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. We plan to live stream the service – please check back closer to the memorial date for details.
In lieu of flowers, memorials to St. Matthew's Lutheran Church Meal Ministry, Wauwatosa, WI; 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.