sierra Vista, Arizona for winter vacations.

Dick is survived by wife Arlene, daughter Kathy (Ronald) Hagen, son Gary (Kari) Pontinen, grandchildren Dr. Heidi Pontinen and Jill Pontinen, brother Paul (Linda) Pontinen, niece Dr. Laura (Sam) Meyers, nephews Dr. Tom (Sylwia) Pontinen and Jon (Erin) Pontinen, and many cousins.  He was predeceased by his parents Ernest and Pearl (Niska) Pontinen and his brother Kenneth Pontinen.

A memorial service will be held at 11AM on September 10, 2022 at Bradshaw (4600 Greenhaven Dr., White Bear Lake). Visitation two hours prior.  Luncheon to follow.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in Dick’s honor to the Richard E. Pontinen Scholarship Fund at Hamline University. To make a gift visit or mail to Hamline University, MS-C1917, at 1536 Hewitt Ave, St. Paul, Minnesota 55104.  Special thanks to Shoreview Senior Living staff, St. John’s Hospital and The Pillars Hospice Home for making his last years comfortable.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Richard Pontinen, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, September 10, 2022

9:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

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Memorial Service

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

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