Deann M. Gjenvick
August 13, 1931 - March 10, 2023

Deann Marie Gjenvick (nee Gilbertson) passed away peacefully with family at her bedside after a long battle with Alzheimer’s on March 10, 2023, at the age of 91. 

She was the beloved wife of the late Lawrence K. Gjenvick for 64 years and the loving mother of Johann, Paul (Evelyne) and Krista (Gary) Colpaert.  She was the very proud grandma of Johan (Laura), Kirsten (Mike) Krieter, Rachael (Dan), and Ian (Jackie) Colpaert. She was the great-grandma to Sydney, Stella, Cooper, Celia, Liam, Landon, Vera, Alex and twin girls – due to arrive this summer! She was also survived by her sister, Caroll (Gary) Miller, nieces, nephews, numerous other relatives and friends. Preceded in death by her husband, Lawrence, parents, Ellen and Arthur Gilbertson, Stepfather, Ing Mathiason, brothers Richard, Sonny, Gordy, and sister-in-law Joan Gilbertson. 

Dee was born in Roslyn, SD on August 13, 1931, the oldest child of Ellen Pierson and Arthur J. Gilbertson.  She grew up in and around the Webster, SD area. Dee was an honor student, active in church groups, music, poetry, journalism, and dramatics. During high school, she worked as a nanny for a couple of families and a waitress at a local café. Dee graduated from Webster High School in 1949. She then attended Presentation School of Nursing in Aberdeen, SD and received her Diploma in Nursing in 1952. During her nursing school years, she would meet her future husband Larry – the love of her life! 

They were married on October 26, 1952, in Webster, SD and made their home in Minneapolis, where Larry was employed.  Dee and Larry had three children - Johann, Paul and Krista. 

Dee loved being a nurse! After working for an oral surgeon and doing private duty nursing, she settled into her 24-year career as an obstetrical nurse, primarily labor/delivery. Dee had said that her work reflected her faith and celebrated the gift of God’s love in the birth of new lives.

Dee was a night shifter for many of those years – she liked that shift the best…typically a quieter environment, “not as many people around and no meal trays to pass!” Nights she was off – it was hard for her to switch gears back to days – so she was often up into the wee hours of the night working on one thing or another – never idle! 

Her faith was the guiding light that served as the foundation of her life –

She always tried to translate her faith into deeds and actions. Dee lived her life with a purpose - to love and serve people like, Jesus. Even after being forced into an early retirement due her many health challenges, she continued to serve others her entire life. 

In her church – she was active at the local, state and national level for many years serving on the Minnesota Synodical Board, Social Ministry committees, LCA Representative at the Minnesota Council of Churches, and Lutheran Church Women United. She also loved to sing in the choir. Dee had a beautiful voice but had trouble reading notes, so she liked to “stand by the strong singers so she knew that she was on the right note.”  Outside of church, Dee and Larry volunteered their time delivering Meals on Wheels in North Anoka, were active in the Sons of Norway and The Swedish Institute and were long time facilitators (and head chefs) of the annual Lutefisk Dinner at Our Saviors Lutheran Church! 

In 1988, Dee suffered a debilitating stroke where she had to relearn everything – from reading and writing to walking and talking.

Her faith, resilience and perseverance along with the prayers and support of many, got her through this challenging time. She had to give up her work as a nurse and her lay ministries at church. But…this was not the end of her story – it was the beginning of the next chapter. 

Physical and Occupational Therapy dictated that she should “work with her hands to stay busy.” Channeling her artistic side and her interest in her Scandinavian heritage, Dee turned this into a craft business with Larry. They created handmade Scandinavian inspired gifts from her authentic Norsk Troll Kjerrings to clothing and Larry’s woodworking. They traveled the upper Midwest to various Scandinavian festivals and craft shows – making many friends along the way. (If you don’t have one of your own Norsk Trolls, we know where you might find one!) 

