Curtis Alan Axen
Curtis Alan Axen
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Curtis Alan Axen, 69, passed away peacefully on September 3, 2021 at his home in Rochester, Minnesota with his wife of 47 years, Dianne, by his side. Curt endured a chronic lung disease which he dealt with courageously, facing the challenge through the end with bravery, strength and positivity.

Curt was born August 4, 1952 in Oakpark, Illinois, the son of Evelyn (Anderson) and John Axen. He graduated from Lutheran High School in Racine, Wisconsin. Curt continued his education at the University of Wisconsin - Platteville where he met and fell in love with Dianne. They had one daughter, Jennifer, in 1974 and eventually moved to Rochester, MN in 1982 when Dianne took a position with Mayo Clinic.

Curt enjoyed a long and prolific career as a landscape designer. A true artist, Curt was passionate about trees, nature, architecture and design. Curt greatly admired the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Jens Jensen who inspired many of the landscape designs and gardens he planted throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Curt was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather. He loved taking road trips with his wife, exploring new places, listening to live music and traveling to see his daughter and granddaughter in California.

He is survived by his wife, Dianne, daughter, Jennifer (Mike Hyland) and granddaughter, Maya. He is also survived by two sisters, Sharyn (Merritt) Rhoads and Lisa (Ed) Smerchek.

Services and a celebration of life will be held Saturday, October 9, 2021 at 10am at the First Unitarian Universalist Church 1727 Walden Lane SW, Rochester, MN. Memorials may be sent to Season's Hospice or donor's choice.

Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Home is honored to be serving the Axen Family; to share a special memory or condolence, please visit


Celebration Of Life

First Unitarian Universalist Church
1727 Walden Lane SW
Rochester, Minnesota 55902
10:00 AM

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S Susie Bartlett on Oct 7, 2021

Neil and I send our deepest condolences to Dianne, Jennie, Maya, Lisa and Sharon and their families.
I feel Curt's absence and I miss knowing he's around and part of my family.
I have vivid memories of joyful reunions of the Axens and the Mobleys. Curt's dear and beautiful mom and my mom, also dear and beautiful, were cousins and loving friends. While they were cooking, cleaning up and laughing merrily, little Lisa and I would get to run around having a blast. Curt and my sister Lynn, the elder responsible ones, watched over us. In my mind they are following us at a bit of distance, visiting amiably but keeping an eye on us (and maybe occasionally rolling their eyes. Affectionately:). I also remember at those family gatherings, Curt hanging out some of the time with his Uncle Owen, my darling dad. I had the impression that Curt looked up to him; I'm sure that was really special for my dad who was blessed with daughters.
Later on in my parents' lives they lived a few hours from Rochester, and often saw Curt and Dianne whose love and friendship meant so very much to them. On my dad's last day, Curt came to the hospital and said goodbye to him so tenderly. I can't put into words how much that meant to Neil and me, at the time and to this day.
I looked up to Curt and when I was a kid when he was around I felt safe. He enriched my life and the life of my family. I really hate that he had to go. I'll always be grateful for him. His family and loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers.

M Molly Strauss on Sep 30, 2021

I remember Curt as an immensely curious, kind and welcoming person. I first met him when I was a child--Jen was my babysitter--and over the years he always treated me as though I was part of the family: interested to know about my life, wanting to understand my work, and making room for me to participate in whatever the Axens were up to. He made an effort to meet me at my level when I was young, and I noticed the same when he was a grandfather to Maya. While I haven't had the chance to see Curt's work, I know his legacy lives on in the extraordinary landscape architecture and design he created. I could tell how much Curt loved Jen, Maya, and Dianne, and he will be deeply missed.

