Kenneth Duane Lee, 72, of Zumbrota, passed away peacefully January 1, 2024 at Mayo inpatient
palliative care with his devoted wife and daughter by his side following a 3 year journey with
metastatic kidney cancer. Too soon. The world lost one of the best ones. He dipped his toe into
2024 then left to reclaim his breath as he plays his favorite holes on his favorite golf courses.
Ken was born June 12, 1951 in Austin, MN to Charles and Arlene (Jacobson) Lee. He grew up in
Pine Island, where he enjoyed farming, and graduated with the class of 1969. On August 22,
1970 he married the love of his life, his rock, his wife Ella. The following month he was drafted
into the Army, serving as an MP (believe it or not) until 1972. Ken and Ella started their family
quickly with their daughter, Joey, and made their life in Zumbrota. Family was very important to
him, always wanting his loved ones to be happy and not struggling.
Ken held a variety of jobs, working at Cresthaven and Maple Island Creameries, owning his own
auto body shop, and completing the last decades of his work life as a Wastewater Treatment
Operator for the City of Zumbrota. He always brought integrity and pride to any job.
Ken was the social one of the family. He never met a stranger. Every person in the world was
just a friend he hadn’t met yet. He was always ready and willing to lend a hand to help others, to
see the good and bring out the best in everyone he knew, and had a natural ability to lighten even
the heaviest of situations with his silly humor and quick wit.
He was famous for making the best lefse (inarguably better than his cousin Mary’s). He found
joy in spending time with family and friends, bowling, playing cards, scratch-off crossword
lottery tickets, traveling, and golfing. Golf was his passion, and his biggest enjoyment was to see
someone play well, even if it meant Ken lost the game. It was common to hear people say they
had just shot their best round ever after playing against Ken. He encouraged everyone without
exception. His pinnacle golf experience was playing at Erin Hills Golf Course, where he had the
fortune of being guided by famed caddie Bud Jackson. Ken’s uplifting presence, smile, and
laughter will live on in the hearts of all who knew him.
Left to cherish his memory include his beloved wife of 53 years, Ella of Zumbrota; loving
daughter Joey Lee and her partner James Gilliland of Rochester; sister, Judy Rietmann of
Owatonna; brother Jerry (Shirley) Lee of Zumbrota; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; and
countless treasured friends. He is preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Arlene; infant
sister, Patricia; brothers, Steven and Gary; and brother-in-law, Charles Rietmann.
Our family sends a heartfelt thank you to the compassionate staff at Mayo Palliative Care and
other specialty departments, and especially his oncologist, Dr. Joshua Pritchett, who was always
there for him and became a dear friend. We are grateful for everything you did for Ken.
Ken’s “Farewell PAR-TEE” will be held Friday, January 19, at 2:00PM at Mahn Family Funeral
Home, 1475 Jefferson Dr., Zumbrota, MN 55992, with refreshments and a time to gather and
share stories following. Visitation will be from 1:00PM until the time of the service.
In lieu of flowers or memorials, call a friend or relative you have yet to reach out to. Visit
someone who may be struggling. Forgive someone. Any act of kindness is appreciated.