Cover photo for Joan Marie Reckdahl's Obituary
Joan Marie Reckdahl Profile Photo
1936 Joan 2023

Joan Marie Reckdahl

August 27, 1936 — December 7, 2023

Joan Marie Schramm Reckdahl, 87, died at St. Gertrude’s Living Community in Shakopee, MN on Thursday, Dec. 7 after a full life that included a half-century of teaching school and an appointment by Gov. Rudy Perpich to the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection, where she helped to screen prospective state judges. Services will be held at 11 a.m., with visitation at 10 a.m. and lunch afterward, on Saturday, Dec. 16 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 54384 E. Highway 12, Grove City.

Joan was born to Henry and Bertha Schramm on August 27, 1936, in Lynn Township of McLeod County, near Hutchinson, Minnesota, on the farm of her maternal grandparents, Julius and Frieda Duesterhoeft. In Hutchinson, she attended public school, was the McLeod County spelling-bee champ, and graduated in 1954. She went on to graduate from Concordia College in St. Paul and the University of Minnesota, where she studied to become a high-school English teacher and met the love of her life, Jerome Reckdahl, of Gaylord.

The two were married on August 3, 1958, shortly after graduation. She began her first job as an educator, as a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School in north Minneapolis. She would spend the next 50 years as a schoolteacher, with an eight-year hiatus to raise the couple’s five children, Beth, twins Keith and Katy, Ben, and Andrea.

In 1961, Jerry and Joan moved to Grove City, a small town in Meeker County, to teach math and English in the local high school. She taught her students to understand, even love, Shakespeare, and earned a reputation for being a loving but no-nonsense teacher with an encyclopedic level of knowledge. Once the Reckdahl children were out of diapers, she returned to St. Cloud State University to become certified in special education. She taught special ed and English in Grove City and Atwater schools and in a consolidated new school, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School. Though she officially retired in 1999, she was a frequent  substitute-teacher for the next decade.

Joan also taught outside of school, in Sunday school and adult Bible classes at Trinity Lutheran Church, where she relished writing and delivering guest sermons, was active in the women’s auxiliary and liked to sit in one of the front rows, near the organist, which was sometimes one of her children. She led several organizations, including the Meeker County Bicentennial Commission, Grove City Economic Development Corp, and the local Women’s Club and AAUW. She also served many years on the Pioneerland Library Board, finally persuading the board to open a new branch in Grove City.

Usually a quiet writer who labored on memoir-style manuscripts, she was celebrated for reciting lengthy poems for retiring colleagues, penned to the meter of classic poems like The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  Her nimble fingers also crocheted and knitted steadily, often crafting at least 100 pairs of her trademark mittens each year, as gifts and for sale through church markets.

In 1968, after her younger brother Mark was drafted into the Vietnam War, she began canvassing for Eugene McCarthy, who promised to end the country’s involvement in the war. For years afterward, she helped to lead the Meeker County Democratic Farmer Labor party, alongside Howard Carlson, the only person allowed to smoke in the longtime family house on South Third Street.

The consummate matriarch, Joan loved and guided her children and, aided by her trusty calendar and Rolodex, sent out an endless stream of anniversary and birthday cards to her entire extended family and friends. The only time she demanded a quiet house was during broadcasts of Jeopardy! and 60 Minutes. For a decade, she could be found with her daily crossword puzzle next to the family’s backyard pool. Neighborhood kids still remember how she famously sewed two flags, red and green, to signify whether the pool was open beyond family that day.

In her last days, she wrote a draft of this obituary, emphasizing that her children all made her very proud, “by working hard and achieving much.”

Joan was preceded in death by her sister Carol Spencer, in 1991, and her oldest daughter Beth Ellenby, in 2008. Survivors are many: Jerry, her husband of 65 years. Two brothers, Leroy Schramm (Diana) of Helena, Montana, and Mark Schramm of Hutchinson; and her best cousin, Naomi Helgevold, who has acted like a sister her entire life. Four children, Keith Reckdahl (Becky Epstein) of Palo Alto, Calif.; Katy Reckdahl of New Orleans; Ben Bryant Reckdahl (Lonnie Davis) of Atlanta; Andrea Sweeney of Chanhassen, and devoted son-in-law Michael Ellenby. Her eight grandchildren – Alex, Owen (Jinda), Lily, and Elijah Sweeney; Jayde Ellenby; Elise and Eric Epstein and Hector Campbell – recently became nine with the arrival last year of a great-grandson, James Jerome Sweeney.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joan Marie Reckdahl, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Saturday, December 16, 2023

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

Trinity Lutheran Church

54384 US-12, Grove City, MN 56243

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Memorial Service

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

Trinity Lutheran Church

54384 US-12, Grove City, MN 56243

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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