Photography

Donna J. Keisacker

July 26, 1931 ~ January 28, 2024 (age 92) 92 Years Old

Donna Keisacker Obituary

Donna Jean Fibelstad Keisacker left this earth very unexpectedly and suddenly on Sunday morning, January 28, 2024 in her winter home in Mesa, AZ, a short 7 months after her husband, Cecil, died.

Donna Jean Fibelstad was born at home on the family farm near the untamed Prophet Mountains in Sheridan County on the pristine North Dakota prairie.  She entered the world on a hot and humid day, July 26, 1931, with the help of a midwife.  Donna was joyfully welcomed into the family by her mother and father, Dagny and Jerome Fibelstad, and also paternal grandfather, Nels Fibelstad, who lived with them.  Both Dagny and Nels had emigrated from Norway.

Soon the Fibelstad family farm was a bustling place with four brothers: Jerome, Dennis, Percy and John.  Sadly, Jerome died in infancy.  The working farm had a huge barn, horses, cows, chickens and a vegetable garden.  Donna wryly quipped, “at home the only running water was the kids running to the well and running back to the house with it.”  Donna and her brothers had chores like milking cows, feeding chickens and keeping the kerosene lamps clean and full of oil so they would have light in the evening.  They also had a lot of fun playing Monopoly and Bingo, creating their own outdoor recreation and playing in the barn in new hay on rainy days.  Many happy times were spent on Sundays and holidays gathering with both the Glad and Fibelstad grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  The Fibelstad family attended Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Mercer that both sets of grandparents and her father helped charter.  Attending an all day two week vacation Bible school was a highlight.  First and second grade were spent living with Aunt Ragnhild and Uncle Melvin and then Grandma and Grandpa Glad and traveling to the one room schoolhouse with Aunt Edna who was the teacher.  By third grade, brother Dennis was in first grade and together they trekked cross country the two and a half miles over the rolling hills to the one room school closest to the farm - Prophets Township School #3.  By fifth grade, teachers were in short supply due to WW II so Donna’s mother who had previous teaching experience was pressed into service.  When she was in seventh grade just months before penicillin became available for civilian use, Donna suffered from mastoiditis that required surgery and was given a fifty-fifty chance of survival.  Thankfully, she made a good recovery and in her words, “as a result of this, I wanted to be a registered nurse when I grew up and finished high school.”  Donna graduated from Mercer High school along with six others who felt privileged and grateful to do so as some of their peers were needed to work on the farm and unable to graduate.  Growing up in a close-knit rural community along with the intense work, ingenuity and frugality necessary to maintain life on the formidable North Dakota prairie were powerful forces in building strong character.  These forces applied during the Great Depression and World War II with the accompanying rationing, scarcity and uncertainty forged uncommon fortitude in the young Donna Fibelstad.

After graduating from high school in 1950, Donna entered the Bismarck Hospital School of Nursing along with forty-one other students.  Donna attributes this training with instilling discipline and organization and preparing her well for raising a family.  She thrived in the environment of learning, hard work and camaraderie with the fellow nursing students who became lifelong friends.  The nursing students worked in the hospital for room and board with duties encompassing all aspects of patient care including meal preparation.  Upon graduation in 1953, Donna worked for Bismarck Hospital as an obstetrics nurse and supervisor for two years.  During nursing training, Donna was impressed with fellow nursing students who had a strong and personal faith in Jesus.  Donna was grateful for a good foundation in Biblical truth that she received while growing up (she referred to this as “head knowledge”), but realized she needed to submit to God’s call to personally repent and believe in Jesus and submit to him as Lord and Savior.  She obeyed this call.  Around this time, Donna met Cecil Keisacker of Lakota at a blood drive where Donna was working.  In Cecil’s words, “I knew this Donna was not just attractive, but smart, ambitious and an excellent cook.  My social life was being revived, and I knew I needed to get a better job if this relationship was leading to marriage.”  In short order, Cecil expeditiously landed a job in Jamestown as an insurance adjuster.  Donna and Cecil were wed on September 18, 1955 beginning an almost sixty-eight year old love story and marriage.  The text used for their wedding ceremony was Proverbs 3:5,6 (ESV) as follows which also became their life verse.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

After their wedding, Donna worked as a surgical nurse and supervisor at Jamestown Hospital.  While living there, Donna and Cecil welcomed their daughter, Jeanne, into the family.  Their second daughter, Mary, arrived and soon after the family moved to Dickinson where Cecil managed his company’s office.  In 1962, Cecil accepted a position with the company and the family made Minot their home for over ten years where daughters, Julie and Nancy, entered the growing family.  In 1973, Cecil began working for the United States government as a real estate appraiser which took the family to Polson, Montana; Aberdeen, South Dakota; Atlanta, GA and finally Minneapolis, MN.

