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Phyllis Madeline (Windahl) Gander, 95

Phyllis Madeline (Windahl) Gander of East Grand Forks, MN, passed away on Friday, May 13, 2022, at the age of 95.

Phyllis was born November 12, 1926, to Arthur and Olga (Lind) Windahl, in the Norwegian community near Newfolden, Minnesota. The third of five siblings, Phyllis attended Bethesda Church; gained her education at Fairview Country School; and worked on the family farm. Phyllis was a talented student whose teacher chose her to write the daily announcements on the board, using her artistic flourishes.

Upon graduating from Newfolden High School, Phyllis joined sisters June and Dolores, in Chicago, Illinois, working as a secretary at Carnegie Steel. She also met her future husband, James, who was teaching aviation mechanics for the Navy. For radio audiences in Chicago and at KTRF in Thief River Falls, Phyllis and sisters Dolores and June, performed as a vocal trio, “The Dot and Two Dashes.”

On June 16, 1946, Phyllis married James (Jim) Gander in Viking, MN. During their 69 years of marriage, they lived in Madison, WI; later moved to Moorhead, MN; and finally, settled in East Grand Forks, MN in 1958, now a family of nine.

Phyllis was a multi-talented woman whose love of learning was apparent. Her continual support of her children’s educational success led to college for all seven of them. She then decided it was time for her to enroll at Northland College in EGF, completing a degree in Interior Design for which she earned a Top Student Award. She later gained a Medical Assisting degree and a career at Ames Chiropractic Clinic, where all appreciated her professionalism and fresh-baked treats. She loved painting, continuing study to develop her artistic skills. Phyllis had a way with words and music, frequently reciting memorized poetry and breaking into song. She created beautiful handmade items, and delicious foods such as “gramma meatballs”, lefse, and her “world-renowned” dill pickles. Canning of garden produce filled their “fruit cellar” each winter.

Phyllis was known for her early-morning devotional time with Bible reading, along with prayer for each family member. She exemplified true dedication to her Christian faith, leading Ladies’ Circle meetings, and witnessing to others, changing lives. Phyllis and Jim both served as Sunday school teachers at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. They went on to be founding members at Christ the King Lutheran Church. Phyllis was proud of the large fabric banners she designed for the church sanctuaries.

Phyllis and Jim were lovers of nature; through their cultivated gardens, flower beds, and bird feeders attracting all varieties of birds, God created a rich world to enjoy. Following the 1997 Red River Flood, they showed their tenacity as they stayed in their home on generator power as long as they could, before learning it would have to be removed for the new dike.

Their lives also included travels, to Paris, London, Norway, Abu Dhabi, Hawaii, Arizona, and a number of cruise destinations. Phyllis liked recalling the castles and cathedrals of Europe.

We will always treasure Phyllis’ memory, her lifelong faith, love of family, and unflagging determination. She “fought the good fight, finished the race, [and] kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). We are grateful for both Phyllis and Jim and, though we miss them, believe they are together again, with God.

Phyllis is survived by her sister, Eloise (Windahl) Deihl; her brother, Norlan Windahl; and her children, Larry (Schela) Gander, Portland, ND; Patricia (Terry) Rich, Boise, ID; Bruce Gander, Apple Valley; Cindi (Jeff) Olson, Blaine, MN; Becky (Bassam) Banat, Lakeville, MN; Diana Gander, Andover, MN; and Steve (Ros) Gander, East Grand Forks, MN. She is survived by 18 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.

Phyllis was preceded in death by her husband, James Gander; her parents; and by her sisters, June Barrow and Dolores (Bakke) Mesick.

Pallbearers for her funeral are her 7 granddaughters and 11 grandsons.

Memorials are preferred.

Funeral Service: 2:00 PM on Saturday, May 21, 2022 with visitation beginning at 1:00 PM at Christ the King Free Lutheran Church, 1913 3rd Ave NW, East Grand Forks, MN.

Visitation and Prayer Service: 6:00 – 8:00 PM, with a 7:30 PM Prayer Service on Friday, May 20, 2022 at Dahl Funeral Home, 2029 Central Ave NW, East Grand Forks, MN.

Interment:  Bethesda Cemetery ~ Newfolden, MN

Graveside Service:  4:45 PM on Saturday, May 21, 2022 at Bethesda Cemetery, 7 miles west of Newfolden, MN.

Online Guestbook:


  1. Patricia Rich on May 17, 2022 at 10:35 am

    Special thanks to everyone at Good Sam, where she lived (happily) for a number of years. She made many friends and enjoyed her games of Skip-bo and Bingo. She came to call her apartment “home” though she still owned her family home. Now, at last, she is truly Home.

  2. Diana on May 17, 2022 at 11:15 am

    We miss you, Mom! Love, and God bless you on your Homeward journey.

  3. Cheryl Camp Mcglynn on May 19, 2022 at 3:55 pm

    I am most unfortunate that I did not know this beautiful woman. But my mom, Betty Camp, was blessed by the friendship of Larry and Schela, and Phyllis through them. She adored Phyllis, and loved celebrations and get-together with her. I’m so sorry for the loss of Phyllis, and know that she’s resting with Jesus. God bless you all during this difficult time.

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