WEST FARGO — Lt. Adam Gustafson will be remembered for many things: his service to his country, his commitment to his community, his infectious smile, his passion for travel and his love and pride for his wife and children.
That was a shared message from the many speakers at Gustafson's funeral Wednesday, May 26, at Northview Church in Fargo. The West Fargo police officer suffered a heart attack at West Fargo City Hall Tuesday, May 18, and later died at a Fargo hospital.
West Fargo Police Chief Denis Otterness began on Wednesday by thanking city and regional officials, as well as the West Fargo Community.
"Your many acts of kindness, love and compassion have not only been comforting to the family but the law enforcement family, as well," Otterness said. "He was humble, hardworking, had a great sense of humor and always performed to the highest level. We'll always remember Adam for a great life cut short too early."
The funeral was open to the public with limited seating and livestreamed on InForum.com/West-Fargo. Former West Fargo Police chiefs Arland Rasmussen, who hired Gustafson, and Heith Janke, who promoted him, attended the funeral.
"Adam could always be found with an infectious smile and unwavering positive attitude," Otterness said.
Lt. Jason Anderson spoke about Gustafson's commitment to helping his community through fundraisers and giving to charities, along with his service to the country as a member of the National Guard. Gustafson joined the U.S. Army National Guard in 2001 and served for seven years, including a deployment to Iraq in 2004-2005.
"His infectious smile while he made his rounds just glowed," Anderson said. "As serious as Adam was at work, there was never a shortage of humor."
Gustafson started at the West Fargo Police Department in 2009 and moved up the ranks, becoming a patrol sergeant in 2015. He was promoted to lieutenant in the patrol division in 2018. During his time as an officer at West Fargo, Gustafson also served as a bike patrol supervisor and conducted emergency vehicle operations.
In Gustafson's personnel file, as obtained by The Forum, a dozen letters and emails recognizing his service and helpful nature can be found.
One woman emailed then-Chief Rasmussen to comment on how Gustafson helped and stayed to visit with her after her car stalled on 13th Avenue. She said Gustafson's calm demeanor helped relieve her of the embarrassment and nervousness.
Former City Commissioner Duane Hanson also commented on Gustafson's performance after a ride-along with him.
"Adam practices what I call, 'common sense law enforcement,' which I know the citizens of West Fargo will appreciate," Hanson wrote to the city. "I can sleep very well at night knowing who is on our streets keeping us safe."
Gustafson earned a degree in criminal justice from the University of North Dakota in 2008 and went on to complete the Law Enforcement Skills Program in Alexandria, Minn. The highly decorated lieutenant was awarded the West Fargo Commendable Service Award twice in 2016.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., spoke at the funeral about Gustafson's commitment to serving his community and country.
"The man we are honoring today is the man we should all strive to be," Armstrong said. "A guardsman, a police officer, a husband and by all accounts, most importantly, a great husband."
Gustafson, who grew up in Minnesota, leaves behind a wife, Amber and three children, Walter, Ruby and Emily.
"Adam was always proud when talking about his family, especially his children and their accomplishments," Otterness said.
While Gustafson loved his job, it was fatherhood that was his favorite job, officers said. He quickly became his son's biggest fan and taught himself how to be a "girl-dad" to his two daughters, including teaching himself how to French braid via YouTube videos.
"Adam would want us to remember how much he lived, loved, laughed, teased and served and accomplished in his 40 years, as well as the family he leaves behind," West Fargo Police Sgt. Shane Orn said.
Gustafson was known for his love of travel, food, fantasy sports, cooking and rare whiskey. He visited Alaska, Europe, Belize, Peru and the Dominican Republic and attended the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, which was one of his lifelong dreams.
"If you spent any time with Adam, you became his friend," Orn said.
The Cass County Coroner’s Office said 40-year-old Gustafson suffered from severe coronary artery disease and major arterial blockage, causing a sudden, fatal heart attack.
West Fargo Police Chaplain Vern Baardson has been on hand for healing assistance for the police department, and the Fargo Police Department offered its peer guidance group to the West Fargo force.
"To Adam, you were one of the best. You brought so much joy and happiness to everyone around you," Anderson said. "You lived your life to the fullest. So, my friend, my brother ... you can go 10-7. We've got it from here. You're home now. I love you ,man."