John Killen died three days before the Fourth of July which was one of his favorite holidays. Having been given the honorary title of “Commodore” by the Beauregard Lake Association which he had co-founded, he solemnly led the majestic parade of pontoon boats, or anything else that would float, as they repeatedly circled the small, beautiful lake near Barnes, Wisconsin past his beloved cabin, flags flying, music playing, proudly exploding a toy cannon to end at the Killen dock where various libations were dispensed.
Killen was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on May 4, 1927 and reared in Minneapolis. He served in the US Navy prior to graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of Minnesota in 1949. It was there he met, courted and married Elaine Bourestom. In 1950 he joined the news staff of the Marinette Wisconsin Eagle-Star and later the Duluth News-Tribune.
Killen pursued his law degree at the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating in 1955 with highest honors including editor of the Law Review and Order of the Coif. Returning to Duluth, he joined the predecessor law firm of Johnson, Killen & Seiler with whom he practiced professionally for 50 years. Early in his career, Killen was named Duluth’s Outstanding Young Man of 1957.
John Killen received recognition nationally and internationally as an outstanding trial lawyer. A fellow of the prestigious International Academy of Trial Lawyers, he served as a director and state chairman. He was a member and state chairman of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a member of the International Association of Defense Counsel, the Federation of Insurance and Corporate Counsel, the American Board of Trial Advocates, the American Society of Hospital Attorneys, and the Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association. Killen was listed annually among “The Best Lawyers in America,” particularly in the fields of medical and legal malpractice defense. For many years, he served as a director of the Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company.
Killen was also active in community organizations and activities. Appointed by the Mayor as the first president of the Duluth Transit Authority, he negotiated the purchase of the bus company by the City of Duluth. He served as a director and treasurer of the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center and a director of the Depot Foundation. Together with his wife Elaine, he received the Depot Foundation Arts and Culture Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Killen was a current member and past president of The Kitchi Gammi Club and past president and founding member of The Kitchi Gammi Club Foundation. He also served as past president of Northland Country Club and was active in the Jaycees and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. A member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Killen served on the Vestry and as a Vice-Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Elaine; daughter and son-in-law Rebecca and Peter Hawthorne of Wayzata, Minnesota; daughter and son-in-law Amy and James Vargas of San Rafael, California; cherished grandchildren Katharine, John and Elisabeth Hawthorne; brother Don (Skipp) Killen of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas; and marvelous Molly the wonder dog.
The family extends its thanks to the Essentia My Care team, the Essentia Home Hospice team, and the caregivers of Solvay Hospice House.
SERVICE: 11 am, Monday, July 8th at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1710 East Superior Street. Memorials may be directed to The Kitchi Gammi Club Foundation, 831 E. Superior St., Duluth, MN 55805; the College of St. Scholastica Heritage Fund, 1200 Kenwood Ave., Duluth, MN 55811 or an organization of the donor’s choice.