Did you know that Dee is a Norwegian Princess? (…which makes the rest of her descendants royalty as well…)  In her passion for genealogy, she traced her family history all the way back to King Harold the Fairhair of Norway (the legitimate lineage of course 😊). This is evidenced by the 87 or so 6-inch 3 ring binders that are now in her daughters basement. She took great pride in discovering everything she could about her family – traveling to Norway 3 times, finding her grandfather’s birthplace and recording the stories for generations to come. What a gift to her family! 

In their later years, Dee and Larry moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. True to form, both living their faith and their lives in service of others, they continued to volunteer at church, mainly through the St. Matthews meal ministry - cooking and preparing hundreds of meals every week over the years for those in need. In their spare time (and to avoid gym membership fees) they became employed at the Target Company where they worked for 12 years. Fun fact -  In their final year of employment – they were the oldest employees of the ENTIRE Target Corporation! 

Her family was one of her greatest loves – she lit up when she saw her grandkids and great grand kids and loved to hear them laugh. She was so proud of them! 

In Dee’s own words, her wish was “to live each day to the fullest. Each day is a new day – a gift from God, to love abundantly, try to love all people as Jesus did and to become better acquainted with God. Christ did not promise us an easy path, but He did promise us His spirit and His love, hope, patience, and guidance. We have a God whom nothing is impossible and who hears and sees our needs.” 

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the Heritage Elm Grove Memory Care staff for their wonderful and compassionate care of Dee for the past 5½ years – they were her family, and their loving care made all the difference – Alex, Jaylen, Jasmine, Robbie, Jenny, Latrice, Paige, Jackie and all the Heritage Staff – they were there for her!  We would also like to thank AseraCare (Amedisys) Hospice for their outstanding and compassionate care throughout the past few years and in her final days – Jordan (who always made her look beautiful!), Carol, Patty, Jenny, Shelby, Lindsay, all the support staff including Social Work and Chaplaincy. We are forever grateful for the love and support Dee and our family received! 

The Memorial service for Dee will be Saturday, June 3, 2023 at Hope Lutheran Church, 307 Pine St., Summit, SD. 57266. Visitation is at 10:30 am, Service at 11:00 am. Luncheon at the church to follow. Interment at a later date in Norway. The service will be recorded and posted online. Please check back for the link to the service.

In lieu of flowers, memorials to Just One More Ministry (JOMM) 4180N Lydell St. Glendale, WI 53212; Hope Lutheran Church, PO Box 886, Summit, SD or the Alzheimer’s Association would be deeply appreciated. 

To say that Dee loved all things chocolate would be an understatement! Chocolate shakes were a favorite and her trademark  - she pretty much had one every day for the past 5 years! So….the next time you are out and about, going to get a treat – make it a shake, remember the sweet times together and raise one up for Dee.

Here is link to the Service for Deann M. Gjenvick


Johann's Reflections 

Hello Everyone. My name is Johann, and I am Deann’s oldest Son.

Thank you for being here with us today to celebrate her life.  I would also like to mention how so many folks have written, phoned and emailed to let us know the impact Deann had on their lives, even those that she had not seen in decades. During her last few days before her passing at Heritage Elm Grove, in Elm Grove, WI,  my sister Krista and I were going through all the photos mom and dad had accumulated over the years. We sat around her bedside and reminisced about our time with mom. Krista’s dog Raji even jumped up on the bed and lay next to mom. At times I know for sure mom heard and reacted to what we were saying. Mom was surrounded by family, caregivers, friends and love during her last few days, and to me that is what is the most important in our life’s journeys.

                There were many pictures – vacations that included camping trips to the Black Hills and Yellowstone Park, Canada and the US east coast. There were pictures of our cabin in Danbury WI. There were birthdays, confirmations, graduations, and weddings. Spouses, grandkids, great grandkids, extended family, friends and of course pictures of Bruno our beloved German Shepherd.

