Obituary of Patricia Sturcken
Patricia Sturcken passed quietly at home on November 23rd after a long fight against Multiple System Atrophy, a rare progressive neurological disease that robbed her of her mobility and ability to speak, but not of her love for life or her sense of humor. She will be remembered at a Memorial Service January 12 at 11am at St George’s Episcopal Church, 5224 Minnetonka Blvd, St Louis Park. Donations requested to the MSA Coalition, or Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
She was born Patricia Splinter in Waseca, MN in 1947, the middle child of 3, older sister Phyllis (Von) Von Holdt, and baby brother, Gene (Shelby) Splinter. She got her love of music from her father, who played the fiddle, among other instruments. Her parents met when her mother snuck out to a dance where he was playing, and then defied her Baptist parents by following him to many gigs after that.
In 1957 they moved to a farm outside of Good Thunder, MN where her parents lived until their deaths in 1975/6. Patricia graduated from Mapleton High School in 1965, attended Coe College in Iowa, then Mankato State University, where she graduated Phi Kappa Phi and became a teacher. She married Alan Cheney and moved to Frost, MN. They had a daughter Jean (David) Wayne and adopted daughter Raquel Cheney. They divorced in 1975 and Patricia and her daughters lived in Mapleton, New Ulm and Marshall as she earned her Master’s degree from Mankato State University and became a computer programmer/analyst, one of the first women in the field. She worked from the time she was a teen, starting at the Green Giant pea-packing plant, until she was forced into retirement due to her Disease, with the exception of just a few years of being a full time Mom. She worked at Taylor Lumber, Minnesota Valley Testing Lab, Mankato State University, Southwest State University, Worthington Community College, Minnesota Corn Processors, MN Supreme Court, and finally for John Alden/Assurant. She also worked as a machinist and lathe operator in Granite Falls, the only woman in the shop.
She moved to Marshall when she married Professor Frank Sturcken, who shared her love of music and theater. He had a daughter Elizabeth (Robb Waterman) Sturcken who became a part of the blended family. In 1979 Frank and Patricia had a son, Frankie, who sadly died of leukemia in 1989. All of their daughters were off at University by that time, so when the dorms at Southwest State University flooded, they invited some of the displaced students to live with them. Janice Kuschner, who Patricia fondly referred to as her “semi-adopted daughter,” helped fill a void in the house and in their hearts.
Patricia often said her kids were “His, Mine, Ours, and Somebody else’s.” She continued to open her heart to others for the rest of her life, adding many “semi-adopted” members to her family, Angela (Keith) Taylor, Nathan (Destinie) Cheney, Tiffany (Andy) Galatovich, all of their children, and so many others
In Marshall, Patricia became active in Al-Anon, and continued to be active wherever she moved, Granite Falls, Plymouth, Anoka, Coon Rapids and became a volunteer at all levels, from leading meetings at the local women’s prison, to serving on the World Service Conference. Even after she was confined to a wheelchair, she traveled to the Convention in Vancouver, which became a fond and funny memory.
She was a musician from the time she started band in Waseca, and played her flute, guitar, recorder, and sang (beautifully) at picnics, nursing homes, for her church parishes of St James in Marshall, and St George’s in St Louis Park and as long as she could, to her grandchildren, John, Rylan, Anna, Daija, and Rasheed, step-grandchildren Brandon, John, Matt, and Zack, “semi-adopted grandchildren” Evelyn, Zack, Dani, Lexi, Lily, Molly, and Layla and great-grandchildren Maddie and Parker.
It was playing the flute that gave her the first clue that something was going wrong in her brain, when her little finger decided to trill a note on its own. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008, and after a very rapid progression of disparate symptoms, with MSA in 2009. She fought valiantly, with help from her family, the Mayo Clinic, Struther’s Parkinson Center, and many loving friends. She outlived all expectations, and continued to travel and enjoy the MN Orchestra and the wonderful theater and music scene in the Twin Cities until the very end.
She is now free from her broken body and happily spending eternity with Frank, Frankie, her parents, and many other cherished relatives and friends who passed before her.