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Thomsen, founder of Trail King Industries, has died at 89

Gordon Thomsen, founder of Trail King Industries, "had a great sense of humor" and will be missed for more than his business acumen and generous donations.

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Gordon Thomsen, founder of Trail King Industries, "had a great sense of humor" and will be missed for more than his business acumen and generous donations.

Thomsen, 89, died early Sunday morning due to complications from Parkinson's disease, which he was diagnosed with about 20 years ago, according to his children, Jackie Morrison and Jerry Thomsen. He was born and raised on a farm near Spencer, Iowa, but moved to Mitchell in 1969 and stayed ever since.

In 1974, Thomsen founded a company called Western Ag Sales, selling trailers and ag-related equipment out of his home. But by 1983, the company acquired the Trail King line of trailers. The business refocused exclusively on trailer manufacturing, and the name was changed to Trail King Industries.

"He was highly regarded in certainly our industry and our customers, suppliers and the like," said Trail King President Bruce Yakley. "He established a company here that's known all over the world of having the best products of the types we make. Certainly, he'll be missed by many people at Trail King as well as, certainly, his family."

Today, Trail King's Mitchell facility stands at 295,000 square feet and employs more than 450 employees, according to the Trail King website. In addition, the company has three manufacturing facilities, 300 dealer locations and builds trailers with load capacities from 6,000 to 1 million pounds, used for hauling, construction, agriculture, transportation and more.

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In 2011, Thomsen became the 11th recipient of the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association's Gold Achievement Award, which is not awarded every year and is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the industry.

Thomsen sold Trail King in 1995 to Carlisle Group, who later sold the company to CC Industries, but he and his family maintained interest in other projects, including various businesses philanthropic endeavors.

"Obviously, I think what the Thomsen family has done for the city of Mitchell is nothing but outstanding," Yakley said. "The number of businesses they have here, the amount of money they have donated over the years, we're very fortunate to have a family like the Thomsens, in my opinion."

Over the years, Thomsen and his family have owned KMIT radio, GF Advertising and Sign Pro, and today, the Thomsens retain all or some stake in various Mitchell businesses, including the Highland Travel Plaza, the Highland Conference Center, the Hampton Inn, the Tumbleweed and more.

"The whole development up on the Highland Business Park, as we call it, was kind of a vision of my dad's and the family," said Jerry Thomsen, who helped with Trail King from its earliest days, even as a high schooler.

Jerry Thomsen said the businesses are a sign of his father's love for the city, as he continued to supply jobs and opportunities to the community after his successful trailer venture was sold.

"My dad had just a huge passion for helping develop Mitchell in general and the community, and even though we sold the business that was quite successful ... we elected to reinvest (the money) into the community, develop other businesses and provide other jobs and continue to expand opportunities for people," he said. "This is and always will be home."

Gordon Thomsen also undertook various philanthropic efforts, including a nearly $1 million donation to Mitchell's Prehistoric Indian Village to construct the Thomsen Center Archeodome over the dig site, according to Cindy Gregg, executive director of the site.

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Gregg said Thomsen continued to donate to the project in the following years and even served as president of the board. He retired from the board in 2011.

"His love for this place knew no bounds," Gregg said. "I don't think many boards or many nonprofits have a member like Gordon, and I think many wished they did. He was phenomenal. He truly, truly was phenomenal."

Gregg said Thomsen had a great sense of humor and was fun to be around, and he held a deep love for both the Prehistoric Indian Village and the city of Mitchell.

"I do know that Gordon was very strongly involved in the city, and he loved the city. There's no question about it," Gregg said. "We're all going to miss him. There's no question about that. We are going to miss him."

Thomsen's visitation is from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at First Lutheran Church in Mitchell and services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday, also at First Lutheran Church. Arrangements are being handled by Bittner Funeral Chapel.

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