In loving memory of

Curtis Alan Axen
August 4, 1952 - September 3, 2021

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


Lisa Smerchek wrote 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!"

Lloyd Meyer wrote 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"

karen grant wrote 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"