J Jennifer Axen on Sep 27, 2021

J Jennifer Axen on Sep 27, 2021

J Jennifer Axen on Sep 27, 2021

J Jennifer Axen on Sep 27, 2021

J Jennifer Axen on Sep 27, 2021

J Jennifer Axen on Sep 27, 2021

J Jennifer Axen on Sep 27, 2021

M Mary Sadeghy on Sep 27, 2021

I feel so fortunate that I had the pleasure to meet and spend a little bit of time with Curt Axen over the years. I'm lucky enough to be a friend of Jennifer's, and what has always struck me about her is her innate kindness, generosity, warmth and intelligence. Upon meeting Curt and Dianne it was instantly obvious where she got it from. Curt was all that and more. Though I only had the pleasure of his company a handful of times, he made me feel genuinely like a part of the family and someone important each time. His jovial spirit, curiosity and down-to-earth personality touched me beyond measure. He will be so deeply missed. I believe strongly in the everlasting power of love and have no doubt that the indelible mark he left on me and everyone else fortunate enough to know him will forever be in our hearts and show up in very special ways. May he rest in peace and much love to Dianne, Jennifer and Maya. A beautiful family inside and out!

M Mike Hyland on Sep 26, 2021

I am so grateful for the time that I got to have with Curt. Anyone who knew him, knew that nothing was more important to him than Dianne, Jenny and Maya and the way that he welcomed me into that precious circle, after Jenny and I found each other and fell in love, was extraordinarily generous. He always treated me like a member of the family, a son and a friend. He made me feel so welcomed and loved when I asked for his blessing to marry Jen. The example that his and Dianne's relationship set for what a marriage could be like was a blessing to witness. Their love and togetherness is one of the most aspirational unions I have ever known.
Curt had a phenomenal sense of humor and contagious laugh. He had an infinite number of interesting stories across the whole spectrum of thought- history, politics, music, spirituality, science, nature, foreign policy, religion and obviously all aspects of the natural world. I'll never forget the night when Curt and Dianne met my entire family for the first time. Curt walked into the room and won everyone over within the first 5 minutes. We were all gathered around him, wanting to hear more and more of his stories about his life. My 5 year old niece was climbing all over him and brushing his hair. His comfortability in his own skin was like as magnet. He was one of those people who made each person feel like he was talking and listening to them specifically. He gave each member of my family special one on one time every time he was with us.
Curt was also a true artist. We had the honor of getting to have a tour of a couple of the landscape designs he created in Rochester and my admiration for him grew even more. His attention to detail and the specificity and the beauty of his work was beyond what I could've imagined. He built "secrets" and "surprises" into his designs and his designs created awe, beauty and fun for the families and companies whom he designed for.
Jen, Maya and I had the privilege to speak with Curt and Dianne via FaceTime nearly every Sunday from the beginning of Covid up until the week that he passed and I will forever think of that time as one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. Curt knew that his disease would take his life, but he faced it with a kind of bravery that I have never encountered. He was completely honest with us, he never complained about his situation, he made us feel comfortable in all of the emotions we were feeling. We could cry together, laugh together, talk about his situation or not and he was making us belly laugh all the way to the end. I am grateful every day that I met the Axen family and I will always hold the utmost reverence for Curt. We miss him terribly, but feel him around us all the time. I see him in his daughter Jen and grand daughter Maya. I will live my life trying to emulate all that I learned from him about living a life with the kind of joy, artistry, love of family, loyalty to friends and the unmatched integrity that he had. I just feel so lucky to have known Curt Axen.

