Obituaries » Dorothy C. Geis

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June 30, 1933 - December 17, 2020

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To find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


            When Dorothy Cecelia Pecholt Geis passed peacefully on Dec.17, 2020, she did indeed leave this world a better place. She had lived a full life marked by generosity, humility, and achievement.

           Her journey began on June 30, 1933, in Sanborn, Minnesota. Born to Charles and Frances Pecholt, she joined an older sister, Ruth (Strand). Dorothy eventually met the love of her life, LeRoy Geis, in the same town, where he taught math, science, and history at the local high school. They paused their engagement while she earned her masters degree in nursing. Upon completion, the two married on Aug. 8, 1959, at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Sanborn.

            The couple moved to Minneapolis, where Dorothy supported LeRoy as he returned to medical school at the age of 30 – the oldest student ever enrolled at the U of M medical school at the time. Dorothy was very proud their marriage survived his schooling. They joined and were very active in their parish, St. Albert the Great in Minneapolis.

            While Dorothy taught nursing full time at the University of Minnesota, they started a family that grew to five children – Juliann, David, Michael, Steven, and Brian. As the family blossomed, they moved to St. Paul, where Dorothy got her dream home, an older house the couple spent decades renovating until it was beautifully restored to its former glory. Besides the renovation, Dorothy became active in their new parish, Nativity of Our Lord.

            After more than 30 years of teaching nursing, Dorothy was hired to implement one of the first grants to help children with terminal cancer die at home. She had already volunteered for more than 25 years at Our Lady of Good Counsel Free Cancer Home, a hospice run by the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne (now called Our Lady of Peace), where LeRoy also served as a volunteer doctor. Dorothy loved what family and friends called the Home, and took the family every Sunday to volunteer there so the Sisters could share one weekly meal together. She also volunteered for decades with the American Cancer Society and the Coalition for Death and Dying.

            She had a gift for assisting those in the throes of death.

            Despite her full-time employment and volunteer work, Dorothy prided herself on being a mother. She took parenting as seriously as any other venture. She taught her children how to pray, write thank-you notes, be kind, love learning, help others with their education, share, bring something when you visit someone’s house, invite those who might be alone to join you for a holiday, have compassion for those less fortunate, know how lucky you are to have been born in a great country, be there when your friends are in need, cook enough to give the extra away, and know you have three friends you can call for help at three in the morning because you are truly blessed if you do. Dorothy was the kind of friend you could call for help at three a.m. or at any time of the night or day.

            Every summer she took her children back to Sanborn to vacation at her childhood home. She would say, “Why would anyone want a cabin when you can come down to Southern Minnesota?” It was her sanctuary.

            She attended all of her children’s activities, from football games to figure skating shows to mock trial contests to platform diving competitions. But much of her parenting revolved around teaching two principles: The importance of volunteering and giving back to the community, and the importance of education, her most important gift.

            Dorothy modeled the principles in many ways. She always volunteered for teacher appreciation at each of her children’s schools. She taught her children the love of arts by regularly taking them to Orchestra Hall, to concerts at Lake Harriet, and to plays at Children’s Theater. And every summer the children participated in the summer reading program at the public library. She was, in fact, proud that education ran in the family. Her parents taught, she taught, LeRoy taught, and at one time or another each of her children taught. Dorothy believed in lifelong learning, and as recently as 2019 completed a summer writing institute series of courses.

            After she retired from nursing, Dorothy applied for and was accepted into the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) Docent Program, which required three years of intensive study to qualify as a docent. Dorothy was proud to have been accepted, and she undertook her three years of study as seriously as she had with every other venture in her life. She wrote required papers, drafted speeches, and practiced giving tours. How she loved showing guests the Christmastime “period rooms,” decorated for the holidays! Anyone game to visit the MIA would find her willing to offer a tour.

            Another favorite was the MIA’s spring floral festival, “Art in Bloom.” Dorothy’s love of flowers was a gift from her mother, who grew flowers and volunteered to help run the flower contest in Sanborn’s annual “Watermelon Days” festival. Inspired, Dorothy enrolled in classes at Koehler and Dramm’s Institute of Floristry in St. Paul. Soon thereafter she started teaching free floral classes to the retired Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul.

            In recognition of her lifelong volunteer work, Dorothy received the Kare 11 “Eleven Who Care” award on Sept. 9, 1994.

            Dorothy loved people, to be sure, but she also had a soft spot for animals. She always filled her house with pets, whether a dog or a cat or a turtle or a bunny. Each enjoyed a happy, long life in her home. Many recall her son David’s pet calf that hid in the back yard of her home in St. Paul. A calf in her yard? Yes. David had rescued the calf from the South Saint Paul stockyards where he was conducting research for a school paper. He brought the calf home in Dorothy’s station wagon and snuck it into the back yard. Upon finding the calf months later, she made sure it was taken to Sanborn to have a nice life and a bigger yard.

            Years later Dorothy stayed with David’s pet buffalo, Scout, born blind and abandoned by its herd. Eventually the U of M put Scout to sleep after complications from a second stomach surgery, but not without tender care and many tears. One of her proudest animal moments was when David helped build the Duke Memorial Redwood Falls Animal Shelter. Duke was David’s beloved dog.

