FISH LAKE TOWNSHIP, Minn. (FOX 9) - Chisago County investigators are still trying to figure out why a relative shot and killed a recently retired couple and their son in their Fish Lake home last week.
Darrell, Denise, and Kirk Mattson were very active members of the VFW community in Isanti where they worked hard to make an impact, especially by improving the lives of veterans and their families.
The flag is at half-staff outside VFW Post 2735 in honor of the Mattsons — Darrell, Denise, and Kirk.
Denise served as the president of the auxiliary and managers can’t bring themselves to take down her name from their list of officers.
"We had to move their names in the entryway to 'deceased' and this one has been really hard," said Angie Kersting, who manages the Isanti VFW. "It was a position that she absolutely loved. It’s just hard to even take her down from there."
Friends say Denise had an infectious smile and advocated all her life for people who needed care.
Darrell was a Vietnam War veteran and drove Denise everywhere, including to her job at a mental health unit.
"She just retired a couple months ago and was very looking forward to being more active in some of her functions," said VFW 2735 Auxiliary treasurer Gail Genin.
Denise loved to talk about some of the tributes to members of the military and their families like The Missing Man Table.
She delivered an auxiliary book donation to a local elementary school and read a book about the Poppy Lady who started a veterans fundraiser that's still going today, 101 years later.
"She explained everything," Kersting said. "The poppies. Just the passion for it made you realize how important things are and how important she was to the community."
Kirk Mattson was a proud Boilermakers union member who also helped at the VFW and loved Minnesota Wild hockey.
"We are deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected loss of our dear family members," the surviving Mattson family members said in a statement. "Denise and Darrell were active and supportive in the lives of their children and grandchildren, as well as being proud and dedicated members of the Isanti VFW and their community. Denise worked in a mental health unit and was a lifelong advocate for those in need of care. Darrell was a Vietnam Veteran who took great pride in his service to our country.
Kirk was simply the best uncle imaginable. His dedication to his family was matched only by his pride in being a member of Boilermakers Union 647, and his determination to be the best he could at everything he tried.
We will forever cherish the memories of our times spent together, and always miss living with the knowledge that they are only a phone call away to offer support, guidance, humor, and love.
Our friends, family, and communities have all been shaken by this tragedy, and we have been truly touched this week by the outpouring of support and comfort we have received.
We have been blessed by having Denise, Darrell, and Kirk in our lives, and will honor them going forward by continuing their legacy of grace, charity, and selflessness."
A veteran’s death would often be a time for Darrell Mattson to move into his role as a member of the Color Guard.
The group was already short-handed when they prepared for a funeral the week before his death, but Darrell stepped up to fill the gap.
"I said 'after we’re done shooting rifles, you grab the bugle'," said fellow Color Guard member Larry Fuhol. "I just can’t believe something like this has happened."
Chisago County investigators say a 39-year-old relative died by suicide after killing the Mattsons and they’ve forensically linked the gun he used in both shootings.
Friends and family members are planning a celebration of life for the Mattsons on April 14.
A family friend also set up a GoFundMe page to help cover family expenses, including three unexpected funerals.