She was 'ready to be with Gordy'
Co-founder of famed Hi-Hat dies at age 94
December 15, 2023
The Northland lost its most famous fry cook last week, when Marilyn Lundquist died at age 94, having spent two-thirds of those years working the grill at her family's Gordy's Hi-Hat in Cloquet.
"She was amazing," said Dan Lundquist, her son. "She was special."
Her husband, Gordy Lundquist, passed away at the same age, 94, in July of 2021. When he died, the couple had been married 71 years. And while Gordy was the face of the popular summertime burger destination, it was Marilyn who was its beating heart.
"What a wonderful lady and friend," said Joe Peterson, one of Cloquet's resident historians. "I just treasured her friendship."
Marilyn started her daily shifts at the Hi-Hat by eating a bowl of chili before working feverishly to spin out meals to satisfy a public appetite for Gordy's that continues to grow, with long lines outside the door of people from near and far having become the norm.
Dan said Marilyn developed her exceptional work ethic while being raised alongside six siblings in Duluth by parents Cecil and Nellie Cran.
Marilyn met Gordy at Denfeld High School, where they became sweethearts. They married and opened their first restaurant in Eveleth in 1955, after Gordy finished in the Navy.
Gordy's in Cloquet opened in 1960.
"She passed comfortably and peacefully," Dan said. "She was ready to go. She was strong in her faith and ready to be with Gordy."
She never forgot an employee, capable of citing the years folks worked for Gordy's into her 90s.
"So sharp," Dan said.
Locally, the couple lived in the home Marliyn grew up in, in a leafy section of the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Fully remodeled and impeccably neat and decorated, Marilyn outfitted the home with stained glass windows she made herself. It was a hobby she picked up after she walked into an artist's studio and asked to be tutored.
A seasonal restaurant open from spring to the start of fall, Gordy's was a place the couple left behind every winter. They wintered at a home in Sarasota, Florida, on an island in the Gulf Coast called Siesta Key.
She addressed the annual time away with this reporter in 2015: "Just to get away from the hamburgers, I guess," she said. "Nobody knows us down there. We're not famous fry cooks. We're just social."
The entire family, including Dan and his spouse, Kelly, their five children and all of their grandkids, converged on Florida for Thanksgiving this year. Dan's brother, Rick, and his family were also there.
Alas, before the holiday, Dan had to take Marilyn into the hospital, and later she entered a hospice facility, where she passed Dec. 6.
"She had an infection that turned septic," Dan said. "She just couldn't shake it."
She took joy in knowing the family was together for the holiday, and everyone spent time gathering to see her in the hospital.
"We were there the whole time," Dan said. "It was just a blessing we were there."