Gloria Irene (Elrichs) Bielen
Jesus reached out his hand to take Gloria Irene (Elrichs) Bielen home to Heaven on Tuesday, December 7, 2021! She endured a long battle with Dementia and lived at Water’s Edge Memory Care Unit in Mankato, MN for the last 14 ½ months.
Gloria was born on June 21, 1932 in Schaller, Iowa to Harry and Ethel (Ersfield) Elrichs. Two months later they moved to Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, where she was baptized thirteen months later. Gloria was raised with her brothers, James and Charles, and baby sister, Helen, who was 10 years younger. They became lifetime best friends. She attended public school and was active in tumbling, basketball and took piano lessons. She worked in exchange for her lessons. She swam across Sleepy Eye Lake weekly with her brother, James.
Gloria met Burdette Arthur Bielen (Bert) at a dance. They married December 22, 1949 and were married for 58 years until Bert’s passing on December 23, 2007. They were blessed with seven children in 10 years! Sandra Balbach of Mankato, Dawn (Gary Lee) Van Dyke of North Mankato, Cheryl Haas of New London, Craig (Lori) Bielen of Springfield, Michelle (Greg) Stage of Springfield, and Kim (Pat) Lang of Spicer, Minnesota. They were all baptized and confirmed at St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Gloria’s long life gave many years of enjoyment with her 15 grandchildren. She danced at twelve of their weddings – last one was two years ago at great grandson, Dillon and Miranda Balbach’s wedding. She was 87 years old! Thirty great grandchildren also enjoyed grandma’s gift of love and time, laughter and wisdom. She had plenty of hugs and kisses for 4 more great, great grandchildren!
Gloria had many interests and activities she enjoyed. She was an avid reader all her life until she lost her ability about a year ago, so we read to her. She read to her children and all children! She enjoyed being a wife, mother, homemaker, grandmother, and friend.
She taught love of art of music – played piano “Boogie Woogie” songs, especially “Sentimental Journey”, Dad’s and her song. She went to school concerts, church choir singing events, and Sweet Adeline group that Dawn sang in. She sang “Tammy”, “Kay Sah Rah Sa Rah, Whatever Will Be, Will Be” by Doris Day to her kids.
Gloria took oil and watercolor painting classes. She gave each one of her kids a painting to treasure. She taught rock painting to her grandchildren. She enjoyed ceramics for years and went to classes with some of her children. Took them to Green Lake Cabin, swam every day, played outside in the summer – badminton, volleyball, laying on the ground showing them cloud shapes in the sky. Love of outside nature – having picnics in the park, riding bike, playing with their pet dogs and cats, playing with all the kids in the neighborhood in their backyard, doing a game of softball, and Annie Annie over at night. She brought so much joy and laughter in their home, having fun with her family. They had friends stay overnight and even took them to the lake with them on the weekends. All the girls went to Brownies and Girl Scouts and the boys were in Boy Scouts. She helped assist these groups and was a leader for Girl Scouts with them. She also was a great grandmother along with Sandy being a grandmother at Bible Camp at Lake Andrew in New London, Minnesota. Gloria watched many wrestling, softball and basketball games. They did ice skating at night. There was tetherball and swing sets at Public School. Concerts on Sunday afternoons at Brown’s Park and Riverside Park – playing with kids and sometimes picnics. In summer they went swimming at the pool almost every day and took swimming lessons. At Green Lake they always went rummaging on Saturday mornings. Taught many of her children the value of saving money. In winter, they would play ping pong in their kitchen. Cards, Scrabble, Monopoly, Royal Rummy, Chinese Checkers, with Aggravation being their family’s favorite game. It has been played for seven generations and is now being passed unto their friends and families. They also learned many card games, “Shanghai”, “Canasta”, “31”. Gloria loved “Bingo” at Legion at Spicer, MN. Saturday night they were allowed to stay up late. Sunday mornings they were in their pj’s and would go to the Drive-In-Theatre for church in Spicer, Minnesota! They would hook speakers to windows of their car.
