Lillian Rose Shafer (LeClerc) was born December 21, 1932, in Grafton, ND, the oldest of eight children blessed to Alexander and Mae (Schumacher) LeClerc. The family farmed near Grafton, Devils Lake, and Drayton, ND. Lill attended country school in Acton Township until sixth grade when her family enrolled her and younger sister Bev in Devils Lake Public Schools. A gifted student with a true passion for learning, Lill quickly advanced two grades, graduating at age sixteen from Devils Lake High School as salutatorian in 1949.
During the Depression, college seemed out of reach. The Lord had a plan. While washing the kitchen floor one afternoon, Lill noticed on the newspaper beneath her knees that a four-year college scholarship was available for two North Dakota students. Her mother signed her up and found her a ride to take the qualifying test halfway across the state. She won the scholarship and was off on a train to Valparaiso University in Indiana as a very naïve sixteen. That may be why she taught her children to rest their knees on newspaper while washing the floor.
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry from Valparaiso University, a Master of Science Degree in Nursing from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a Registered Nursing Degree from St. Luke’s School of Nursing. Graduating from three institutions within a month caught the attention of a reporter with the Chicago Sun Times who published an article noting her achievement. Lill was offered the opportunity to further her medical training at Columbia University, but homesick for family, returned to Devils Lake to practice her craft and teach nursing students at Lake Region Junior College.
In 1961, she married Gordon Shafer. The couple lived on the Shafer family farm near Devils Lake through the birth of their first four children before moving to Detroit Lakes, MN in 1967 where Gordon accepted a position with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Lill worked as a nurse on the surgical and pediatric floors of the hospital in Detroit Lakes until the birth of their youngest child. Once the kids were all in school, Lill returned to gainful employment, teaching anatomy and physiology at the Technical College in Detroit Lakes. She was loved and revered by her students as a wonderful teacher and a truly compassionate mentor and friend.
Apparently raising five children and working full-time wasn’t enough to keep Lill and Gordy busy. In the early 70’s, they bought a farm northeast of Detroit Lakes. Starting with little more than well-used machinery and a few cows, they named their ranch the “Shoestring” and what started as a hobby grew to over five hundred head of breeding stock.
Known for her quick wit, Lillian brought levity and humor to every conversation. She was an amazing person who forever put the needs and wellbeing of others before her own. Whether those in need were friends, family, or someone halfway around the world, Lill felt called to help. Through Lutheran World Relief, Orphan Grain Train, and Operation Christmas Child, over the years she sent thousands of boxes filled with items she had carefully collected throughout the year to children and families in need around the world.
Lillian was a light in the world and an instrument of God’s love and grace on this earth. She is survived by her husband Gordon, son Wade (Kathy) Shafer, daughters Brenda Shafer, Dawn (Mike) Forbes, Shannon (Robert) Maixner, and Dixie (Jerald Dosch) Shafer, grandchildren Sadie, Samantha, Aaron, Alec, Lillian, Finna, Aidan, Kaia, Lucy, Christian, Tony, Mike, Jake, and Kristi, brother Dale (Betsy) LeClerc, and sister Rosalie (James) Ringstrom, and sisters-in-law Judy LeClerc, Collette LeClerc, Carol (Art) Rohr, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Lillian was preceded in death by her parents, sister Beverly Schmidt and her husband Leo, brothers Gerald, Raymond, Ronald, and Warren LeClerc, sisters-in-law Myrna LeClerc and Luella LeClerc, brother and sister-in-law Richard and Helen Shafer, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.
The family would like to thank Sue Mayfield, Deb Smith, and Alicia Chilton for their loving care and support of Lillian and her family as she battled Alzheimer’s.
Services were held Saturday, October 16, 2021.
Contributions to honor Lillian’s memory can be made to Zion Lutheran Church, the Gordon and Lillian Shafer 4-H Endowment for Youth Leadership and Service, z.umn.edu/shafer, or the Alzheimer’s Association, 7900 West 78th Street #100, Edina, MN 55439.