by Cori Hilsgen
A spaghetti-dinner benefit for the Gary Steichen family will take place from 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28 at the Sauk Rapids VFW.
Steichen, 44, drowned June 26 while vacationing at a cabin near Brainerd. The family had taken their boat out on Clear Water Lake to jump off so they could swim. Steichen and his wife, Marianne; along with daughter Ellie, 19, her boyfriend, Michael, and friend, Sydney; daughter Sami, 15, and friend Brittney; and daughter, Tori, 8, were all along. Marianne had just snapped a photo of all of them in the water. Shortly after the photo was taken, Gary told Tori to return to the boat.
Tori didn’t want to leave her father, who had told her he needed help. When she finally started to return to the boat, Steichen told the others that he needed help. Michael jumped in to try to save him, but Steichen was going under the water. Marianne also jumped in to try to help, but he was already under the water.
They all witnessed the horrible tragedy of watching their beloved husband, father and friend drowning.
The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s department and others searched three hours before they found Steichen’s body.
Marianne said Steichen knew how to swim, but the family discovered after his death that he had suffered from dialated cardiomyopathy or an enlarged heart. She said they were not aware he had this and she believes it is probably the reason he drowned.
“My girls and I lost a huge part of our family that day,” Marianne said. “No one loved their family more than Gary loved us. We were his world and he told us that daily.”
The Steichen family have been Sartell residents for 20 years. Steichen and Marianne met on a blind date in 2003 and were married in 2005 in Las Vegas.
Steichen grew up in Waite Park and graduated from Cathedral High School and St. Cloud State University.
He had been in a terrible car accident the summer before his high school senior year. As a result of the accident, Steichen suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for a month. He currently had been receiving disability benefits.
“Gary was an amazing person who overcame a lot in his life,” Marianne Steichen said. “He really truly loved me and the girls so very much and we are feeling that loss every day. We were spoiled by his love for us.”
Marianne Steichen, 46, grew up in Rochester and graduated from John Marshall High School. She works as a senior patient representative at CentraCare. Ellie graduated from Sauk Rapids High School and is in her second year at St. Cloud Technical College. Sami attends Sauk Rapids High School, and Tori attends Mississippi Heights Elementary School. The family has a cat, Shadow, and two dogs, Oscar and Charlie.
Steichen enjoyed woodworking, gardening, cooking and baking. He was well known for his “awesome” monster cookies. The family also spent many hours cheering on the Minnesota Vikings football team together.
The benefit will include a silent auction and meat raffle. Dinner will be served from 4-7 p.m., and the auction and raffle will run from 4-6:30 p.m. A roll of Steichen’s famous monster cookie dough, which he had made for their vacation but hadn’t yet baked, will be one of the silent-auction items, as well as Viking memorabilia signed by Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater, among other items.
Donations for the “Gary Steichen Benefit” can be mailed to BankVista in Sartell. Contact Melissa Palmer at 320-339-9815, Sydney VanHeuveln at 320-309-1475 or Ellie Clark at 320-291-8317 for any silent-auction donations.
Gary Steichen is shown swimming with his daughter Tori shortly before he drowned June 26 while swimming near Brainerd. A benefit for the family will take place from 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28 at the Sauk Rapids VFW.
Marianne Steichen snapped this photo of their family and friends swimming shortly before Gary Steichen (far back) drowned June 26.
A benefit for the Gary Steichen family will take place from 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Sept 28 at the Sauk Rapids VFW. Pictured (left to right) are Sami Clark, Gary Steichen, Marianne Steichen, Tori Steichen (front) and Ellie Clark. Gary Steichen drowned while swimming June 26.