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Obituary - Shirley Lorraine (Johnson) Kindem

November 17, 1929 – March 24, 2019


Shirley Kindem

Born on November 17, 1929, to Stanley "Tiny" Johnson and Ethel (Trapp) Johnson, Shirley Lorraine (Johnson) Kindem grew up with her parents, younger sister, Carol, and nearby grandparents Flora Mae and George Trapp in the agricultural town and county seat of Morris, Minnesota.

The valedictorian of Morris High School's class of 1947, Shirley went on to enroll at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where her parents owned a downtown café and billiard hall, known as the popular "Tiny's."

A student both gifted and earnest, she distinguished herself at St. Olaf by completing a double major in art and music and by singing soprano her junior and senior years as a member of the St. Olaf Choir, under the direction of Olaf Christiansen. She was nominated to Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious academic honor society, and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1951.

Though her future husband, Roald A. Kindem, was a St. Olaf classmate, they did not share any classes together during their college careers, and it wasn't until the summer following graduation that they began dating. In the fall of 1951, Shirley began a two-year stint teaching art and music at two elementary schools in Hardin, Montana, near the famous Little Big Horn battlefield where Custer met his demise, while Roald forsook a potential career in coaching to enroll at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. Returning home to Northfield for summer break in 1952, Shirley and Roald picked up where they'd left off, and by the final week of August, Roald asked for her hand in marriage, to which Shirley replied, "Of course." During their engagement year, Shirley returned to her students in Hardin while Roald completed his middler year at seminary. They were married at St. John's Lutheran Church, Northfield on June 8, 1953, with Shirley's beloved art professor, the Rev. Arnold Flaten, officiating, and soon were heading to Roald's assigned seminary internship site at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Kalispell, Montana.

By the following May, Shirley and Roald welcomed the first of what would eventually be eight children: Randi Joan; Peter Roald; Erik Paul; Kari Jean; Kristofer Jon; Mark Andrew and Mikal James; and Joel Matthew. While in Havre, Shirley was a nominated by a group of women at First Lutheran Church to be a contestant in the "Mrs. Montana Contest." She became one of the top three finalists in March 1966, when it was reported that "she runs the busiest parsonage in Montana!"

Following Roald's graduation from Luther Seminary and ordination in 1955, he and Shirley served Calls at First American (later Christ) in Whitefish, Montana (1955-1957); First Lutheran in Havre, Montana (1957-1966); Grace Lutheran in Albert Lea, Minnesota (1966-1973); and California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, (1973-1978) before making Apple Valley their home from 1978 to 2019, where Roald served the church in a variety of capacities.

As the CEO of Kindem Home Enterprises, Shirley ruled over her brood with a firm and loving hand, cooking delicious homemade meals three times a day for decades ("No one goes away from this table hungry." – RAK), distributing home-baked treats to friends and neighbors far and wide, sewing clothes, giving buzz cuts, managing internecine feuds, teaching her children piano, and dispensing discipline when needed. The first to rise at morning and the last to retire at night, Shirley was ceaselessly in motion, attending to the needs of those around her. Perpetually active as a choir director, artist, writer, singer, retreat leader, and volunteer in the congregations served by Roald and in the schools her children attended, Shirley's mind and hands were never idle!

In the fall of 1979, as she approached age 50 and the Kindem "nest" grew empty, Shirley enrolled as a student at Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, fulfilling a lifelong desire for more advanced theological education and the opportunity to serve Christ's Church in a new capacity as an associate in ministry. Majoring in systematic theology while purposefully broadening her education beyond what the seminary required through internship and CPE experiences, she was awarded a well-earned Master of Arts degree in May 29, 1983. Subsequent calls served include the National American Lutheran Church Women's (ALCW) National Leadership Training Council in 1986; serving on the staff of Hosanna Lutheran Church in Lakeville, Minnesota (1986-1988); serving on the staff of St. John Lutheran Church in Rosemount, Minnesota (1989-1994); serving as a volunteer chaplain at Fairview Ridges Hospital, Burnsville, Minnesota; as well as serving as an elected member of the St. Paul Area Synod Council and the Synod Candidacy Committee.

Alongside her volunteer and professional work within the church through the years, Shirley expressed her creativity in other outlets as well, including community theatre, and as a member of the Ventura County California Master Chorale, the Macalester Community Chorale, and the Grace Lutheran Church Choir, among others. After she retired from professional church work she found herself exploring a new passion: researching and writing detailed histories of both her mother's and father's families, as well as a three-volume memoir tracing her life story, titled "Growing Up Shirley."

Her artistry also found expression in the unique, heirloom quilts that she created for each of the married couples in her growing extended family, and in matching baby quilts which welcomed each grandchild home; in the dozens of afghans she crocheted for children and grandchildren heading off to college; in the fashionable "American Girl" doll clothes she created especially for her daughters and granddaughters; and in the over 1,000 baby kits she crocheted for newborns. Each and every project she undertook bore Shirley's landmark sense of style and excellence, and this extended as well to her considerable skills as a cook and baker who, especially on holidays, made each occasion special. By inaugurating with husband Roald the biennial Kindem Family Reunion tradition in Whitefish, Montana, in 1995, Shirley gave us a gift that endures to this day.

Adventurous travels in later years with Roald included: Norway (twice); Iceland; Hong Kong and China; the Mediterranean, including Egypt and the Holy Land; Mexico; Northern Europe and Russia, Alaska, the Caribbean; Tahiti, and Australia.

Shirley is survived by her husband of 65 years, Roald, her children and their families: Randi (Albert) Siu, of Carlisle, Massachusetts; Peter (Gabrielle) Dion-Kindem, of Agoura Hills, California; Erik (Christine) Kindem, of Seattle, Washington; Kari (Thomas), of San Jose, California; Kristofer Kindem, of Eagan, Minnesota; Mark (Miriam) Kindem, of Bemidji, Minnesota; Mikal (Diane, deceased) Kindem, of Blaine, Minnesot, and Joel (Susan) Kindem, of San Diego, California.  Their 19 grandchildren and one great-grandchild include: Maren, Jacob (Maryel), Lars (Stephanie), Anneliese, Soren, Nathan (Deyhdra), Megan (Tyler), Kai, Naomi, Lukas, Kirsten, Jonathan, Stephen, Daniel, Sarah (James) with Micah, Cole (Kelly), Matthew (fiancé Ariel), Noah and Harleigh. She is also survived by her sister, Carol (Fred) DeCastro and their four children, former daughter-in-law Jean Miners Kindem, numerous nieces and nephews, and by brothers and sisters in Christ, colleagues, cherished friends and neighbors who have shared this "one wild and precious life" with her. Shirley's spirit lives on in all of our hearts as a life-long example of deep Christian faith, generosity, kindness, perseverance, patience, and devoted service to others.

A memorial service will be held at Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, on April 12, 2019. Visitation at 10:00 a.m.; worship at 11:00 a.m., following by a luncheon hosted by the congregation. Interment of Shirley's ashes will take place at Oakwood Cemetery, Northfield, Minnesota, on April 13, 2019, at 10:00 a.m., for family only.

In lieu of flowers, we invite gifts to the Shirley L. Kindem Choir Endowment Fund at Grace Lutheran Church, Apple Valley.

"Lord now you let your servant go in peace, according to your word.

"For my own eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people. A light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel."

Luke 2:29-32


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