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Iris Mae (Steenson) Gelhaye

October 30, 1927 ~ August 25, 2018 (age 90)
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Gelhaye, Iris M. age 90 of Columbia Heights.

Iris Mae (Steenson) Gelhaye was born on October 30, 1927 to Floyd and Margoth Steenson of St. Louis Park, MN. She was the oldest of 7 children, 5 girls and 2 boys: Jordis, Floyd, Carol, Brad, Helen, and Sonja. She only completed the 9th grade and went to work at Dayton’s and later a hardware wholesaler. With her earnings, Iris would purchase clothes for her younger siblings. She grew up in St. Louis Park and spent a lot of her spare time at the Roller Gardens, roller-skating. That is where she met her husband, Gene R. Gelhaye “Red.”

The couple were married on March 4, 1949 and settled in Mound, MN. Red was manager of the Mound Hardware Store and Iris worked there for a while also, as she loved the hardware business. She also wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper, The Minnetonka Pilot. Red and Iris soon started their family. They became members of St. John’s Lutheran Church. They both sang in the church choir and Iris soon sang in a women’s barbershop quartet, while Red sang for weddings and funerals. Their family consisted of 3 girls and 1 boy: Kathy, Karen, Kristi, and Gene. Both loving music, they started up a country western band and called themselves “Red and Lil’ Iris.” They played many places: bars on weekends, special occasions, Excelsior Amusement Park, and neighborhood gatherings. Iris’ marriage ended in 1967 and she never remarried.

She then worked a lot of different jobs over the years. Her sister, Carol, got her a job at Advance Floor Machines, now Nilfisk Advance Floor Scrubbers, of which she worked 20 years, and retired in 1998. She started in assembly and then in the office until retirement at the age of 72. However, she was not ready to retire and worked for a temp service for seniors for 5 more years. Iris lived in South Minneapolis until retirement and moved in with her daughter, Karen, in Columbia Heights.

Iris’ children, and soon grandchildren, were who she got up for every day. Iris spent her life making sure her children didn’t want for anything. She sacrificed many things for herself along the way. No complaints ever! From having mac & cheese or cinnamon sugar rice for dinner in the early days to buying dinner out and giving her credit card to whichever kid needed it, to supplying each kid with their own AAA membership, etc. The sky became the limit…

Then, the unthinkable happened on March 8, 2014. Her daughter, Karen, 57 years old, passed away from lung cancer. This changed her life in a way that she was unable to live alone. Her granddaughter moved in with her for as long as she could to help out.

On January 17, 2015, The Lighthouse (now New Perspective) of Columbia Heights, Memory Care, became her new home. This was a huge adjustment

for her. However, she soon made friends with residents and care-givers. She enjoyed Bingo, arranging flowers, artwork, music, and going to the Beauty Shop getting her nails done, and going to church. She was ready for anything in the way she dressed, and she wore jewelry to her liking… And she loved jewelry!

Iris loved life. She persevered through whatever was put in her path. She would say, “It’s just another page in the book,” or, “It is what it is.”

The last few months of her life were very uncomfortable for her. She was so grateful and thankful for the staff that took care of her; also the love that they showed her. They had been a part of her family for the last 4 years of her life.

She is survived by children, Kathy (Gary) Bodick, Kristi Herzog, Geno Gelhaye; 5 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren, 1 brother, 2 sisters. Memorial Service Friday (9/14), 11 AM with visitation one hour prior at Miller Funeral Home, 6210 Hwy 65 NE, Fridley 763-571-1300.

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