Woodland Hills Funeral Home 507-387-5504
Dena Fischer of Mankato died at Pathstone Living on March 12, 2022. Eldena (Dena) Elizabeth Eilers was born August 25, 1922, in Rockwell, Iowa, to Fred and Anna (Ryburn) Eilers. An older brother had died in infancy, and Dena was raised with her younger sisters, Elaine and Marion. Her grandmother, Cora Ryburn, a retired teacher, was her inspiration. Cora lived with the family, and taught Dena to read and sew, and, as her sight faded, Dena read to her.
Valedictorian of Rockwell High School in 1939, Dena entered Mason City Junior College that fall. By the time she finished MCJC in 1941 she had a contract to teach in a one room school in Bath Township. After teaching two years, she enrolled at the University of Minnesota, College of Education, graduating in January of 1945 with a major in math and a minor in social studies.
In July of 1944 Dena met George, a young soldier from St. Louis, at the U. They married on September 7, 1945. In the succeeding years, while George worked toward his veterinary degree, Dena held a variety of jobs, including teaching math at the University of Missouri, and earned her Masters of Education.
George and Dena’s first child was born a month before he finished veterinary school in 1952, and they would have four more children over the next seven and one half years. Over the next 25 years they moved around the country as George pursued his career in veterinary medicine, with an emphasis on poultry diseases. In 1977 George bought Mankato Pet Hospital. Dena ran the office, greeting the clients, managing the calendar, and keeping the books.
The Fischer home was always open to guests from around the world. George and Dena were active with the international students groups in Madison, WI, Ithaca, N.Y., and Mankato, making lifelong friends with students and families from places as diverse as Indonesia, Norway, Canada, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Syria. In Illinois, Honegger Farms trainees from India were regular guests for dinner. In 1968, the Fischer family grew with the addition of Steen Finsen, a Danish AFS student.
Throughout her life Dena was busy. She sewed clothes and costumes, taught her kids to play musical instruments, served on church committees, cooked meals, did laundry, participated in book clubs and women’s clubs, maintained correspondence with friends worldwide, served as a cub scout and girl scout leader, church youth group advisor, and Presbyterian Elder. She and George joined in dance groups and played bridge. Dena was a founder of MSU for Seniors, now Mankato Area Lifelong Learners, and a longtime season ticket holder for the MSU theatre programs. In the 80’s and 90’s Dena and George travelled widely, attending Rotary International conventions and Elderhostel programs.
Dena was preceded in death by George in 2003; her parents; her sisters Elaine (Don) Forry and Marion (Joe) Whalen, and their husbands; sister-in-law Peggy Fischer Nelson; niece Nancy Nelson Martin and nephew Peter Nelson. She is survived by her five children, and their spouses: Scott and Becky Fischer; Kurt and Nancy Fischer; Beth and Bob Jensen; Carol and Pat Oberle; Paul and Misun Min; eleven granddaughters, and one grandson: Heather Ring (Gary Meyer); Abbey Fischer (Rebecca); Lisa Finnvik (Brian); Nicholas Fischer (Amanda Kuldanek); Anna Jensen White (Mark); Ellen Fischer Petricka (Jake); Beka Jensen Bruyning; Sarah Jensen Prestegard (Cullen); Maria Jensen; Hannah Oberle; Erin Oberle; and Rita Fischer; great-grandchildren William White; Florence and Crosby Finnvik; Madison and Oliver Petricka; AFS student Steen Finsen (Trina Thykier); nephews and nieces: Dave Nelson (JoAnne); Rick Whalen (Beth); Jay Whalen (Judy); Tim Whalen; Jean Whalen Alexander (Doug); Ann Whalen Campbell (Dave); Janiece Forry Gallup (Steve) and Jeanette Forry Smith (Lindsey).
Services will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Mankato, Saturday, March 19, at 11:00 A.M., with visitation at the church one hour before the service, followed by lunch. Arrangements are being handled by Woodland Hills Funeral Home. woodlandhillsfh.com.
Dena asked that memorials be made to First Presbyterian Church of Mankato or Clearwater Forest Retreat Center, a shared camp and retreat ministry of area presbyteries (see, Clearwaterforest.org) which can be made through First Presbyterian Church.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Eldena "Dena" E. Fischer, please visit our floral store.