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Wadena businesswoman left her mark on community

A skilled baker, canner and sausage maker, a superb bowler, a hard-working farm wife, a sales lady, a business owner and a downtown Wadena property owner - Elaine Kneisl was all of these things and more.

"There was only one Elaine," said long-time friend and fellow bowler Cheryl Kempenich.

The 92-year-old Wadena woman died Sept. 24 at a St. Cloud hospital following a fall and hip surgery.

Kneisl grew up in a family of 11 children and married a dairy farmer, Maurice Kneisl. Their only son, Larry Kneisl, presently lives in Parkers Prairie. Baling hay, hauling milk cans and handling many other challenges did not change until Elaine's husband had open heart surgery and the couple moved into Wadena.

Kneisl went to work as a sales lady at the S & L Department Store in Wadena even before leaving the farm. The work gave her the experience she needed to open "The Cutie Shop" in the early 1970s. The shop sold clothing for the younger set and Kneisl ran it almost single-handed until she closed the shop in 1979.

Meticulous about her personal appearance and her hobbies, Kneisl also stood up for her opinions. She was not shy about voicing them or locking horns with people when she had a different point of view.

"Elaine was very opinionated, but she had a heart of gold," Kempenich said.

One of Kneisl's oldest friends, Wanda Fultz, who is still working in her 80s, lived on a neighboring farm. Whenever Kneisl was going to town she would stop and give Fultz a ride. Were they going to a dance or a movie? No, Wanda recalled, they were usually on their way to the bowling alley.

Bowling was a lifelong love affair for Kneisl. She won a host of awards and competed on the local, state and national level as a bowler. She bowled in up to seven leagues a week for more than 50 years.

Fultz also knew about Kneisl's business side.

"She had a head for business," Fultz said. "She'd speak her piece."

Two of Kneisl's proudest accomplishments was that she was still bowling at the age of 90 and that she served as the secretary of the Monday Night Early Bird League for 30 years. Fultz marveled at her friend's resolve. She did not let her many surgeries stop her from leading an active life.

Kempenich remembers many trips to the VFW Club in Wadena, where she served on the Women's Auxiliary, after bowling for a hand of cards. Whist and 31 were two of her favorite card games.

"If she could find someone to play cards that was right up there with bowling," Kempenich laughed.

Friend and neighbor Cory Holweg was one of the people who looked in on Kneisl after her sight began to deteriorate. Holweg knew Kneisl, a member of St. Ann's Church in Wadena, as a very devout person with great faith.

"She was a wonderful neighbor, very kind, with a great sense of humor," Holweg said. "She had a lot of colorful stories that would stop my kids in their tracks. She was such a grandma to my kids. We looked out for her and she looked out for us."

Kneisl was just as handy around the kitchen as she was with a bowling ball. She had a recipe for venison sausage that was not to be beat. Many local hunters would bring their venison to her. She also canned pickles and vegetables and baked for her friends and neighbors.

Her many friends would agree that Kneisl not only lived a long life, she lived a good one.

"She was very sociable," Kempenich said. "She was very independent, and she like to do a lot of things."

Kneisl's funeral was held Monday at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Wadena.

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