From farm to mill to suburb, Edina has a proud history, and Frank R. Cardarelle saw much of it happen. As a lifelong Edina resident, community volunteer and local surveyor, history is a common thread in Cardarelle’s life. Through his visionary work with the Edina Historical Society, Edina Rotary and other history-related causes, Cardarelle has had an enduring impact. This year, Cardarelle was honored with the Mayor’s Outstanding Senior Commendation, awarded to a senior citizen for outstanding volunteer service in the community.
“Frank Cardarelle is one of the venerable historians of our community,” Edina Mayor James B. Hovland says, “Through his professional work as a surveyor and long-time residency, he knows every nook and cranny of Edina. Start a discussion with Frank about a particular part of town and he will, with a high level of erudition, provide information and insight held by few. Every conversation is a wonderful tale of people and families, days both present and past, and when the visit is complete, and you have had the benefit of his knowledge of people and places, you are greatly enriched by the experience. Frank is like a favorite book, where you can hardly wait to get to the next chapter.”
After 85 years of Edina living, Cardarelle understands change in the name of progress first-hand. “There are almost 50,000 people here now. When I was a kid, there were a couple thousand,” Cardarelle says. “In 1932, I was born in Edina. It’s just home, it’s all I’ve ever known. Why would you leave? Everything’s growing.”
Recently the last remnants of his family’s Valley View farm homestead were divided into housing lots. Growing up, Cardarelle did thrashing, chicken butchering and other farm work but moved into surveying for a career, just as his father had done. “You have to be a historian to be a surveyor,” Cardarelle says.
A good understanding is required to look up notes and survey and make sense of it. As a surveyor, Cardarelle worked on creating Edina’s map by resurrecting old maps. He named streets for his wife and all his children along the way. “Frank helped build so much of Edina through the mechanism of his surveying business,” Edina Historical Society executive director Jennifer Adam says.
True to his dedication to history, Cardarelle was a founding member of the Edina Historical Society and served as its liaison to the Rotary Club. “He’s a strong local resource, a walking institution, affable but accurate about history—street by street, house by house,” Adam says.
The importance of maintaining a written historical record is paramount for Cardarelle. History forms the foundation for the future through legislation on the national and local level. Freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, even local dog-leashing laws have their roots embedded in history. “Everyday life is run by history,” Cardarelle says.
Recounting local history comes naturally for the Edina native. Leading historical society tour groups is a favorite activity he plans to continue even with his emeritus status. Adam encourages local organizations to tap into Cardarelle’s historical knowledge—just call the historical society to make arrangements.
“Frank has made a distinct difference in our town, making it a better place to live due to his lifetime of volunteerism. He is still constantly thinking about new ways to celebrate and build (a) better community,” Hovland says. “There will be others that come after him, but he occupies a special place of recognition in the history of our town for all that he has done for Edina.”