In Memory: Howard Bisonnettee

September 4, 2018

In Memory: Dr. Howard Louis Bissonnette, Professor Emeritus

By: Professor Emeritus Richard Zeyen and Debra Baden Drange

Howard Bisonnettee Plant Pathology Alumnus

Howard doing a radio broadcast in the Red River Valley region of Minnesota. Farms in the valley are large and the land area is vast; thus, radio was a good way to deliver timely plant disease information.


Dr. Howard Louis Bissonnette (Extension Plant Pathologist and Emeritus Professor) passed away at age 91. Upon retirement from the department in 1989 he and Karwyn moved to Panama City, Florida however for many years they maintained a Minnesota lake cabin for their summer residence. He and Karwyn were active in Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Panama City. Howard was a member of the Knights of Columbus as a 4th degree Knight. After Karwyn’s unexpected passing in 2017, Howard moved to Clarkson, Michigan to be closer to his daughter Leeann’s family.

Howard L. Bissonnette was born on August 28, 1927 in Detroit Michigan. He served as a Navy transport pilot in the Pacific theater during World War Two. Following his Navy service he enrolled in the College of Saint Thomas, in St. Paul Minnesota, and graduated with a B.S. degree in Botany. He later enrolled in graduate studies in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota and obtained his M.S. degree in 1958, and his Ph.D. in 1964. Professor Thomas King was his advisor.

He worked at North Dakota State University (NDSU) as a researcher working on sugar beet diseases, and later became Professor of Extension Plant Pathology at NDSU. In 1968 he accepted a professorship in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota. He specialized in disease management of potatoes and small grains. His skill as an airplane pilot served him well, as he often flew from St. Paul to the Red River Valley and other grain and potato growing areas in northwestern Minnesota.

Howard Bissonnette Plant Pathology Alumnus

Howard ‘holding court’ in the Seminar/Coffee Room of Stakman Hall. He was broadly educated and an avid reader. He had great insights and would engage in conversations on a wide variety of topics. Mrs. Grace Butcher is in the background.


Howard’s vibrant; gregarious personality, and his skill as a teacher of short courses for growers were legendary. He left an indelible impression on many people. Howard was an avid reader with a very broad knowledge base. His understanding of rural society and the rural economies equaled his understanding of plant diseases and of potato and small grain growing. While at Minnesota Howard made several trips abroad, principally to China and Japan, to assist with the management of potato diseases.

Howard enjoyed working with graduate students, often taking them on extensive plant disease tours in Minnesota. He was a gregarious faculty member with a great sense of humor and was a splendid travel partner. He loved interacting with all concerned during coffee times in Stakman Hall.

Howard was a loving family man. He taught his children through limitless science trips, nature adventures, projects and humor. He is survived by his sister, Joan “Dvorak of Minnesota, by son Daniel and wife Laurel of Minnesota, by daughter Leaanne Bissonnette and husband Dennis Miller of Michigan, and by daughter Suzanne Bissonnette and husband Randall Kangas of Illinois. He was also the proud grandfather of eight grandchildren. Friends and associates wishing to leave a message for Howard’s family or share memories of Howard can do so at this here.