Nancy Cora Poppe Creger, 86

Nancy Creger, 86, passed away peacefully with her family at her home in rural Kilkenny, Minnesota on April 29, 2021. Visitation will be held on Tuesday, May 4 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Schoenbauer Funeral Home in Montgomery. An open house Celebration of Life will take place May 22 at the family farm beginning at 2 p.m. Arrangements by Schoenbauer Funeral Home in Montgomery.

On Jan. 9, 1935, the town doctor in Waverly, Iowa was called to the country to assist Lucille and Herman Poppe in the birth of the couple’s first child, Nancy Cora. Three years later, Barbara was born, and the family was complete.

Nancy was a farm girl who delighted in her dog, Shep, and horses, notably Mr. Mike and Penny. She loved to read, often taking breaks from endless farm work, stealing away with a book behind a chair or in the wild grape patch in the pasture. Her favorite childhood book was “Heidi,” and she memorized and recited in church, at age 5, “A Visit From St. Nicholas.”

She graduated with honors from Waverly High School in 1953 and attended nearby Wartburg College for two years. She continued studies at the University of Iowa, with an aim at working with developmentally challenged children.

She had been dating Bob Creger, who grew up in nearby Plainfield. After his service in the Korean War, they decided to get married in 1956 and eventually moved to Minneapolis, where Bob had trained and started work in the painting and paperhanging trade.
After their first child, Leesa, was born in 1957, the couple built a home in the suburb of Brooklyn Center. Nancy and Bob had dreamed of having a large family, and soon came Trent, Eric, and Chris. Even with the growing family, they welcomed foster children into their home, often the most vulnerable of children.

In 1967, the Cregers added infants, Michael and Troy into the family, eventually adopting both of them. Then Sarah and Shana were born.

Nancy was active in the church and neighborhood in Brooklyn Center and gained lifelong friends through shared motherhood and activities. The farm girl was taking to the city.

Then, in 1973, Bob and Nancy decided to leave the suburbs and take their eight children to the farm nestled in the hills of Kilkenny Township that has been the family hearth for nearly 50 years. Bob continued to work full time in the Twin Cities area.

Nancy was the compass on the farm. Her transition to life there, with a ramshackle house and holey barn, took some getting used to. But soon she utilized the skills learned in her Iowa farm days to whip the farm, and her children, into shape.

The Cregers housed a zoo of animals – geese, turkeys, chickens, goats, sheep, horses, pigs and cows among them. They had more than an acre of gardens. Nancy made life self-sustaining there, putting up hundreds of quarts of fruits and vegetables each year along with food from the animals. Grocery trips were rare.

The Creger children have passels of memories from the farm, where Mom’s rules were pretty simple: Go play outside. Finish your list of chores. Come and eat.

Nancy transitioned to keeping extraordinary flowerbeds as she and Bob became empty-nesters. They also traveled, by car, to nearly every state south and east of Minnesota. Nancy also traveled with her children, visiting every corner of the country along with a treasured trip to Scotland.

Nancy was a devout Christian, and active in St. John Lutheran Church in Montgomery, serving as the director of various choirs for many years. She also taught piano.

She remained a voracious reader of all types of books, from beach reads to the classics to historical biography. Her home was one where education and kindness were valued deeply.

She worked at a decorative bird import business in Lonsdale in the 1990s and then at First National Bank in Montgomery, where she gained a whole new set of friends.

Nancy continued to garden and dote on her dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It was a badge of honor for them, and grownups as well, to hear Nancy exclaim “My stars,” or “Bless your heart.”

She was preceded in death by her parents. Bob died in 2006. She lost granddaughter Corey Creger, Trent’s daughter, in 2007.

She is survived by all eight of her children: Leesa Wisdorf, Trent, Eric, Chris, Michael, Troy, Sarah Vergin, and Shana Gerdes; sons- and daughters-in-law John, Michelle, Lisa, Leann, Randy and Mike; her sister Barbara Vette (George) in Waverly; 17 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and extended family in Iowa.

Her children and their descendants will miss the large family gatherings at the farm with Mom at the center of activity — Easter, Thanksgiving and especially Christmas Eve.

A special thanks to daughter Leesa and her husband John for their precious time, patience, and loving and expert care as Mom’s health failed. She would never have been able to spend her last year at the farm without their help.

Thanks to the facilities in Northfield and Faribault that provided Mom a safe place for many months, and to hospice workers who were also so vital to her care. Support and use hospice programs, they are invaluable.

Mom had kind and helpful country neighbors, and we thank them as well.

The family had a small ceremony at Schoenbauer Funeral Home in Montgomery to celebrate Mom’s life. Those who would like to share in memories of Nancy are invited to gather outdoors at the farm from 2 p.m. until the cows come home on May 22. Bring a chair. Her family would love to hear your stories and share in honoring a life well-lived.

Memorials can be sent in Nancy’s name to St. John Lutheran Church in Montgomery. We are sure she also wouldn’t mind a glad thought of her this spring as you plant flowers.

The last few years of limited mobility were difficult for the always-busy Nancy, who at times was awash in frustration and longing to be at the farm, getting things done. Being able to live out her last year there was a godsend.

Today, the family grieves in the loss of her, that compass of Mom. We are warmed by memory; like the times she would take a clutch of her children for rides on backcountry roads in the area. We would squeal in glee, then clamor: “Are we lost yet?”

Mom would flash that wry smile, then take on a resigned, Pooh Bear air: “Yes, I believe we may be.”

We always made it home.

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