This article briefly describes physical violence.
Robert Skafte, 66, died on Dec. 8 after he was attacked during a shift at Oak Grove Grocery. A person entered the store and physically assaulted him behind the counter, then utilized a golf club from the store as a weapon against Skafte until he was fatally injured.
That story is tragic enough. And then you learn more about Skafte. Astrologically, a Cancer with an Aquarius moon. A professional ballet dancer. The founder of Steven Square’s farmers market. A co-creator of the La Salle Community Garden. A neighbor and a friend to many, many people.
At a memorial for Skafte on Dec. 28 at the Center for Performing Arts, friends and neighbors shared memories of Skafte through spoken story, written word, photos, art pieces, and video. A link to a petition that addresses helping people enter mental health treatment was also posted on the walls, a reminder of how Skafte died and how the community is trying to keep this from happening again.
Skafte’s friend Christina shared during an impromptu eulogy that when organizers asked her to send in pictures of the two of them, she didn’t have any selfies.
“We send each other pictures of the sky," she said.
When Christina told everyone who gathered in the lobby of the Center for Performing Arts that she built the LaSalle Community Garden boxes with Skafte, a quiet “aww” passed through the crowd.
“I went off to teach and my garden plot went off to hell,” she said. “He went on to continue and become the garden manager.”
The petition that was posted at the memorial addressed the cause of Skafte's death. In collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the petition seeks support for a pilot project targeted to people experiencing symptoms of a mental illness who don’t want to voluntarily seek treatment before they become a danger to themselves or someone else. Skafte was allegedly killed by Taylor Schulz, who had three years prior been in treatment for mental illness. Court records connected with that medical treatment stated that Schulz was fearful that “hallucinations would tell him to hurt someone, and he would follow through with such a command.” Prosecutors charged Shulz with second-degree murder in Skafte's death. Hennepin County District Court Judge Michael Burns ordered Schulz to undergo a competency evaluation in relation to the murder charge.
“He is dancing forever,” a Loring Park neighbor and Oak Grove Grover customer, Gladys, shared as her parting words during the impromptu eulogy on Dec. 28. Gladys, the first to share that night, told the crowd Skafte kept her alive during the pandemic. Seeing his friendly face at the neighborhood store was sometimes the only face she saw during the isolating time. If it wasn’t for him, she said, she wouldn’t be alive.
Oak Grocery Grocery at 218 Oak Grove St. remains closed.