Local advocate for seniors, disabled dies at 88

Staff Writer
I cover the cities of Andover, Blaine and Ramsey. I have worked at ABC Newspapers since August 2007.

Harvey Glommen, a Blaine resident who spent his life helping others, died on Jan. 23 at the age of 88.

Harvey and Ina Mae Glommen married in 1951. They had one son and three daughters along with six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Courtesy of Glommen family
Harvey and Ina Mae Glommen married in 1951. They had one son and three daughters along with six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Courtesy of Glommen family

While he was Aitkin County’s welfare director in the early 1960s, he started an activity center in a church basement where seniors could play cards and socialize. He would go on to form a partnership with a restaurant in McGregor to provide low-cost meals that senior citizen volunteers would deliver to other seniors who could not easily leave their homes.

This drew the attention of Washington D.C. and Glommen would work for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration in the mid-to-late 1960s, according to his son Brent Glommen. While in the nation’s capital, he directed the Foster Grandparent program that paid seniors to work with children who had disabilities and other long-term health issues.

Glommen also worked tirelessly to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities. Brent said his father helped with the development of Rise, which provides employment opportunities to the disabled.

At their own Blaine home, Harvey and his wife Ina Mae Glommen were foster parents to adults with developmental disabilities that had gotten into trouble and needed guidance to turn their lives around.

He also found the time to start his own clock and watch repair business.

And he was not afraid to speak his mind through columns published in the Blaine Banner newspaper, Brent said.

His family credits his upbringing for why he was such a caring individual. Raised in Suttons Bay, Michigan, Harvey was the youngest of eight children that included seven sons and one daughter.

“It kind of came from his childhood. If neighbors got sick, his mother made soup and brought it over. And if they were sick they returned the favor,” said Ina Mae.

Brent said religion was important in his father’s upbringing. His ancestors were members of the Hauge Synod, which was a Norwegian Lutheran Church. Harvey and Ina Mae became long-time members of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Mounds View.

Harvey enlisted in the Army. The G.I. Bill enabled him to attend Concordia College in Moorehead, where he would meet his future wife. They married in 1951 and moved to Blaine in 1955.

Harvey Glommen meeting with President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale. Courtesy of Glommen family
Harvey Glommen meeting with President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale. Courtesy of Glommen family

They would have four children. Brent lives in Roseville, Barbara is in St. Paul, Beth lives in Golden Valley and Brenda McCloskey is a Coon Rapids resident. Harvey is also survived by six grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

Harvey was a social worker for Anoka and Hennepin counties before he became Aitkin County’s welfare director. His message to the Aitkin County Board was it could pay for this program just by preventing one person from being hospitalized due to malnutrition.

The family moved to Washington D.C. in the mid-to-late 1960s so Harvey could work for President Johnson’s secretary of health, education and welfare. The Foster Grandparent program he supervised recognized that children with developmental disabilities could see improvements if they had a caring adult in their lives and that the grandparents also benefited from these relationships.

The family returned to Minnesota in the late 1960s and Harvey became the executive director of ARC, which was then known as the Association of Retarded Children. While he first strove to increase funding for state hospitals for people with developmental disabilities, he later advocated for moving these people to community-based programs once these options became available, Brent said.

Glommen and his wife were foster parents to adults with mental health issues for about 20 years, according to Brent.

He remembers one man who had been accused of starting fires at previous homes he had been placed in. Harvey felt that sleep deprivation was taking its toll on this man, so he got him on a more routine sleeping schedule. But he also improved this man’s diet, played cribbage with him and had him meet people in the community so he would have some positive social interactions. About two years later, this man was able to move into his own apartment, Brent said.

“Dad’s demeanor and his understanding of human nature and how to exercise love had its impact,” he said.

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