WWII Medal of Honor winner Sorenson, 80, dies in Reno
by L.A. Jones
Richard (Rick) K. Sorenson, 80, one of Anoka’s WWII heroes for whom a park was so designated, died suddenly Saturday, Oct. 9 in Reno, Nev. where he had lived since 1978.
Regarded as a “60-year miracle” because he was not expected to survive after hurling himself onto a grenade at age 19 during WWII, Sorenson performed an act of valor which saved the lines of his machine gun crew. He received the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.
“After his injury, the Lord sustained and strengthened him to go on to lead a successful life as a loving husband, father and grandfather while also attaining admirable professional achievements,” according to his family.
Born Aug. 28, 1924 in Anoka, Sorenson was separated from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1946 and went to work as a contract representative with the Veterans Administration in Minneapolis.
“There was a huge parade in Minneapolis and a huge one in Anoka at the time,” said Virginia Ridge, a cousin whose mother was the sister Sorenson’s mother. There were only two years separating Sorenson and Ridge.
Several years ago, according to Ridge, Sorenson donated a huge Revolutionary War drum to the Anoka County Historical Society (ACHS), receiving further recognition in the process because of his love for history.
He served in various position at the Veterans Administration in Minneapolis until he entered St. John’s University neat St. Cloud to study business in 1948.
While attending college there, he met his lifetime companion and beloved wife of 55 years, Mildred, according to his family.
Sorenson was recalled to active duty in 1950 during the Korean War, was placed as a Marine recruiter and was ultimately commissioned to second lieutenant. He was then ordered to report to Marine Corps Basic School in Qauntico, Va. and assigned the the 7th Engineer Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
In January 1954, he received orders to report the 3rd Engineer Battalion at in Okinawa, Japan until resigning his commission in 1955 and returning to civilian life.
Sorenson resumed his employment with the Veterans Administration and remained there until 1957. He pursued a career as an insurance underwriter for Equitable Life Insurance for 10 years.
He made the decision to move to southern California in 1967, returning once again to the Veterans Administration where he advanced was promoted to division chief of the Veterans Service Department.
In 1978, he transferred to Reno as director of Veterans Affairs for all of Nevada and nine counties in California. He retired in 1985.
Always active in the communities in which he lived, Sorenson served on the St. Anthony Village Council, the homeowners board in Westlake Village, Calif. and Reb=no, on the board of directors for the United Way, on the Northern Nevada Boy Scout Council, as regional director of the Medal of Honor Society, on the board of directors of the Navy League, as chairman of the Bob Hope Patriot Award Dinner in 1976, and as a participant in the seventh War Bond Drive.
He was a member of the Marine Corps League both as a life member and chapter commander, 4th Marine Division Association, as chapter commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the American Legion, the VFW, the Knits of Malta, the Minneapolis Jaycees and the Reno Rotary Club.
His hobbies and pastimes included hunting, boating, fishing and traveling to many parts of the country and around the world. He was an avid reader, historian, artist and craftsman, patriot, dancer and an adept chess and Monopoly players.
“As a wonderful dad and grandpa, he instilled passions for all these things in his children and grandchildren,” according to his family.
Sorenson was preceded in death by his parents, Carl and Virginia Sorenson of Anoka. He his survived by his wife, Mildred; his five children, Robert Sorenson of Minneapolis, Wendy Thorson of Reno, Debby Hanaway of Reno, James Sorenson of Clearfield, Utah and Thomas Sorenson of Sparks, N.Y.; his seven grandchildren, Joseph, Megan, Brock, Karen, Elizabeth, Bryan and Luke; his brother, William Sorenson; his sister, M. Carol Atkins and numerous cousins.
A memorial service for Sorenson has been scheduled for Oct. 18 in Reno, after which his ashes will be flown back to Minneapolis for a memorial service and interment with full miliary honors to be announced at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made payable to the Medal of Honor Society Scholarship Fund, Nation Headquarters, 40 Patriots Point Road, Mt. Pleasant, S>C. 29464, 1-800-955-9859. Memorials may also be contributed to the Anoka County Historical Society
I had the Honor of meeting Mr. Sorenson a few times while doing some projects with the AMerican Legion