'He never took anything for granted': Ad man remembered for support of arts, 'world-famous' pasta

Conrad Razidlo, 85, of Edina, died on April 13

Conrad Razidlo, 85, died of COVID-19 on April 13, 2020.
Conrad Razidlo, 85
Courtesy of the Razidlo family

Connie Razidlo was larger than life. Six feet, four inches tall — and a big personality to match.

He was an ad man and an artist, active in politics, the arts — and his family’s epic pasta competitions. He died April 13, of complications from COVID-19. He was 85.

He grew up on the west side of St. Paul, the oldest of five. His dad came from Germany and his mother was “100 percent Italian,” his son, Mark Razidlo, said. 

“He was very gregarious, curious,” Mark said.

Connie — Conrad, officially — was 15 when his father died. His youngest sibling was three. The loss of his father, and the world events that marked his childhood, had a significant impact on who he was, Mark said.

“That, and being a child of the Depression, World War II — [he] never took anything for granted,” Mark said. “They worked very hard.”

Through conversations with their family members, colleagues and close friends, MPR News is remembering the lives of the people we’ve lost, too soon, to COVID-19. If you’d like to share the story of someone you’ve lost to COVID-19, please email us at tell@mpr.org.

Conrad Razidlo’s art career began while he was in the military, drawing maps as a young Army soldier. He was stationed in Germany, not long after the war. His first son was born in Heidelberg.

He was the first in his family to graduate from college. He studied journalism and advertising at the University of Minnesota and interned at the Star Tribune newspaper.

He was an early partner at the famed Minneapolis ad agency Carmichael Lynch — and went on to found his own agency, which he ran for more than two decades. He went back to school in his mid-30s, to study fine arts at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

He retired fairly early, Mark said, when he was in his 60s, but stayed active in the arts and politics. Mark and his siblings have been hearing a lot these days from people who their father mentored and supported.

“[He] just never took a moment for granted,” Mark said, “and always was helping other people, because he knew what it was like to not have things, and need help.”

He was a patron of the arts for most of his career, and his longtime friendship with Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson led to his work as a member of the Minnesota State Arts Board.

In a Facebook tribute after Razidlo’s death, the Arts Board called him “a champion arts supporter,” and praised his work as an artist — “his posters from [his ad agency years] are collector’s items” — and as an advocate for “the largest increase in public arts funding in the state’s history.”

His family will remember him for his self-proclaimed “world-famous” Bolognese sauce, too, Mark said.

Over the years, their large, “pasta and red wine Italian family” would hold cookoffs to see who could make the best pasta. And while different people would reign victorious, “my dad would always go on about his — he’s the one who said it — his world famous pasta,” Mark said.

The family held a small, private service just after his father died. There were about 20 people, he said. Family, and close friends. 

“We all had masks on, and we keep saying that we're going to have a big celebration for him later,” he said.

But there are a lot of unknowns, he said.

“All the things you take for granted when you say goodbye to someone you love,” he said. “We have to rethink how to do it. And that's the hard part. There's not real closure yet. “

Mark said the whole experience — from his father’s diagnosis to his illness to his death — has been surreal.

“My mother died years ago, and my mother-in-law died. Everyone was around the bedside,” Mark said. “And we couldn't do that. We had to be just patched in. And that was very hard.” 

His father had been recovering from a fall — he broke his pelvis in late January — in a rehab center when he was diagnosed with COVID-19. The rehab center had been closed to visitors since mid-March, so his family had to rely on the phone and FaceTime to connect. 

“It could be one of the hardest parts. It just doesn't doesn't seem right,” Mark said. “When someone close to you dies and you know it's coming, you [usually] have time to tell stories or get together as family. And we were sort of denied all of that by this disease.” 

Mark said his family still hopes they’ll be able to get together later: Eat some pasta, drink some red wine, look at some of his dad’s many paintings — and remember.

Through conversations with their family members, colleagues and close friends, MPR News is remembering the lives of the people we’ve lost, too soon, to COVID-19. If you’d like to share the story of someone you’ve lost to COVID-19, please email us at tell@mpr.org.

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