Cover photo for Denise Gunderson's Obituary
Denise Gunderson Profile Photo

Denise Gunderson

d. February 3, 2024

Somerset, Wisconsin

Denise Gunderson

Denise taught everyone to “be in present time.” We’re reminding ourselves of this, and we’re reminding you, too. Now and forever. Because we can still hear Denise saying it.

Denise Mary (Flicker) Gunderson, was born February 22, 1956, in New Richmond, Wisconsin. As life took her from Somerset to Bayport to Stillwater, Denise was never far from the river. She eventually settled back in Somerset, in her own slice of heaven on the back channels of the St. Croix River. That gorgeous, ever-flowing source of energy is all the metaphor you need for Denise herself. Beauty. Strength. Vibrant life. Playful source of joy. Going with the flow. She passed away, surrounded by loved ones, on February 3, 2024, and started spreading her message of joy and love in a whole new way.

It’s natural to feel like she was ripped away from all of us far too early and far too suddenly. But never has it been truer to say about someone that “she’s still with us.” And there’s a sliver of solace in the thought that she’s still continuing to touch people’s lives today and has perhaps found a way to do even bigger work in the world. Even bigger, somehow, than the countless lives she’s already made better throughout her nearly 68 years. 

With an open heart and an open mind, Denise was a 67-year-old with the wonder, curiosity and playfulness of a child. And yet she was like a mother to everyone, with more care and wisdom than you could ever hope for.

Denise was a strong, loving caretaker from a very early age, when her younger sister lived with her as a teenager. Always an optimist, she never dwelled on the parts of her life that others would call struggle. She quickly made wellness and caretaking and healing her life’s purpose, eventually leading her to create what became Healing Waters Health Center. While there was occasionally talk of an eventual retirement, she always made clear that you can’t really retire from something that doesn’t feel like work.

This is the part where we’re supposed to list the family members who are trying to understand what a future without Denise looks like, even though we can still hear her soft voice and feel her warm presence. But Denise’s love and spirit cast a wide net, and she’d bristle a bit at conventional efforts to narrowly define “family.” With her husband Robert, she raised three brilliant and beautiful children, Ania Keliher (Michael, with children Thomas, Jackson and Hudson), Laura Rahn (Chris, with children Violet and Stella) and Ryan, who carry on the legacy of love and laughter their parents started. Incredible children with whom her bond could not have been stronger. Some years after Robert passed away, Thorne Seese danced his way into Denise’s life and became her partner of 19 years. With Thorne came his daughters Lisa Warman (Cory, with children Gage, Ezra, Bella and Carter) and Kristen, and together Thorne and Denise built a life that multiplied love in every direction. Add to that all of Denise’s beloved siblings — Diane, Donna, Debra and Ronald (preceded in death by sister Dolores and parents Ronald and Dorothy) — and their significant others and kids, and an ever-expanding group of loved ones of all kinds, and it goes without saying that everything from Christmas gatherings to simple summer Saturdays were filled to the brim of celebratory joy and energy, and a lot of noise. She loved every second of it.

Denise spread joy, love and genuine enthusiasm for life everywhere she went. Denise was never short on big “what if…” ideas, dreaming of everything from turning a couple of front-yard weddings into a full-on event center business, or just getting the family together for moonlight kayaking under the full moon.

Her biggest “what if…” is a dream that indeed came true when she created Healing Waters Health Center. Eventually joined by her friend and business partner Susan Schultz, Denise and Healing Waters helped countless people feel better and live happier. The only thing that even comes close to approaching the number of love-filled stories Denise would tell about her grandkids is the number of miraculous stories Denise would joyfully tell about the impact she and her colleagues had on people through their work at “The Center.”

She wore countless hats with ease and enthusiasm. Denise loved, endlessly, being a mom, friend, partner, Gigi, healer, boat captain, pumpkin carver, wood splitter, dreamer, Easter egg hunt organizer, town and county board member, caregiver, and more.

Denise’s words are still very much with us today. “Go with the flow” was both part of the drill when kayaking and how she approached each day. “Be present” was her constant guidance to anyone she encountered, whether to help get through a tough time or to fully appreciate a great one. “Everyone wants to love and be loved” was the idea that motivated her in everything she did.

A celebration of life that is sure to be filled with tears while also putting the “fun” in “funeral” will be held at Bradshaw Funeral Home in Stillwater from 4-8 p.m. on February 22. That’s right, it’s a birthday party! Come prepared to share your stories and memories of Denise. We’ll have a camera set up to record video messages for Denise’s family and would love to hear from you.

In lieu of flowers, Denise would instead ask that you be generous with love and hugs, that you don’t take life too seriously, and that you consider making a contribution to the “angel fund” at Healing Waters Health Center - which will help ensure more people can benefit from their miraculous work regardless of their ability to afford it. To make a contribution, visit this page or mail a check to Healing Water Health Center, 6150 Oren Ave North, Stillwater, MN 55082 and mention “Denise Gunderson angel fund” in the memo.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Denise Gunderson, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Gathering of Family and Friends

Thursday, February 22, 2024

4:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)

Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center - Stillwater

2800 Curve Crest Blvd, Stillwater, MN 55082

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