Michelle Gehrke-Herwynen


Michelle Ann Gehrke-Herwynen, 64, of Bemidji, Minnesota died on Friday, February 3, 2023 at Sanford Hospice House in Fargo, ND where she was surrounded by her family.

Visitation will be held at Cease Family Funeral Home in Bemidji on Friday, February 10 from 5-7 PM.  Funeral Services will be held at Calvary Lutheran Church on Saturday, February 11 at 10:30 AM with Pastor Amanda Kossow officiating.

Michelle was born on February 22, 1958 in Grand Forks, ND. She was the first born child of John and Janice (Pechacek) Gehrke. She spent most of her childhood in West Fargo, ND. During her school years she was involved in 4-H, science club, and took accordion lessons. She and her sisters were also the neighborhood babysitters. As a young child, Michelle already knew that she wanted to be a nurse. During her middle and high school years, Michelle volunteered in the pediatric unit as a Candy Striper at St John’s Hospital in Fargo, ND. She attended the West Fargo Public Schools graduating in 1976 from West Fargo High School. She graduated from Jamestown (ND) College in 1981 with a degree in nursing. After graduation she worked at St. Luke’s in Fargo. Michelle then moved to Portland, OR to work in the Coronary Intensive Care Unit at Oregon Health Sciences University. She took care of the first heart transplant patient at the hospital. In her spare time she worked at the racetrack providing first aid. She returned to Fargo to work at MeritCare in the Coronary Intensive Care Unit. She also was a research assistant for heart studies. She worked briefly in kidney dialysis as well as at SCCI (Vibra) Hospital. Michelle married Theresa Herwynen on July 18, 1998 in Detroit Lakes, MN. They moved to Sioux City, IA in 1999 where Michelle worked at the Intensive Care Units at St. Luke’s (UnityPoint) and Mercy Medical Center. After retiring from nursing, Michelle and Theresa became owners of Sarah’s Candies, previously owned by Theresa’s parents. She also volunteered at the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence helping with childcare. She was a member of Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ and Open Door United Church of Christ. Michelle and Theresa moved to Bemidji, MN in 2017. Michelle was a volunteer at Sanford Medical Center and attended Adult Day Services. Michelle and Theresa are members of both Community Church of Walker, MN and Trinity Lutheran, Cass Lake, MN. For the last few years Michelle has worshiped with the members and friends of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Waskish, MN where Theresa serves as pastor. Michelle’s smile lit up a room. She was kind, compassionate, funny, grateful and generous. If someone needed something she would give it to them without hesitation. She always cared for and about the “little ones” and made sure everyone was included. This included being a foster parent for Sioux City Animal adoption and Rescue Center where she opened her heart for paw prints and kisses. In the midst of and in spite of her medical issues she enjoyed life. Michelle loved to read, play on her Kindle, watch football and cheer for the Iowa Hawkeyes and Minnesota Vikings (There is always next year.) She also loved the outdoors, fishing, biking and going for car rides. Michelle also loved traveling and her favorite vacations were cruises to Alaska. Michelle and Theresa enjoyed celebrating their love for each other including 294 monthly anniversaries and took every opportunity to renew their vows and exchange new rings. Most recently they did so on their 24th wedding anniversary in July, 2022. Michelle was a great encourager of people and she was a wonderful pastor’s spouse as she supported Theresa to get standing in the United Church of Christ. She worked beside Theresa and supported her in parish ministry and chaplaincy.

Michelle is survived by her beloved, Theresa Gehrke-Herwynen, her sisters and brother: Renata (Greg) Rogalla, Cohasset, MN; Wanda (Mark) Wilcox, Casselton, ND; Joel (Tami) Gehrke, Casselton, ND; nieces and nephews: Elton Rogalla, Evan Rogalla, Ky Kliewer, Paige Benes, Kati (Jake) Peterson, Jessica (Travis) Samuels, David (Nikki) Gehrke, Eric (Sarah) Wilcox, Rachel (Grant) Hofmann, Michael (Linsey) Brown, Matthew (AnneMarie) Brown, Madison Brown, Garrett Gehrke, and many great nieces and nephews, her mother-in-law: Sarah Herwynen, sister-in-law Michelle (Herwynen) Brown, brother-in-law, Mike Brown and her fur-babies Nica and Quimby. Chosen family includes Doug Kelley, Brian Raff, Alexander Raff, Kendrick Raff, Jack Raff, Barb and Arne Enslin, and Sonya and Earl Anderson.

She was preceded in death by her parents John and Janice Gehrke, her sister, Yvette Gehrke; her brother, John Gehrke; and her father-in-law, David Herwynen and special young friend Michael Westerhoff.

In lieu of flowers family requests memorials be made to Adult Day Services, Great River Rescue, or a charity of your choice. Michelle requested that colors be worn at her funeral to reflect her joy of life and her hope in faith.

Pallbearers will be Nicole Crabtree, Kevin Estenson, Mike Hesch, Shawn Larson, Jamie Listebarger, and Patrick Lochwood.

Honorary Pallbearers will be Adult Day Services staff and participants and members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Waskish. Condolences may be left at

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