Feb. 26, 2023

Phyllis I. Piepenburg, 93, of Litchfield, died on Sunday, Feb. 26, at CentraCare Hospital in St. Cloud. A public visitation will be from 10 a.m.-12 (noon) Saturday, March 4 at Beckville Lutheran Church, to be followed by her funeral service at 12 (noon). Interment will be in Beckville Lutheran Church Cemetery at a later date.

Phyllis Idell Warren Piepenburg, the sixth of 15 children of John “Martin” and Inez (Peterson) Warren, was born in Grove City on Dec. 20, 1929. She was baptized and confirmed at First Lutheran Church, now Trinity Lutheran Church, of Grove City. She graduated from Grove City High School in 1948. As a teenager, Phyllis was a telephone operator and a “hired girl” for Mrs. S. W. Holmquist, who was a homemaking mentor for her.

On Sept. 28, 1948, Phyllis married Hugo Paul Piepenburg at First Lutheran Church in Grove City. They farmed in the Meeker County area, raising dairy cows, pigs, corn, and soybeans. They were blessed with eight children.

Phyllis was the heart of her family and home, creating wonderful meals, baking tasty pies and treats, keeping a spotless house, patching, and fixing whatever was worn or torn, canning, freezing, raising, and butchering her leghorn chickens, active in the mother’s group at country school and keeping the books for the farm, all while raising her eight kids. She instituted the “10:00 Treat”, which bought her a few minutes of quiet from her kids, while she listened to Norma Burke’s local radio show, catching up on local news and announcements for funerals and bridal showers, with a recipe thrown in regularly. On the coldest of winter days, mom would take turns with other country school moms and cook up a big hotdish for “dinner” (that’s what the noon meal was always called) and deliver it to the country school so the kids would have a warm meal that day. On hot summer days, mom would pack us up and drive us to the Beckville Lutheran Church Picnic Grounds beach on Lake Minnebelle and act as our lifeguard, even though she couldn’t swim a stroke. Sometimes, as a treat, we had a big jug of cold A&W root beer waiting for us when we got back from our swim.

Beckville Lutheran Church was central to Phyllis’s life, she was active in women’s circles. She would fry-up chicken in the days of the Fourth of July celebration at the Lake Minnebelle picnic grounds, brought treats for Bible school, baked up goodies for the Fancy Cookie Sale and changed altar paraments. She carried on the Warren traditions of her childhood, preparing fruit soup, oyster stew and lutefisk, with white sauce of course, and creating her own birthday tradition for her family – every birthday was celebrated with angel food cake, strawberries, and whipped cream.

Phyllis and Hugo spent 23 years camping and fishing at Lake Geneva and Lake Mary in the Alexandria area, creating lifelong friendships with their fellow campers. Phyllis and Hugo were wonderful dancers and regularly danced in Cosmos, Paynesville, Cedar Mills and anywhere else there was good, old-time music. Their kids were all taught to be dancers, too, at family wedding dances or anniversaries or just dancing around the kitchen table on Sunday afternoon, with the radio tuned to New Ulm or Albany. Phyllis and Hugo enjoyed many Rustad bus trips, making lifelong friends along the way.

Phyllis became a widow in 2008 after 60 years of marriage to Hugo. Being fiercely independent, Phyllis remained out on the farm for five years, then moved into Litchfield to her Cottonwood Avenue apartment where she lived independently until her death. A stroke in 2022 was a real challenge for her, but she worked hard in her rehabilitation and triumphantly returned to her Cottonwood Ave apartment after three months. She enjoyed her grandchildren, remembering them with birthday cards, camping with them at the annual Piepenburg camp out up until she was 91 years old, and making sure the reservations for the shelter were made for the annual Piepenburg picnic.

Phyllis loved feeding her birds, doing jigsaw puzzles, watching “her music” (the public access channel old time music shows), her daytime “stories”, Blue Bloods and Magnum PI TV programs, long phone conversations with friends and family, trying new recipes, eating fried sunnies and feeding her family and guests, many times, needing to be coaxed to sit down and join everyone at the table. She even had a fish fry just a couple weeks before she passed away. She loved being busy and getting out, especially with her Tuesday morning coffee ladies, her Cottonwood Avenue friends and neighbors, her class of ’48 classmates and going dancing with her group of women friends.

Phyllis was a feisty, energetic, generous, outspoken, hardworking, fun-loving woman who lit up a room. She will be deeply missed by her family and friends.

Phyllis is survived by her children, Julie (Robert) Plaetz of Lucan, Jeffrey Piepenburg of Grove City, Jay (Mary) Piepenburg of Cokato, Joel (Julie) Piepenburg of Brooten, Jayne Piepenburg of Litchfield, Vicki (Mark) Fastner of Woodbury, and Tracey (Mardi) Piepenburg of Alexandria; 12 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; sisters, Fern Peterson of Junction City, Kansas and Faye Kjolsing of Litchfield; brother, David Warren of Colorado Springs, Colorado; sisters-in-laws, Adeline Piepenburg of Litchfield, Jody Warren, of Hingham, Montana.

Phyllis was preceded in death by her parents; 12 siblings; daughter, Joyce Piepenburg; and great-granddaughter, Adeline Raisanen.

An online guestbook can be found on her obituary page at www.johnsonhagglund.com. Cards and condolences for the family may be sent to Johnson-Hagglund Funeral Home.