J Jennifer Axen on Sep 26, 2021

CandleI am so proud to be Curt Axen's daughter. My Dad was the kindest, smartest and most loving father I could ever imagine. Those who know him know that he was a true force of nature - and a guardian of it. He had an amazing wealth of knowledge - he seemed to know something about everything. He was a man full of love and conviction and really great stories. I feel so grateful that I was lucky enough to have him as a father. He is a true role model. He lived his life with so much integrity, always standing up for what he believed in and showing the people he loved just how much he cared for them. I remember once, as an adult, being stranded at an airport in St.Louis during a bad winter storm. I called my parents to let them know I would be delayed by a day. My Dad said he would get in the car and could be there to pick me up in 8 hours. This is the kind of man my Dad was - he would go to any length to take care of his family and make sure we were safe. He didn't just say these things - he lived them. He loved my Mom so much and was so proud of her . I have many fond memories, from the time that I was little through my adulthood, of hearing the muffled sounds of my parents in constant conversation, over breakfast or late at night. They loved each other's company and seemed to be endlessly excited to spend time together, taking long drives together, exploring new places, going to estate sales and looking at homes.
There is so much about my Dad's life to be inspired by and remember: to always aspire to know more and do more, to stand-up for what you believe in, to speak your mind and your truth, to pursue your passion and not compromise your vision, to love your family with every fiber of your being, to be willing to do things that are hard or en just inconvenient in the name of love, to enjoy life and relish in all of it's large and small joys. If you want to a way to remember my Dad, you can just take a moment to take in one of those small joys: appreciate a beautifully landscaped park, enjoy a great Italian dinner, take a spontaneous Sunday drive, relish in a really excellent guitar solo.
I miss you so much, Dad, but I will continue to celebrate you and be inspired by you for the rest of my life. Love, Jenny

L Lisa Smerchek on Sep 15, 2021

Curt was a wonderful brother! I can't believe he's no longer with us. I miss him so much!! I have fond memories as kids when we would sing together while listening to the radio, and taking turns singing Christmas songs. We both loved music! We also liked playing board games, especially Stratego and Monopoly. Since we had a large front yard, we would have carnivals during the summer. He went to the corner grocery store to pick up boxes of all sizes and then turned them into a haunted house tunnel. We also had bob for apples that were put in a shallow laundry tub, among many other games. The whole neighborhood came over to enjoy all the attractions, all while under the shade of our grand, old box elder tree, which spanned almost half our front yard. Those were some great times! Curt and his childhood friends, Dennis and Jim, liked to play Tarzan and climb trees (thankfully, they didn't attempt to swing from tree to tree). Later, when I learned how to drive (and if I was driving), Curt would always play the drums on the dashboard of the car while we sang together. One song that stands out is Time of the Season by the Zombies. He would always mimic the vocal background part of it, and is where I picked that up. He was so good at that. Our family enjoyed music, and it was a big part of our life. Our mom liked to sing and dance around the house, and our dad played the bongos and the spoons. I remember when Curt wanted me to learn how to drive a stick shift, so one day we went in his truck that had a stick shift on the column. He had a lot of paperwork on his dash, which most of it landed on the floor, or on our laps - ha! I didn't give up and was determined, and he was patient with me while we drove all the way to Kenosha from Racine. Curt's friend, Rick, lived next door to us, and they had great times together, too. Rick and and his wife, Mary, have been dear friends ever since and have remained close with Curt and Dianne. They were a big help to them during his illness, for which they were very grateful. I also have so many wonderful memories of all our family visits up to Rochester over the years. They were some of the best times, and I will always remember them. I sure was proud of my brother, and I always looked up to him. I was so amazed at how Curt could draw his landscape designs for his business. He was very gifted and talented in that area, and it truly was a gift from God. Curt was loving, kind, thoughtful, generous, loyal and good at engaging in conversation. I sure will miss our talks, seeing your face and hearing your voice, but I will always hold you close to my heart. I love you, my dear Curt!

L Lloyd Meyer on Sep 13, 2021

Dianne and Jenny, my sincere condolences on the passing of Curt. I have many great memories of all of you from the time i worked with Curt. Going to Kankakee with him on a spur of the moment trip. To spending time with him at nursery conventions. I considered him a friend along with being a coworker. RIP my friend. Lloyd

k karen grant on Sep 13, 2021

We first had association with Curt when we started a landscaping job in 1982. I believe it was one of his first jobs after opening his business. We met him when he came to our door to solicit our business. Ordinarily we would not hire someone from door solicitation but we felt that Curt was sincere, dedicated, and honest. He proved to be all of those. His knowledge and compassion for plants and trees was unmatched. He was a kind soul and the Rochester community will miss him. Clive and Karen Grant



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