Mary Irene (Kemper) Kjeldsen,
age 76 of Apple Valley, MN, went to sing with the angel choir on Saturday, February 4th, 2023, after a valiant, six-year fight against Multiple Myeloma, and later, MDS and AML. She was cared for and surrounded by family at home in the last month and final days of her life. Mary was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, dedicated teacher, and faithful servant. She deeply loved music and devoted her life to the service of others. Her advocacy and passion were especially felt by those with special needs.
Mary was born April 30th, 1946, in Chicago, IL, to Daniel H. and Jeannette I. (Lane) Kemper.
She graduated from Luther College in Decorah, IA, and sang in the Nordic Choir. It was there that she met her beloved husband of 54 years, Karl A. Kjeldsen, and they married on November 30th, 1968, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Downers Grove, IL.
Karl’s first Air Force duty assignment brought them to Alamogordo, NM where Mary taught English and journalism at Tularosa High School for two years. When Karl deployed to Vietnam in 1971, Mary was pregnant with their first child and remained in NM to finish the school year before relocating to Houston, TX to live with her family. During Karl’s absence their son Karl (“KJ”) was born – one of the first instances in a long list of examples when Mary stood strong and persevered in the face of adversity.
After a brief stay in Oklahoma City, Mary and Karl (with son KJ) eventually settled in Apple Valley, MN, in 1973 where children Marie, Kristine, Marcus, and Rebecca were born. During this time, Mary was a mainstay in MN School District 196 as a substitute teacher of English, reading, social studies, and history, as well as a special education paraprofessional at Eagan High School from 1997-2013 when she retired.
Mary’s teaching career also made a lasting impact at her churches. She and Karl were long-time members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rosemount, and current members of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley since 1993. Mary was a dedicated confirmation and Sunday School teacher, and mentor. She also had a life-long passion for music and choir – one of the many enduring legacies she passed on to her children and grandchildren. Mary sang in choirs from a young age throughout her entire life. Some of her favorite musical memories were singing with Nordic Choir, Festival Singers, St. John’s Senior Choir, and SOTV’s Senior Choir and Women’s Ensemble.
Mary’s life of faithful service also impacted the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. During her decades of service to the Girl Scouts she was a troop leader, board member, council trainer, program manager, and trusted mentor. She also received many accolades from the Girl Scout Council of St. Croix Valley including the Honor Pin (one of the organization’s highest adult honors), Appreciation Pin, Adult Gold Award, Trainer’s Pin, and Service Team Bar. Mary’s strength and determination were especially evident in the last years of her life as she fiercely advocated for herself with Karl by her side, while navigating the daunting and exhausting fight against cancer, never wavering in her desire to squeeze the most out of life, and always with a grateful heart.
Mary was preceded in death by infant daughter born to heaven, Marie; her parents, in-laws Carl M. and Janet Kjeldsen; brother Daniel C. Kemper; and brother-in-law Dr. James R. Schroeder. She is survived by her loving husband, Karl, of Apple Valley; children Karl D. (Kris) of Andover, Kristi (Scott) Lecocq of Springfield, IL, Marcus (Alissa) of Cedar Falls, IA, and Becky (Jenna Bergquist) of Lakeville; grandchildren Blake and Ryan Morton of NC, Taylor and Brooke Kjeldsen of MN, Cam and Calvin Lecocq of IL, Parker, Genevieve, Eloise, and Isaiah Kjeldsen of IA, Carl, Ruthie, Aria, Andrew, Jayla, and Gabriel Kjeldsen-Bergquist of MN; sisters Elizabeth Morse, Peg (Bob) Dawson, and Kathy Huff; sisters-in-law Maren (Jim) Huber, Jan Schroeder, and Martha Kemper; and a host of nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Special thanks to the compassionate and caring staffs at MN Oncology, Northfield Cancer Care and Infusion Center, and Hospice of the Midwest. A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, February 18th, 2023, at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church at 12650 Johnny Cake Ridge Road in Apple Valley. Visitation at 11am and service at 12pm. Burial to take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Mary’s name to Shepherd of the Valley’s Pipe Organ Fund or the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.