Alice Fransen

Obituary of Alice Fransen

Alice Fransen, age 88, died Sunday, August 23, 2020 at her home in Hutchinson. A graveside service will be held at 1:00 PM on Tuesday, September 8 at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery in Buffalo Lake (564-576 E. Yellowstone Trail Buffalo Lake, MN 55314). The family asks that you bring a lawn chair for your comfort and a mask for the safety of those around you, particularly since some family members work in health care. There will not be a large tent at the cemetery so please plan to bring an umbrella due to the chance of rain. The pastoral staff from Faith Lutheran will be officiating. Arrangements are with Dirks-Blem Funeral Service, Olivia, MN. The family encourages friends and family who cannot attend to share memories at Alice specified that memorial donations be made in her name to Cru (

Alice Leone Gaulke Fransen was born to Cordia (Hochsprung) and Walter Gaulke during a spring blizzard on March 30, 1932, in Sibley County, Minnesota. Each year her dad told her the story of the storm that kept the doctor from reaching their rural Winthrop farm before her birth. In typical March-in-Minnesota style, the next day was warm, sunny, and very muddy. Walter also liked to tell her that she was named Alice because, as the third girl, he thought it would translate to “Das ist alles.” But three more girls and a boy joined the Gaulke family after Alice.

As our Grandma Gaulke told it, Alice always wanted to do what her older sisters did, so she started country school as a first grader when she was five years old. The family later moved to a farm outside of Litchfield and she graduated from Litchfield High School in 1949. She was very active in 4-H, where she honed her public speaking skills. She won the county speaking contest several times, and participated in the state contest after winning at the regional level once. The Meeker County Extension office liked her so much that they recommended her for a job at the Agricultural Extension Office on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. She started work there three days after high school graduation, living in a rented room at 22nd and Emerson in Minneapolis with her sister Theola. She took advantage of her U of M job to earn a few college credits as well. Two years later she joined Northwest Bancorporation, where she worked until her marriage in 1960.

When Theola married, Alice moved to Dunwoody Hall Girls Club in downtown Minneapolis where she met many of her lifelong friends. We remember attending “roommate reunions” of Dunwoody girls as well as roommates in various apartments and houses in southwest Minneapolis. We heard the most about 5439 Penn, though, a double bungalow where she lived with Ruth Schmidt Frederickson (now of Hector), Velda Renner Quandt (who later farmed near Stewart), and Betty Plutschow Hochsprung, who became Aunt Betty after Alice introduced her to her uncle Jim. Alice’s sister Lu also joined the 54th and Penn gang after Ruth got married.

Alice met Wilbert Fransen of Buffalo Lake at a wedding dance in 1959. Although she loved Minneapolis, she always wanted to marry a farmer and move back to the country. She did just that on August 27, 1960 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Brownton. Alice and Wilbert farmed near Buffalo Lake where they raised three children: Janet, Greg, and Scott. Alice volunteered at Zion Lutheran Church and Buffalo Lake Public School. Alice’s children were among the many she taught in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Confirmation, and Junior Great Books.

Alice continued to farm in partnership with her brother Glenn after Wilbert’s death in 1985, and at last moved to her beloved lake home on Lake Marion in 1993. Her son Scott and daughter-in-law Dawn live there now, and Alice never tired of sitting outside near the lake.

As the children got older and left home Alice worked as a bookkeeper at Standard Truck and Equipment, Standard Motors, Roepke Seeds, and All Seasons Landscaping. She retired from her last paying job at All Seasons on her birthday in 1998. 

Alice continued volunteering her time until just a few months ago: After moving to Hutchinson in 2008 she cataloged photos at the McLeod County Historical Society, served on committees and in the church office at Faith Lutheran, and was a member and chair of the Greencastle Condo Board. She enjoyed many visits, coffees, and lunches with friends even as they moved to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.

Alice belonged to many groups, leagues, and clubs throughout her life. One of many highlights from what she called her “widow years” was the group she formed with Marge Plath, Dorothy Kaatz, and Lorraine Grabow. They were known as “The Golden Girls” (at least between themselves) but could never agree on who should be who.

From the time she had a home of her own, Alice was a gardener. As children we helped her can and freeze enough produce from the vegetable garden to feed our family of five all year long. Her chokecherry syrup, made from berries gathered in the grove, is especially well-remembered. But her particular joy was flower gardening, a pastime that she continued all her life. Alice sewed all her life, switching from clothing to quilts in her later years. She created wedding quilts for each child, baby quilts and high school graduation quilts for each grandchild, and made or helped quilt many other quilts for herself, for friends, and for donation. 

Alice made a point of attending as many of her beloved grandchildren’s events as she could, from elementary concerts to high school plays and sporting events to college baseball games. Luckily, she also loved theater and sports at any level. As her grandchildren grew up, Alice maintained a tradition of sending each of them a monthly box of cookies while they attended college. Needless to say, Grandma was very popular with the grandchildren’s roommates. She attended all but one college commencement, sitting through speeches in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Bemidji, Los Angeles, and Mankato. She attended her youngest grandchild’s commencement by watching the video, as all of us did in the spring of 2020, but she surely would have climbed the steps at Mariucci Arena again (or perhaps taken the elevator) had a traditional ceremony taken place.

Alice enjoyed following sports and was a dedicated Gopher, Vikings, and Twins fan. After many disappointing seasons, her faith in the Twins was finally rewarded when she was in attendance to see them win Game 7 of the 1987 World Series. In her later years she became an ardent Minnesota Lynx fan, cheering on local hero Lindsay Whalen and the rest of the team as they won several championships. 

Alice passed away peacefully on Sunday, August 23, 2020 in her home at Greencastle in Hutchinson. As she hoped, her children and their partners were able to care for her at home with wonderful support from Allina Health Hospice. She lived 88 years full of love, generosity, and to-do lists that were full of “done” checkmarks and yet never finished. She will be dearly missed by all who survive her:



Jan Fransen (Carl Stover) of Saint Paul

Greg Fransen (Theresa Paulsen) of Minneapolis

Scott (Dawn) Fransen of Brownton.



Alison Graba

Erik Graba

Maggie Fransen (Andrew Malchow)

Elena Fransen (Ramses Alonso)

Whitney Stock (Ben)

Ryan Fransen

Cassidy Fransen


Great-grandchild Teddy Stock



            Theola Fors

            Jeanne Aeschliman

            Lucille Hadler (Duane) 

            Shirley Lewis (Fred)

            Glenn Gaulke (Darlene)

Many other relatives and friends

Alice is preceded in death by her parents Walter and Cordia Gaulke, husband Wilbert Fransen, son-in-law Lee Graba, sister and brother-in-law Theresa and Lawrence Martini, brothers-in-law Cecil Fors and Roy Aeschliman, parents-in-law Ernest and Anna Fransen, and brother- and sister-in-law Daniel and Ruth Fransen, as well as many close friends.

Several years ago, Alice and her siblings put together a book of family history and stories. There Alice wrote about her first day of work in 1949:

As I rode through downtown Minneapolis, an absolutely delightful sensation surrounded me, for I thought, “I’m independent now and I can do and be anything I want!” Growing up, we never had much money or as many “things” as we probably would have liked, but our parents had certainly instilled in us the love of God, the strength of family and the determination to succeed in life, not necessarily financially, but as worthwhile and contributing people. I can think of no finer legacy.

Neither can we, Mom. 

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