            As full as her life was, Dorothy harbored yet another love – travel. She was game to go anywhere, or everywhere, and to try all adventures, from zip lining in the tree tops of Costa Rica to being assisted up Macho Pico, Peru, in 2019. So great was her wanderlust, she couldn’t get enough of it. When she discovered she was to become a grandmother, she interviewed friends who were grandparents and asked them what they recommended as a way to create a special bond with each grandchild. Several valuable suggestions came her way, but she settled on the idea of sending each grandchild on a solo trip when old enough.

            Oh, the adventures! She took one grandchild to Alaska, where they each got into a kayak and together paddled around the glaciers. Other grandchildren cruised the Hawaiian Islands, toured European shrines, and explored the deserts of Arizona. Her goal was to take every grandchild, but eventually her body was not able.

            Besides the travel, Dorothy was involved in her grandchildren’s lives in other ways. She attended dance recitals, band concerts, science fairs, school festivals, and literary reading.

            As the final chapter of her life began, Dorothy bought a condo in Arizona, three doors down from her sister Ruth’s condo. Though 80 years old at the time, Dorothy said she felt 15 years younger in Arizona during the winter. She began to winter there and to enjoy daily adventures with her sister and niece Jennifer. Per her wishes, she passed there with snow-free, beautiful weather.

            Due to the pandemic, the family held a mass of Christian Burial at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Sanborn. When the pandemic is behind them, they plan to invite family and friends to a mass and celebration of Dorothy’s life, hopefully on her birthday in 2021.

            Dorothy’s soul mate LeRoy, who died suddenly in 1995, and her beloved son David, who died of cancer in 2012, precede her in death. Her living family include daughter Juliann (Bob Thavis) and their children Christina and Rebecca Thavis; son Michael (Tara) and their children Luke, Brianna, and Benjamin Geis; son Steven (Kathy) and their children Faith, Claire, Sophia, and Matthew Geis; and son Brian (Deb) and their children Emily, Kiersten, and Eli Lunde; in addition to many nieces and nephews.

            Dorothy’s family acknowledges and thanks all who have graciously and generously prayed for her and the family during this last journey and offered support in many other ways. Memorials in her memory are much appreciated and may be sent to:

Our Lady of Peace ;

The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne;

St. Thomas Catholic Church, Sanborn

MCDES (MN Coalition for Death Education and Support) Dorothy Geis Scholarship Fund

            Condolence cards may be mailed to Redwood Valley Funeral Home, 612 Northwood Drive, Redwood Falls, MN 56283. They will be forward to the Family. 


The following obituary was published in the local newspapers:

Dorothy was born June 30, 1933 to Charles and Frances Pecholt in Sanborn, Minnesota.  Dorothy epitomized hospitality and shared her talents, faithfulness and service of others throughout her life.  Dorothy met the love of her life, LeRoy Geis, in Sanborn, and they married August 8, 1959, after completing her undergraduate degree at the college of St. Teresa and Masters of Nursing at the University of MN.  Dorothy taught nursing at the U of M and North Dakota.  She was selected to implement a groundbreaking program to help children with terminal cancer die peacefully at home.  She volunteered for over 25 years at Our Lady of Good Counsel Free Cancer Home where LeRoy was a volunteer doctor. She also spent decades volunteering with both the American Cancer Society and the Coalition for Death and Dying.  In recognition of her lifelong efforts serving others Dorothy received the Kare 11 “Eleven Who Care” Award in 1994. After retiring from nursing, Dorothy was accepted into the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) Docent Program, and completed intensive study, to qualify as an MIA docent, giving talks and tours. She loved Christmas time tours in the “period rooms” which were decorated for the holidays.  Dorothy enjoyed the MIA Art in Bloom and was inspired to learn floral design which she later shared with others.

Dorothy extensively traveled with enjoyment of new people, cultures, shopping and foods.  Along with her daughter, she was one of the first Americans to tour China in the 1970s.  Most recently, she ascended Machu Picchu and toured Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic in 2019 and toured Zion in 2020.  She shared her travel bug, taking grandchildren on a trip as soon as they were old enough.

Dorothy peacefully went to heaven surrounded by family on December 17, 2020.   Dorothy is survived by her sister Ruth and niece Jennifer, daughter Juliann (Bob Thavis) Christina and Rebecca, son Michael (Tara) Luke, Brianna, and Benjamin, son Steven (Kathy),  Faith, Claire, Sophia, and Matthew, and son Brian (Deb) Emily, Kiersten and Eli, in addition to many other family members and friends with whom she volunteered, traveled, learned, and laughed.

Dorothy’s Mass of Christian Burial was beautifully celebrated by Fr Gillespie, O.P.  For information about viewing, contact the Stephens Funeral Service – Redwood Valley Funeral Home.   As Dorothy enjoyed flowers throughout her life, memorials are preferred to the following: the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne Our Lady of Peace Hospice,  , St. Thomas Catholic Church, Sanborn or MCDES (MN Coalition for Death Education and Support) Dorothy Geis Scholarship Fund

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