BEMIDJI – Emi Totzauer stayed strong until the very end.
Despite being told earlier this year that her colon cancer was terminal, Totzauer was determined to beat it. But Totzauer passed away Dec. 5, days after her 37th birthday.
“She was just somebody that everybody seemed to like,” said her husband Dwayne. “She had a loving, caring heart for people.”
That love throughout the community was evident in the plethora of flowers and gifts that overflowed her room at Sanford Hospital on her birthday, Dec. 1. Dwayne said at least 70 bouquets came in that day alone.
“We were blessed to have mom’s birthday be a good one,” her oldest daughter Jessica Totzauer wrote in an email to the Pioneer. “Even though she was a bit exhausted she loved every person that stopped in to see her.”
After she passed away, the flowers were given to the other patients and some staff in the hospital.
“She always gave back,” Dwayne said.
Today, Emi’s visitation is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. at Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji.
The funeral is scheduled for Feb. 15.
In May, Emi and Dwayne Totzauer celebrated the 21st anniversary of running the Country Greenhouse south of Bemidji, the same month they celebrated 21 years of marriage.
The two met in California while Dwayne was working as a ranch hand for Emi’s grandmother, Dwayne said. Emi became pregnant with Jessica, and they eventually moved to Guthrie and then Laporte. They had three more daughters, the youngest being 3 years old.
“I will always miss my mother and I think she was taken too quickly from us,” Jessica Totzauer wrote. “But mom would want us to continue in life with her remembrance in hearts but our futures still before us. Her legacy she left for us girls will guide us through our lives.”
Family friend Jen Theisen began working at the greenhouse in 2006 as a second job. She became close friends with Emi and her family.
“They just had an awesome family-type business where everybody feels like family that’s working there,” she said.
Theisen said she visited her friend in the hospital whenever she got the chance.
“She was so strong the entire time that she wouldn’t give up for a second,” Theisen said.
Though Emi didn’t have any symptoms of her disease until early this year, the cancer had first developed about a decade ago and wasn’t diagnosed until April, Dwayne said. They were told it was terminal when they visited a hospital in the Twin Cities, but she was determined to beat it.
Emi wanted to take a trip to California with the family if she was well enough for a wedding and Christmas this year, Dwayne said. The two hadn’t gone back to California as a couple or as a family since first leaving 25 years ago, Dwayne said.
He said he still plans on bringing the family back to the state where he and Emi first met.
“She just wanted to fight for every day that she could get, one more day with her family,” Dwayne said.