Gloria taught her children value of long-term friendships like her friend Alice she’s had since kindergarten. She met JoAnn in the hospital where they had Deb and Kim. JoAnn became their second mom.
Gloria taught her children to love and respect grandparents, aunts and uncles and took care of responsibilities of work and taking care of each other. They had a big garden in the backyard, plum tree, grape arbor and a lot of rhubarb. Gloria canned 200-300 jars of food every fall. She was always in the kitchen cooking kidney beans, goulash, rhubarb upside down cake, or bread pudding! They were all expected to help with sweet corn, by the trunkful! Farmers would give it to them. Their dad would tell the neighborhood kids to husk all the corn and they could eat as much as they wanted!
Gloria worked in a canning factory in Sleepy Eye during harvest. She sold Avon for 14 years. First she had to learn to drive a car, Dawn helped with that. She was in her 40’s! Being in the President’s Club, she received many awards for high sales of beautiful “Miss Albee” porcelain painted Avon Lady statues. She sold Paradise Jewelry at Home Parties and Indian Jewelry at Apache Junction, AZ at Flea Markets where they lived for 14 years after they retired for 9 years. Then they lived from Spring until the Fall with rotations between Sandra, Dawn and Cheryl. They loved living in Arizona. They met nice friends, Roy and Chuckie by their trailer. Roy planted a beautiful trellis of roses of all colors, and they would sit on the porch and get to enjoy the “garden” without the work! She loved “Iris” and grew them all her life. They loved these sweet moments plus lived by Superstitious Mountain, enjoying the sunrises and sunsets, desert wildflowers and cactus. Gloria swam in the pool almost daily. In her 70’s she learned how to country line dance and bought herself a pair of “Red Cowboy Boots”! They learned how to play “Hand and Foot” cards which became a passion for them. They usually played with 3 decks and the game lasted for 3-4 hours.
Gloria will be remembered by many family and extended family and friends as a happy, positive, laughing, and smiling kind personality. No matter how busy she was in her life, Gloria always had time for visiting and having coffee with you. She even had coffee parties in the morning once a week when her kids were small. They loved it because Gloria went to the bakery and got rolls! On all mom’s outings, she was known as the Hat Lady. On one of her hats she had a collection of Avon award pins. Gloria was always ready to try anything – toboggining with kids at Gieske hill in Springfield, horseback riding, 4 wheeling, ice skating, roller skating, bowling, jet skiing, volleyball, even using hula hoop. She played tuba at her 25th wedding anniversary and couldn’t figure out why her cheeks were so sore the next day! She taught herself how to hypnotize for health reasons.
Revelations 21:4 God shall wipe away all tears.
Mom has been crying for the last 2 years.
Some from Dementia.
Some from drugs she was given.
Some from hallucinations or visions.
Some from sadness.
Some from pain of sitting all day in a wheelchair.
Some from missing loved ones.
Some we don’t know why.
No more tears in heaven! ALLELUIA!
No more pain in Heaven! ALLELUIA!
No more crying in Heaven! ALLELUIA!
In every story told, every memory shared, Gloria’s light still shines. Although Dementia stole her memories, the memories of her life live through her family forever!
She was preceded in death by her parents, Harry and Ethel Elrichs; her husband, Burdette Bielen; son, Brad Bielen; mother and father-in-law, Arthur and Johanna Bielen; brother, Charles Elrichs; son in law, Gary Balbach; grandson, Rick Balbach.
Celebration of Life Visitation for Gloria will be on January 22, 2022 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. with a funeral following at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mankato, Minnesota. Please stay and visit to share stories of Gloria. The service will be livestreamed and available at https://hosannamain.online.church. Interment will be next June 2022 at St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery in Springfield, Minnesota. Mankato Mortuary is assisting the family with arrangements.