On August 27, 2023, not long after the sun rose over the lake for his 73rd birthday, Dennis Alvin Gaalswyk, 73, of Cannon Falls, MN, finished the race set before him and was welcomed into the arms of Jesus. Dennis passed away peacefully at his home on Lake Byllesby, with his beloved wife, Karen (Kooima) and daughters, Amy (Crane), Stacy (Levang), and Erin (Gaalswyk) at his side.
Dennis was born on August 27, 1950 to Alvin and Janet Gaalswyk in Hull, Iowa. Dennis grew up on his family’s farm just outside of Rock Valley, IA and was the oldest of five children, including one brother, Marlo, and three sisters, Barb, Joyce and Sharon. He attended primary and secondary school in Rock Valley and was active in band, choir, basketball, and FFA. He also enjoyed working with his Dad on the family’s dairy and grain farm. During his junior year, a certain Western Christian High School student, Karen Kooima, caught his attention. The two became high school sweethearts. Dennis graduated from Rock Valley Community High School in 1968. He went on to further his education at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, earning a Bachelors of Science degree in Food Technology. During his years at ISU, in addition to participation in several agricultural clubs, Dennis was also an active member of the ROTC program. On June 3, 1970, Dennis and Karen were joined in marriage in Rock Valley. Following his graduation from ISU in 1972, Dennis was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Basic Combat Training Brigade of the US Army in Fort Ord, CA. In 1976, Dennis retired from active duty with the U.S. Army as a 1st Lieutenant, Engineer Company Commander and Supply Officer of the 7th Division.
Dennis and Karen made their home in several towns, cities and states while raising their three daughters. Leaving Fort Ord, with two little girls in tow, the young family moved to Sioux Falls, SD. Here Dennis began his career in the dairy production management and quality control industry. Dennis went on to work for several different food companies, including Terrace Park, Bridgemans, Land O’Lakes Dean Foods, and Quality Chekd Dairies, which resulted in his family calling Sioux Falls, SD, Thief River Falls, MN, Grand Forks, ND, Woodbury, MN and South Elgin, IL home. Dennis retired as a Dairy Food Specialist with the Food and Drug Administration in 2018. He did consultative work for several years following his retirement from their home on Lake Byllesby.
During his career, Dennis was an incredibly dedicated and hard working man, yet he also enjoyed many hobbies outside of work. First and foremost, he loved his family and friends and spending time with them. He loved being outside, tromping through the woods, hunting, fishing, and driving his pontoon around the lake. He enjoyed singing in a variety of church choirs and was often known to be frustrated if every verse of a hymn was not sung. With both family and friends, Dennis and Karen loved traveling together and visited many places, near and far. Dennis also could often be found with his nose in a book. From a history book to a mystery novel or the daily newspaper to every single word on a museum placard, Dennis was an avid reader. His favorite book, however, was his Bible. Dennis’s faith in Christ was at the center of all he did, from the manner in which he conducted himself in business to the way in which he led his family, loved his wife and raised his girls.
Dennis had several roles and went by various names: Son, Brother, Husband, Dad, Uncle, Dennis, Den, Dennie, or Big D. But perhaps his favorite name was that of Pake. Nothing brought a twinkle to his eye more than his five grandkids; Grace, Titus, Grant, Zoe and Boden. Pake loved playing games with his grandkids, making them bacon and French Toast for breakfast, taking them for tube rides around the lake, cheering them on in their various sporting events or hobbies, and taking them on many adventures and vacations. He was a gift giver, a partner in mischief, and always their number one fan. His legacy of faith lives on in each one of them.
Dennis is survived by his wife, Karen (Kooima) Gaalswyk, his daughters Amy Crane (Curtis Crane), Stacy Levang (Michael Levang) and Erin Gaalswyk (Kevin Fuller), his grandchildren, Grace Crane, Titus Levang, Grant Crane, Zoe Levang and Boden Levang, his brothers and sisters and their spouses, Marlo Gaalswyk (Debbie Gaalswyk), Barb Held (Bruce Held), and Joyce Braunagel (Brad Braunagel), his brothers-in-law and sister-in-law, Tim Kooima, Gary Kooima and Joan Kooima, as well as several nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.
Dennis was preceded in death by his parents, Alvin and Janet Gaalswyk, his sister, Sharon Gaalswyk, his father-in-law and mother-in-law, Samuel and Sue Kooima, his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Jim and Elda VanMaanen, and his sister-in-law, Clarine Kooima.
Contributions in memory of Dennis may be directed to:
Inspiration Point Christian Camp and Retreat Center
16157 County Highway 65
Vining, MN 56588
A celebration of Dennis’s life will be held for close family and friends on Saturday, September 2, 2023, at 3:00 pm, in the chapel of Lundberg Funeral Home, 5839 Hwy 19 Blvd, Cannon Falls, MN 55009. Dennis' service will be livestreamed, and may be viewed by clicking the link below at the time of the service.
LIVESTREAM INFORMATION: For those who would like to participate in Dennis' service via livestream, you can watch the service on Saturday, September 2, 2023, at 3:00 pm. It can be viewed by scrolling to the bottom of this page and click PLAY to begin. Please leave a message of support on our Tribute Wall to let the family know you were able to watch the service. If you are having troubles with the livestream, the service will be available to watch later in the day.