Gretchen Janice Dokken Hellie of St Croix Falls died Nov. 30, 2020, at Golden Age Manor, Amery. She was 80.
Gretchen was born June 4, 1940, in Benson, Minn., to Garfield and Jonnette Dokken. She grew up and attended Benson Public Schools graduating in 1958. Gretchen was a scholar at heart and she tirelessly pursued her degree in Music at Concordia College, Moorhead Minn., and the University of Minnesota, Morris, Minn.
It was in Morris that she met Tilford Hellie and in February of 1967 they were united in marriage at Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in Benson, Minn. Together they raised two sons, Christopher and Erik in Benson, Minn. After the boys graduated, Gretchen moved to the Twin Cities so she could stay close to her boys. In 2004, Gretchen retired and together with Tilford, built a home in St Croix Falls.
Throughout Gretchen’s occupational career she served in many different jobs; high school music teacher, band and choir director, self-employed entrepreneur, retail sales, and finally retiring as an executive assistant. Throughout her life teaching piano was her longest and most constant work. She also loved being a church organist at Bethesda Lutheran, Dresser. Gretchen was never far from a keyboard whether it was organ or piano and many hours were spent sharing her love of music with young and old.
Gretchen always kept herself busy outside of work. Her hobbies included crochet, knitting, and needlework like counted cross-stich and other crafts. She also volunteered and stayed as active in her community and church as she could. She spent years researching and documenting her genealogy and putting together her family’s story and history. Gretchen was an active member of the Sons of Norway. One of her greatest adventures was traveling solo to Norway to meet her distant relatives and visit her family homestead. Her connection with her Scandinavian heritage was always on display…in both the art on her walls or the food on her table at holidays. The Norwegian table prayer “I Jesu Navn” was the standard.
Gretchen’s greatest source of pride and joy were her sons and grandchildren to which her unconditional love was always clear. Her upbringing in the Lutheran Church set a strong foundation which made her faith strong, brought her comfort, allowed her to share her gift of music in worship and choir, and kept her always active in a community of faith.
Eventually, the heartbreaking disease of Alzheimer’s and dementia started to take hold in Gretchen’s life. She lost so much in recent years to this disease. Even after her mind had begun to deteriorate and conversations became difficult, her eyes would light up and a smile would come out upon the visit of kids, grandkids, family or friends.
She was preceded in death by Tilford Hellie; her parents, Garfield and Jonnette Dokken, and a granddaughter, Madeline.
She is survived by her two sons, Chris (Michelle) and Erik (Jennifer), one granddaughter Emily (Tyler) and three grandsons, Bennett, Marty and Stuart.
The family wishes to thank all those too numerous to name who cared for her these last years of her life. Words cannot express our gratitude and love for your selfless service to her. We are comforted to know when she was struggling she was surrounded by thoughtful caregivers and kept safe. We are comforted now to know she is finally at peace, struggling no more.
A private service for immediate family was held Dec 5. To sign an online guestbook and view a video tribute please visit www.williamsonwhite.com Arrangements were made with the Williamson White Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Amery.