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1949 Dena 2022

Dena Eichelberger

September 13, 1949 — November 6, 2022

Dena Eichelberger, age 73, of Willmar, passed away on November 6, at Bethesda Club Suites after a courageous battle with cancer.


A celebration of life service will be held at 10:00 am on Saturday, November 12, at Calvary Lutheran in Willmar, MN. Visitations will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, November 11, at Peterson Funeral Home in Willmar, MN and for one hour prior to the service. Interment will be at Riverside Cemetery in Spencer, Iowa at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Dena wished for donations to the Hospice program and to support staff training at Bethesda Care Center in Willmar, MN as well as Hope Lodge near the University of Minnesota-Fairview Hospital, which provides cancer patients a place to stay during their treatment.


Dena was born in Waterloo, Iowa on September 13, 1949, to Manford and Theo Osborn. She grew up in Waterloo, Spencer, and Cresco, Iowa, graduating from Crestwood High School in 1967.  She worked as a nurse’s aid in high school and throughout college. She attended Minnesota State College in Mankato where She and Dean met on a blind date. They fell in love and were married on November 28, 1970.


Dena, the president of her class, graduated from Northwestern School of Nursing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in 1972. She worked as a Registered Nurse from 1972-2011 and loved her career. Dena’s time as an Obstetrics Nurse in New Ulm and working with young families through prenatal, post-partum visits at Public Health were the highlight of her career. She also taught Early Childhood Education and Prenatal classes for over 25 years. One of the accomplishments she was most proud of is graduating from Bethel in 1996 with her BS degree in nursing.


Dena and Dean lived in Mankato, St. James and New Ulm, MN before moving to Willmar in 1989, where Dena was the Director of Nursing at Rice Care Center. She also worked at Woodland Centers and spent 15 years at Kandiyohi County Public Health on the maternal child health team.


Family was very important to Dena. She married the love of her life, Dean, and they were blessed with two daughters Tanya and Christine. Dena and Dean had a wonderful life of love and happiness. Watching their five grandchildren growing up has also brought them much joy.


Dena’s passion for nursing and caring for others was evident in the areas where she volunteered. She served as a volunteer Parish Nurse at Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar for 15 years. She also served on the Church Board several times and taught Sunday school when her children were young.


Her interests included playing bridge and carbles. She loved swimming and walking, was active in doll collecting and served many offices in the Sun Bonnet Doll Club. She enjoyed reading, gardening, arts, crafts, sewing, and being with family. Her and Dean attended black powder rendezvous several weekends each summer.


In May of 2019, Dena was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and bravely underwent chemotherapy, thankful for the time she was in remission. In July of 2022, Dena’s abdominal pain returned. Over the next three months it was determined the cancer had metastasized to a level where she decided it was time to enter hospice to carry out the remainder of her life. During those last few weeks, she recounted the wonderful life she enjoyed while teaching those around, and at her bedside, the meaning of faith and the priorities of life.


Dena took a special sense of pride in her position on the Bethesda Board, serving from 2016 to 2022. During that time, she was part of the team that developed their hospice program, scheduled to open in the fall of 2022. Dena’s family is appreciative of the excellent care she received at Bethesda and the support hospice provided to the entire family.


Dena was preceded in death by her only sibling, Robert “Bob” in 1988, her father Manford “Ozzie” in 1990, her mother Theo in 2001, as well as many aunts and uncles.


Dena is survived by her loving husband of fifty-two years, Dean Eichelberger, of Willmar; children: Tanya (Tim) Miller of Sioux Falls, SD and Christine Piper of North Branch, MN; grandchildren: Paige, Evan and John Miller, and Ava and Oliver Piper; many nephews and nieces, other relatives, and friends.


It was Dena’s hope that she made your day better if your paths crossed. In reflecting on her life, she said, “I laughed every day and had fun,” and “I dedicated my life to trying to make the world a better place.” Her compassion for people, love of her family, and passion for her career made her who she was. She will be greatly missed by those that were part of her life.




To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dena Eichelberger, please visit our flower store.
Dena Eichelberger Program.pdf

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, November 11, 2022

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

Peterson Brothers Funeral Home

700 Becker Ave SW, Willmar, MN 56201

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Saturday, November 12, 2022

9:00 - 10:00 am (Central time)

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Celebration of Life

Saturday, November 12, 2022

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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