                The picture of Mom when she was a cheerleader in high school stood out to me. She was always my biggest cheerleader and always celebrated my achievements. She taught me bible verses, helped with homework, and encouraged my music talent or lack of, as I was a tone-deaf violin player (not an ideal situation). She taught me right from wrong and occasionally would remind me “that’s not how you were taught”. As I got older and started to make my own decisions, she was always there with advice yet supported me on my life’s journeys.

                Another picture was her nursing graduation picture. I believe she chose nursing as she loved to care for others throughout her life. She was especially fond of babies and worked in Labor and Delivery for many years. With Mom working the 11pm to 7am shift, she gave me the foundation for my food service career. She would often start dinner before going to bed with the oven timer, and when I came home from school, she taught me how to make different sides to finish dinner so we could eat at 6pm when dad got home from work.

                A memory and a picture I wish I had, all though I was there, was mom telling the story of the drive home from the hospital after I was born. Mom was holding me when I stuck my right hand out of my blanket, and she screamed “Johann’s got an extra thumb” to my dad who was driving (almost off the road). This was not discovered prior to the drive home. Years later when I was in the Navy, I dated a girl for about a year who was also born with an extra thumb on her left hand. Mom and Dad joked that if we ever were to marry and have kids, they would be “all thumbs”.          

Another memory that left a lasting impression on me was how she really wanted a better life for us kids as she had grown up during the depression. It was a Thursday night; we were getting ready for dinner. Sensing something was not right, I asked mom if everything was, okay? I found out that she was upset that we were not having meat for dinner as dad did not get paid until Friday. I am sure my brother Paul, and I did not mind and enjoyed whatever she had made that night, I am guessing macaroni and cheese. Yummy!

                Mom taught me a lot about perseverance and determination. A work injury forced her to retire at an early age from the hospital. Discovering our family roots with her extra time, she spent an enormous amount of time and effort on our family history. I remember once going to the library with her and looking at microfilm for hours. I got a huge headache; I really don’t know how she did it. Most of her research was before the computer age. We have copies of the family history at the reception if you do not have one. Perhaps one of us will update her work.

                Mom often volunteered at church, She was involved with the women’s groups and proceeded to move to the national scene, attending church conventions. However, health issues would change her mission as she had to learn how to walk and talk again.  Mom taught herself crafting and created Norwegian “Dolls by Deann” and with my dad’s woodworking, mom and dad were off peddling their goods at craft shows and fairs.

Eventually Alzheimer’s and Dementia took their toll. I remember pushing mom around the Memory Care Unit in her wheelchair so she could make her “rounds” and check each room…still on duty being a nurse;  Taking care of a baby doll that she received and a stuffed German Shepherd dog that my daughter Kirsten gave to her that she clung to till the very end, bringing her comfort I believe.

A few more highlights were when I was able to volunteer at church with Mom and Dad doing the Meals on Wheels program. Also, the annual church Lutefisk dinners that mom and dad oversaw and being able to assist them as the Lutefisk Head Chef using my food service experience to coordinate the volunteers to feed 600+ dinners each year. Being able to cater for their 50th wedding anniversary was something I will always cherish. Mom also knew I was a big baseball and Minnesota Twins fan. When some of the Twin’s player’s wives were delivering at the hospital, she was able to get a couple souvenirs…(probably some rules against that, but, she was a favorite of some of the Twin’s players). One last memory was attending her 15-year nursing class reunion. Most of her classmates brought significant others, but dad could not attend so I was mom’s escort, and I was able to meet many of her classmates.

One of Mom’s wishes after passing was to have her ashes spread in Norway so us kids would not have to visit her grave. I would like to share a poem by Mary Elisabeth Frye that captures my mom’s thoughts maybe. It is called Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep. It goes like this:

Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond that glints on the snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning hush. I am the swift uplifting rush. Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die.

Mom had a life, often tough at times, but well lived, I am proud to be the son of Deann Marie Gilbertson Gjenvick. Love you Mom!