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A girl was born to Peter and Bertha Pauly of Jordan, Minnesota on Feb. 16, 1937. She was named Arbadella Margaret; a huge name for such a little one. She carried that name well until her death on Dec. 25, 2022, at the age of 85. She kidded that in first grade it took two notebooks to write her name and almost a whole year to learn how to spell it. Only five other babies born that year in the US were given the same name. Family legend is that the name came from the popular show “Amos and Andy.”
Della, as she became known, attended St. John’s Parochial School through eighth grade. She went on to high school in Jordan where she found that the girls wore lipstick!
During her growing up years, the entire area around Jordan was her playground. She loved to fish at the Mill Pond with dried beef from Pekarna Meat Market as her bait, catching mostly bullheads and turtles. She loved the musty smell, mystery, and the coolness of the falls in the park, and playing in the ravines behind the Catholic cemetery with its gentle river at the bottom. Walking up the Jordan hill to visit her friends, bicycling outside of town, sending radio broadcasts with her friend Janie Ploen Busch’s made-up scripts, and sneaking up to the bell tower of St. John the Baptist Catholic church were some of her delights. She loved hiding under her family’s dining room table reading and listening to “Let’s Pretend.” Sledding in winter, and in summer, rolling down a neighbor’s backyard hill in a large cardboard carpet roll brought giggles and, sometimes, a sore head! Playing paper dolls, requesting autographed pictures of movie stars, and playing house with clothespins and furniture cut-outs from Sears catalog occupied her indoor time. It was a different time, a wonder time, a great time. Yet, it was a hard time too; there were planes flying low overhead toward Fort Snelling, the rationing of gas and sugar, and the fears and realities of World War II. A few years later there were the bomb shelters and the TV show “I Was a Communist for the FBI,” which terrified Della.
Television became a new household norm and the Pauly’s weren’t left out. When color television appeared, a plastic sheet colored blue at the top, red in the middle, and green at the bottom was placed in front of the screen and thrilled the family, even though quite often the faces of the TV personalities were blue or green. Technology marched so very quickly in Della’s life; she could barely keep up with it, though she tried.
After graduating as salutatorian from Jordan High School in 1955, she attended St. Benedict’s College in St. Joseph, Minnesota. She graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Speech. It was there that she was introduced to a most kind, gentle, and loving man named Bob Theis from Mora, Minnesota. She married this dear man in August of 1960. They were married for 53 years.
She and Bob loved traveling. Bob’s military service took them to Germany for a year where Bob taught for the Defense Department. While living in Germany, they camped their way through Europe enjoying almost every weekend with a journey somewhere. It was during that time that her mom and sister Bernice, joined them for a drive-it-yourself tour of Europe. Bob and Della worked for Exxon Oil Company in the late 70’s, spending three summers in Libya, North Africa. The weeks before and after their summers they were able to travel throughout the Middle East and Europe with their children. Additional travels took them to the Holy Land, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Morocco, Thailand, and the Czech Republic. And they both absolutely loved the times in Mexico with their daughter, Ann, and her family.
Bob and Della built their home in Cambridge, Minnesota in 1967. They were blessed with two wonderful children. Ann Marie arrived in 1968 and Peter Joseph in 1971 – to make their lives complete. New interests developed to include the Homemaker’s Club, with its crafts and delicious meals, arranging movies in the garage, and planning plays and parades down the street. The neighborhood of Goldenwood was alive with children, and Della loved it!
Della’s greatest delights were, of course, her husband Bob, her dear children, Ann and Peter, and her lovely grandchildren: Ellie, Zoe, Madeline, Grace, and Jonah. They filled the holes in her heart, especially after her husband Bob passed away in 2013.
Family, traveling, crafting, baking cinnamon and caramel rolls, decorating for the holidays, writing, and reading were Della’s passions. She listened and encouraged others; she loved her church; she deeply loved her family; and she loved going for walks with her dog. First Jet, then Scooter and Oscar, and most recently, Max.
Osakis, Ogilvie, Holdingford, and Braham were Della’s workplaces as a teacher of English in middle and high schools. She found the energy of the students enriching and the camaraderie of the teachers powerful. She also was active in her church, Christ the King Catholic Church, as well as the Women’s Guild and the Funeral Committee. Outside of church, she volunteered with The Harbor Room at the Cambridge Medical Center, supporting cancer patients, as well as helping the Li’l Farm Children’s Home and the Senior Activity Center with fundraising.
Della had a big name, with a big purpose. She followed the path of Jesus until He carried her finally home for her reward on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2022. She was preceded in death by her parents, Peter and Bertha (Busch) Pauly, and her brothers Willy and Jiv Pauly - all of Jordan, MN; and her husband Robert (Bob) Theis. Della is survived by her children Ann (Hiro) Watanabe of Eden Prairie, MN and Peter Theis of Minnetonka, MN; grandchildren Ellie and Jonah Watanabe, Zoe, Madeline, and Grace Theis, and their mother Terri Oestreich of Cambridge, MN; sister Bernice Hoffman of Jordan, MN; and many wonderful nieces and nephews.
Memorial Service 9:30AM, Friday, August 25, 2023 at Christ the King Catholic Church, 305 Fern St. North, Cambridge, MN, with a reception to follow at the Parish Hall. Interment in the Parish Cemetery.