MINNEAPOLIS — Gabriele (Anderson) Grunewald, a 2004 Perham (Minn.) High School graduate and one of the country’s top middle-distance runners, died at her home in Minneapolis on Tuesday, June 11, her father confirmed to The Forum.
Grunewald was 32.
"She did go to heaven just before 8 tonight," Kim Anderson, Gabriele's father, wrote in a text message.
Grunewald was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2009 during her running career with the Minnesota Gophers. She started to run professionally in 2010.
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At 7:52 I said “I can’t wait until I get to see you again” to my hero, my best friend, my inspiration, my wife. @gigrunewald I always felt like the Robin to your Batman and I know I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind. Your family loves you dearly as do your friends. When @chipgaines made the final push in his #chipinchallenge I could feel your happiness building and could also see that this made you ready to head up to heaven. Chip thanks for helping her to go up so peacefully with no suffering. To everyone else from all ends of the earth, Gabriele heard your messages and was so deeply moved. She wants you to stay brave and keep all the hope in the world. Thanks for helping keep her brave in her time of need #keeprunningonhope #bravelikegabe @pixelcrave @kohjiro_kinno
Sunday, June 9, Justin Grunewald, Gabriele's husband, wrote on his Instagram account that Gabriele had moved into comfort care. Monday, June 10, Justin posted that Gabriele was at their home.
"We got her home to our comfy couch and she is resting peacefully and breathing easy surrounded by her best friends and family," Justin wrote Monday.
Tuesday night Justin wrote in an Instagram post: "I always felt like the Robin to your Batman and I know I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind. Your family loves you dearly as do your friends."
Jeff Morris is the cross country coach and distance coach for the track and field team at Perham High School. He coached Grunewald for her final two years of high school, including her senior year when she won her only high school individual state title in the 800 meters. It was the first state title Morris coached.
"Honestly, I don’t know if I have ever met or had the privilege of coaching a more resilient person," Morris said. "Gabe has always been the kind of person that wanted to take on the toughest challenges."
Brady Speicher is a 2013 Perham graduate and standout runner at both Perham and Minnesota State Moorhead. Speicher has a signed spike that Grunewald brought when she came to speak to Perham runners when he was in high school. He has that spike in his classroom in Battle Lake, Minn., where he coaches cross country and track and field. When people ask him about the spike he tells them it's a long story.
But he always tells the story. He tells students, especially his runners, about the motivation Grunewald inspired. Speicher tells them how a person can be dealt the worst circumstances and still find light.
"She was the perfect role model," Speicher said. "She was never really focused on herself, although she could've been. She was always about doing something bigger than herself.
"Now, when someone asks me about the spike, it'll be a good life lesson on how to live your life."
Gabriele was an inspiration to many during her multiple bouts with cancer that she shared with the public.
"To everyone else from all ends of the earth, Gabriele heard your messages and was so deeply moved," Justin wrote Tuesday night. "She wants you to stay brave and keep all the hope in the world."