Kathleen Kaye (Nielsen) Kirkegaard died surrounded by love on May 9, 2023 at the age of 76.
Kathy is survived by her loving husband of 53 years, Peter Kirkegaard; son, Lars (Kris) Kirkegaard of Woodbury, MN; daughter, Maren (Lucas) Walz, and grandchildren Amelia and Charles Walz of Ettrick, WI; sister Karen (Chuck) Lorence of Aurora, IL; brother, James (Mary Lou) Nielsen of Racine, WI; nephews, Matthew, Jason, Christian, Jonathan, Stephen; and nieces, Bethany, Claire, Karla, Heather, Gretchen, Bridget, Caralyn, Anna and Lauren. She is preceded in death by her parents, Milton Christian Nielsen and Lilian Margery Larsen Nielsen Adelsen, and step-father Niels Adelsen, all of Racine, WI, and nephew, Andrew.
Kathy was born on March 22, 1947 in Racine, WI. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes at the age of five. She lived with diabetes in remarkable health for 71 years, due in large part to the doting care of her mother, a nurse. She had a special connection through music with her father, who tragically died when she was 17. She graduated from Horlick High School in 1965, UW-Milwaukee in 1969 with a Fine Arts degree in Music, and from Western CT State College in Danbury, CT with a masters degree in Music Education.
She would tell you she first fell in love with Peter at kindergarten Sunday School. That crush was mutual by senior prom and then spanned nearly six decades. She married Peter in 1969. Their two families were dear church friends before Kathy and Peter were even born, and they became closer through the union of their children.
Kathy's greatest joys were her children, welcomed to the family through adoption, her grandchildren, and the hundreds (thousands?) of children she taught throughout her career as an elementary school music teacher in Wallingford, CT and in Minnetonka, MN, especially at Minnewashta Elementary School. Kathy was a fierce advocate for Lars and Maren, and a dedicated fan at countless sporting, music and stage events.
We celebrate with gratitude Kathy's life as a lifelong musician, dedicated and passionate educator, woman of unwavering faith, and a champion for every child. She'll be remembered for her acts of service for friends in need, her connection with her Danish heritage (and Danish blue), her one-of-a-kind laugh, her hospitality, her many deep and enduring friendships, and the requisite "Amen" at the end of every song. But more than all those things, she will forever be remembered for her ability to forgive and her unconditional love.
Kathy's family wishes to thank the home caregivers of Bright Star in La Crosse, the staff at Suite Living of N. St. Paul – in particular, Ashley – who walked with us through the last 15 months of Mom's diabetes and Alzheimer's journey; and the tender kindness that was shown to us at M Health Fairview St John's Hospital.
Kathy's funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, May 19 at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, MN, with a luncheon to follow. Visiting hours will be 5-7 p.m. Thursday, May 18 at Huber Funeral Home, also Excelsior, and 10 a.m. Friday, May 19 at Mount Calvary. Kathy will be buried at West Lawn Cemetery in Racine, WI. We know she is safe, secure, and whole in the arms of her loving God.
All are welcome to attend and celebrate Kathy's life. In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made in Kathy's memory to the Mount Calvary Academy of Music, ELCA World Hunger, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin, Alzheimer's Association, or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation