September 22, 1931 - December 17, 2020


Estelle Schwinghammer, formerly of Albany, Minnesota, died peacefully early Thursday, December 17, 2020. Estelle was 89 years of age. As the oldest daughter of John and Anna Thelen, Estelle was born on a farm in Saint Martin, Minnesota, in 1931 and responsible at an early age to care for brothers and sisters. Estelle was born during an era where families needed to be self-reliant, and it was considered normal to have a large garden and resulting harvest of fruits and vegetables for canning and cooking meals, baking twelve loaves of bread from scratch each week, feeding farm laborers or sewing and mending clothes. Estelle could multi-task with the best of them at a young age.

Estelle met Val “Chub” Schwinghammer at the Avon Ballroom, Avon, Minnesota, and the two were immediately taken with one another. Marrying at 18 years of age (almost 19 as she would say…), and as a young mother of six children on a farm near Albany, Minnesota, Estelle was a partner in every sense with Chub. Whether it was raising chickens or livestock, whether it was fixing a fence, or driving machinery, Estelle was there. She sewed beautiful clothes for her children, matching outfits when they were young, and as teenagers, designing new trendy clothes herself when a daughter “had a new idea.”
Estelle was always active in projects. When her children were in 4H, she started the first recycling program in Stearns County, collecting glass and aluminum every Saturday in Albany and hauling it to the central collection center. Her baking skills were extraordinary and included gloriously decorated Christmas cookies, divine apple strudel, wonderful, sticky caramel rolls, and Chub’s favorite (and Grandma Kate Schwinghammer’s recipe), “kolatches.” All of Estelle’s baking results were relished and eaten with abandon.

In 1979, Estelle and Chub built their future home at Two Rivers Lake. There she enjoyed her personal passion for oil painting, quilting, fishing, and building bluebird houses. With natural talent and skill, Estelle painted beautiful landscapes, now cherished by her children and grandchildren. Estelle loved the outdoors and the lake home was a center of family fun and activities for three generations. Whether it was water skiing, paddle boating, or watching the sunset with a campfire, Estelle was the heart of the family.

Estelle believed in giving time to others in need. She was a member (and leader) of a quilting circle, with members creating wonderful quilts for the charities including Saint Cloud Mission and Albany Bazaar, as well as for her children and grandchildren. She was a volunteer at the Mother Seton, a second-hand store in Albany, and always helped those in need – whether it was a sister in law who needed an easy “knot off” quilting project to keep busy as her eyes failed or a neighbor who needed help getting to the doctor. Estelle always gave the best of herself. She was a kind, gentle person who was always there to help one of her children or grandchildren. Estelle was completely loved and brought so much joy to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 AM on Tuesday, December 22, 2020, at Seven Dolors Catholic Church in Albany for Estelle Schwinghammer. Matthew Vebelun, OSB, will officiate and the entombment will be in Seven Dolors Parish Mausoleum. Friends and relatives may call between 9:30 – 11 am, prior to services in Seven Dolors Church. Arrangements have been entrusted to Williams Dingmann Funeral Home.

Estelle’s life was greatly enhanced by many thoughtful, compassionate caregivers including those at Mother of Mercy and Heartland Hospice. We are eternally gratefully for the kindness that was given to our mother.

Survivors include her children, Sherry Frederick of St. Louis Park, daughter-in-law, Anita Schwinghammer of Grey Eagle, Judy (Mark) Gileczek of Bloomington, Connie Larson of Oak Grove, Jackie (Ed) Atkinson of Freeport and Larry (Shelly) of Albany; 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Estelle was preceded in death by her husband, Val “Chub” in 2018, son, Randy, in 2016, son-in-law, John Ronallo, in 1975, Estelle’s brothers and sisters, Bob Thelen, Fred Thelen, Karleen Tomsche, Leon Thelen, Virginia Thelen, and Clifford Thelen.