These many relocations revealed Donna’s keen organizational ability and consummate homemaking skills.  She seemed undaunted at the mission of packing, moving across the country and speedily creating another well organized, peaceful and inviting home.  Being a member of Donna’s family meant enjoying a deluge of delicious homemade meals, expertly prepared and served with a flair.  Since hospitality was an inherent part of her character, many others along with family were nourished and strengthened with her delightful and hearty cooking.  She started baking bread as a ten year old girl for her family and never stopped as she baked untold mouthwatering buns, cinnamon rolls, caramel rolls, whole wheat bread and much more up until her final days.  Donna relentlessly and untiringly turned out untold scrumptious old fashioned chocolate pies, pecan pies, rhubarb torte, banana cream pies, fruit pies, key lime and lemon supreme pies, cheesecake, dream bars, almond bars, lefse, dog ears and much more.  Donna’s prolific Christmas baking and candy making showcased Norwegian specialties and family favorites.  Donna proved to be a capable carpenter assistant to Cecil in finishing the homes they lived in with tasks like taping and spackling sheetrock.  Donna eagerly embraced other domestic endeavors such as painting, wallpapering, planting and tending flourishing flower and vegetable gardens, sewing beautiful clothing for her daughters, refinishing and reupholstering furniture, preserving garden produce and fruit through freezing and canning and making luscious jams and jellies.  The family enjoyed exploring and sightseeing and sometimes camping in the various states they resided.  Donna was very active in the local churches they were members of, happily serving as a Sunday school, children’s church and VBS teacher, Pioneer Girls leader, Ladies Missionary Fellowship member and officer, youth group leader and deaconess.  She thoroughly enjoyed being a camp nurse for five summers, and served with Child Evangelism Fellowship as a hostess and teacher.  Donna volunteered at her daughters’ schools as a teacher’s aide, room mother and member and officer of the PTA.  When her youngest daughter, Nancy, was about nine, Donna continued to pursue nursing part time.  In the ensuing thirteen years Donna worked in skilled care nursing facilities as a staff nurse, charge nurse, In-Service Director and briefly worked as a clinical nurse in occupational health.  Homemaking, nursing and caring for others was an intrinsic part of her being.

By 1991, both Donna and Cecil had retired from their respective nursing and appraising jobs in Minneapolis.  They moved to Grand Forks to be near and assist Cecil’s aging parents, Deb and Jule Keisacker.  In time, they lived with Deb and Jule on the picturesque family farm outside Lakota where Cecil had grown up to allow both Deb and Jule to remain in place.  This was a mutually rewarding relationship as Deb and Jule received loving and excellent nursing care from Donna and at the same time Donna and Cecil thrived on planting hundreds of trees such as chokecherry, crabapple, pines, cottonwood and willow in addition to a massive and gorgeous lilac hedge, daffodils, succulent raspberries, lots of vibrant flowers and of course a huge and bountiful garden.  Donna began quilting as well as diligently curating family photos and slides and earnestly researching family genealogy and documenting findings.  Donna and Cecil greatly cherished this farm life eagerly opening their home to visits with family, neighbors and old and new friends.  There were ambitious extensions of hospitality as they hosted large family gatherings, nursing school reunions, extended visits with grandchildren, hunting parties and church groups.  Meanwhile they escaped the brutal North Dakota winters exploring sunny and warm Arizona.  They resided in the Mesa area and reconnected there with many long time friends from various places in North Dakota who also were riding out the winter in the desert.  Being a member and serving at East Mesa Baptist Church especially in the food bank was also a highlight for them.  During their earlier retirement years they relished some unique travel experiences with Don and Bunny Ericksen to China and Norway and visited Alaska and Hawaii on their own.

In 2019, Donna and Cecil sold the family farm house to be near daughters, Mary and Nancy, and moved to Baxter, MN to a senior living apartment.  During the Covid epidemic, Donna and Cecil would take walks on the Paul Bunyan Trail.  To add interest to this isolating time, Donna challenged themselves to find signs of spring as they strolled along.  One day they spotted a single family house for sale.  Within days, at the ages of eighty-eight and eighty-nine they decisively purchased the home and greatly enjoyed being a hundred yards from the Trail and having more windows and the daylight that poured through them.  Living in Baxter also meant enjoying lots of sweet visits with the Hagens and Ericksens including three new great grandchildren who were born after they moved there.  They enjoyed wonderful times at Ericksens’ home on Lake Placid being loved by grandkids, great grandkids, granddogs, taking pontoon rides and enjoying amazing food made by daughters Mary and Nancy, who were trained by Donna.  During this time, Donna and Cecil continued to enjoy spending the winter at their Mesa home.  Similarly, wonderful times were spent with Jeanne and Keith who also lived in the Mesa area during the winter months and with Seifert children and grandchildren and great grandchildren who made their way to Arizona.

Donna lovingly and determinedly supported and assisted Cecil as he gradually declined in recent years with the Lord granting her desire to keep him living with strength and dignity at home.  On July 6, 2023, the love of Donna’s life, Cecil, left his earthly home to be with his Lord and Savior.  Donna was grateful for him to be released from his failing body and for the almost sixty-eight years together.  She suffered a broken femur in September of 2023 at a family gathering where predictably she had provided old fashioned chocolate pie and raisin bars.  Donna said the recovery from that “was probably the hardest thing I ever did” as she spent about six weeks in a rehab hospital.  Her grit and determination served her well as she made a stunning recovery, regaining full mobility and making her way to Arizona for the winter delayed by only six weeks.  Mary accompanied Donna to Arizona and stayed with her until early January when Jeanne and Keith arrived at their winter home.  She did tearfully comment in the middle of January that “I miss my buddy.”  Nancy made a spontaneous trip to visit on January 21 with Levi arriving the next day.  They spent their days together visiting Donna’s granddaughter, Britt Wilson and family who recently moved to the area, clothes shopping, enjoying a meal at Angry Crab and having a fun dinner at Donna’s home with Seiferts and longtime friend, Peggy Seifert with Donna delighting everyone with her signature baked beans.  On Saturday morning, Donna, Jeanne and dear friend Vicki Schindele had coffee in Donna’s home.  She was planning to attend East Mesa Baptist the next day as well as make a roast for dinner with the Seiferts.  Julie and Richard spoke with Donna on the phone Saturday afternoon, and she wasn’t feeling well but attributed the discomfort to some physical therapy and other activity.  She was hoping to watch Billy Graham that evening.  Donna asked Jeanne to spend the night with her as she wasn’t feeling like herself but wasn’t in distress.  She woke up early on Sunday morning with chest pain, walked to her recliner and while Jeanne called the ambulance she breathed her final breath.  Like Cecil, God granted her strength and dignity until the end.

Donna will be remembered and greatly missed by daughters, Jeanne (Keith) Seifert of Polson, MT;  Mary (Kirk) Ericksen of Deerwood, MN; Julie (Richard) Prensner of Harrisburg, PA; Nancy (Kurt) Hagen of Hastings, MN; thirteen grandchildren; ten great grandchildren; sister-in-law, Suzanne Fibelstad of Fargo, ND; sister-in-law, Donna Fibelstad of McClusky, ND; cousin, Judy Glad of Bellingham, WA; cousin, Donald Sondrol of Turtle Lake, ND; niece, Jessica Fibelstad of Fargo, ND; nephew, Kyle Fibelstad of Fargo, ND; as well as several extended family members and many dear friends.

This is a snapshot of the amazing life of Donna Fibelstad Keisacker who lived her days with zeal and vigor.  She would have attributed this passion to knowing God was her creator and desiring to bring him honor and glory as his image bearer.  As she taught in her Good News Clubs, we are all sinners and sin separates us from God, but Jesus made a way for us to be God’s children.  This way to God was through Jesus dying on the cross for sin and taking the punishment that we deserve and then rising from the dead.  It is through faith in Jesus alone that we can be saved.  Romans 10:9-11 (ESV) says,

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Funeral arrangements are pending for May of 2024, with burial in the Lakota Cemetery, Lakota, ND.

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