Constance Elaine Heaser Strand, age 84, of Winona, MN, and formerly of Fountain City, WI, died peacefully on Wednesday evening, October 5, 2022, at Benedictine Living – St. Anne in Winona, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Connie was born July 24, 1938, to Evelyn (Cook) and Eugene Heaser at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. She grew up on the family farm near Altura, and graduated with honors from Plainview High School in 1956.
Connie studied Math and Art at Winona State College, where she was proud to be one of the first female Math majors. In her Art studies, she specialized in oils, watercolors, pottery, and weaving. She was very involved in college activities, including serving as a class officer, Newman Club president, Homecoming Queen attendant, and a member of the Warriorettes dance team, where (as she liked to remind her grandchildren) she was particularly proud of the team’s high kicks!
After graduating from college with double majors in 1960, she took her first teaching job at St. Charles High School. She completed a Master’s Degree in Art Education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO, in 1962, and then held various Math and Art teaching positions at Hayfield, MN, Edgerton, MN, and Cochrane-Fountain City Schools, before taking several years off from teaching to raise 3 children. Connie returned to instructing Math in the Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau School District in 1979, until she retired from teaching in 1991.
Through the years, Connie also worked as a realtor for Button Realty in Black River Falls, WI, and she owned her own agency Strand Town and Country Realty in Fountain City. She managed multiple rental properties in the Fountain City and Winona areas, and in the final years of her professional life, Connie also owned Strand Insurance with husband Gavin, specializing in serving the needs of Seniors throughout the western Wisconsin area.
Connie met her future husband Gavin Strand on a blind date at 1959 Winona Steamboat Days. As Gavin tells the story, she took his hand as they crossed the street in front of the Winona Hotel, and at that moment he knew she was the one for him! They dated for three years, and were married August 16, 1962, in Greeley, CO, after taking their final exams for their graduate degrees at the University of Northern Colorado. Their wedding was attended by lifelong friends Lorna and Carl Montzka.
Connie enjoyed many enthusiasms through her life. As a girl growing up on the family farm, she loved helping her father Eugene by driving tractor and working outdoors. In later years, she enjoyed puttering in her gardens, building spec homes for sale, and engaging in any effort involving the use of power tools, cement mixers, or farm vehicles. She was a wonderful candy maker, and loved sending packages of homemade English toffee, peanut brittle, and caramel corn to family each Christmas. She enjoyed hosting dinner parties, and she was famous for the delicious yeast rolls she baked at holiday time. She also possessed expert-level skills in preparing batter-fried fish, onion rings, and cheese curds.
After retiring from teaching, Connie became very active as a docent at Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, where she spent many happy hours talking with visitors about the art, and sharing bits of history about the surrounding Southeastern Minnesota area. Connie also loved animals, and enjoyed feeding the birds and spoiling her favorite dog “Phoebe,” a rascally Bichon Frise who passed away in 2019.
Connie was intelligent and independent, a member of League of Women Voters who fought for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970’s, and a proud life-long Democrat. She expected her 3 children to work hard and make their own way, and her favorite parenting guidance to them was always, “be a leader, not a follower!” She successfully combined a career with her responsibilities as wife and mother, and she was the best partner a husband could ask for.
Connie is survived by her husband of 60 years Gavin, and their 3 children: Elizabeth (Dean Cimini) of McKinney, TX; Jennifer (Doug Mattson) of Albuquerque, NM; and Robert (Sarah Bly) of Albany, CA. She is also survived by 5 grandchildren: Kai and Leif Mattson, Olivia Cimini, and Mikkel and Jonas Bly-Strand; her 3 siblings Eileen Heaser (Sacramento, CA), James Heaser (Bruce, WI), and Thomas (Barbara) Heaser (Elgin, MN); sister-in-law Kay Nelson (Albuquerque, NM); brother- and sister-in-law Leof and Susan Strand (Albuquerque, NM); 6 nieces and nephews: Ericka Zavada, Ian Heaser, Brynn Soderlind, Seth Heaser, Nathaniel Heaser, and Shannon Heaser; her aunt Verna Heaser (Rochester, MN); and many cousins. Connie was preceded in death by her parents Evelyn and Eugene Heaser, niece Jaime Gartner, and brother-in-law David Nelson.
A visitation will be held at Hoff Funeral and Cremation Service (3480 Service Drive, Goodview) on Saturday, November 12, at 3:00 p.m. A Celebration of Life service will be at 3:30 p.m. with a reception to follow. Private burial will be at Woodlawn Cemetery in Winona.
Connie’s family would like to thank the staffs at Adith Miller Manor, St. Anne 5th Floor Memory Care, and Winona Health Hospice Services for their compassionate care and the quality of life they allowed Connie to experience in her final years.
Memorial gifts in Connie’s honor can be directed to St. Anne 5th Floor Memory Care (write checks to “Benedictine Foundation Winona for St. Anthony Fund” and mail to St. Anne, 1347 W. Broadway, Winona, 55987) or Woodlawn Cemetery Association (506 West Lake Blvd, Winona, 55987). Husband Gavin may be contacted at his new home address, 1455 W. Broadway, Apt. 223, Winona, MN, 55987.
Hoff Funeral and Cremation Service, Goodview, is assisting the family.
The visitation and the celebration of life service will be livestreamed for those who are unable to attend. Please follow the link below to watch.