Audrey Mae Gottschall (Dickens)
July 6th, 1939 – March 13th, 2022
Audrey Mae Dickens was born July 6th, 1939 in Nishu, ND to Felix Dickens, Sr. and Maxine (Hosie) Dickens. She departed this world for her eternal spiritual home on March 13th, 2022, surrounded by loving family after a valiant battle with dementia at the age of 82 yrs old. Audrey was a proud member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara (MHA) Nation.
Audrey, a quiet, thoughtful child, briefly attended elementary school in Nishu, ND. Life in the Dickens home was never dull as the family grew to include a total of9 sisters and 6 brothers (1st born died at birth). In 1954, the family had to relocate to White Shield when the Garrison Dam flooded the small towns now submerged under Lake Sakakawea. Audrey would then attend Catholic boarding schools in Marty and Stephan, SD. As a young school girl, Audrey began displaying a natural gift for music, learning to play guitar and piano by ear. Although painfully shy, her love of harmony prevailed, resulting in collaborative duets and trios with school mates, covering the Everly Brothers, McGuire Sisters, and Elvis Presley (Audrey was a card carrying fan club member). In 1958, Audrey won the honorable title of Miss Fort Berthold. The raven-haired beauty soon started dating the stylish Stetson hat wearing cowboy, Wilbert Gottschall. When asked what caught her eye, Audrey playfully teased, “His swanky style and cool car!” The two married on August 31st, 1958 in Underwood, ND. They made their home in nearby Coleharbor where they raised four children; Terry Lee, Carlotta Mae, Phyllis Marie, and Harlan Scott. Her children were Audrey’s greatest joy (she sweetly referred to them as “my precious darling babies” even into adulthood). In spite of the demands of family and farm life, the young guitar strumming mom still found time for music, winning a local talent show singing Delaney and Bonnie’s “Never Ending Song of Love.” This led to an appearance on regional TV. After acquiring a ’65 Fender Stratocaster, she gigged with local bands, The Sidewinders and The Skylarks. Audrey also loved singing gospel music with fellow songbirds in church (“Where the Roses Never Fade” was a favorite).
Making music with kindred spirits provided Audrey with some of her fondest memories. Even in her final decade, her eyes would light up whenever guitars and tambourines entered the room. And Audrey always had an ear for the good stuff. Her desert island sing-along mix would surely have included Johnny Cash, CCR, Fats Domino, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, and Nick Lowe (to name just a few). Audrey sang from a deeply soulful place which animated her entire body. With her affinity for rhythm, it comes as no surprise that her dancing shoes were never far from reach, amusing bystanders at weddings, concerts, and family gatherings. She especially loved dancing with her children and grandchildren. Once the music started, no one could drag Audrey off the dance floor.
Audrey was also a talented visual artist whose pencil sketches delighted her family. She had a wonderful knack for creating art from scraps. Her resourcefulness was legendary. Rather than a trip to the hobby shop, she’d simply rummage through a junk drawer or take a stroll down a country road, gathering whatever caught her eye. Audrey effortlessly created beauty out of odds, ends, and nature’s bounty. Beyond her farm duties and creative pursuits, she even managed to supplement the family income working at the McLean County Independent (regional newspaper) for a brief season.
Sadly, Audrey’s life permanently changed on March 21, 1988, when a farm accident claimed the life of Wilbert (55), her devoted husband of 30 years. This tragic loss, along with a debilitating health challenge, made the following chapters of Audrey’s life unimaginably difficult. The burden of maintaining the farm/ranch was impossible without Wilbert. After the estate sale, Audrey relocated to St. Cloud, MN to live with her eldest daughter where she remained for the rest of her days. Her devoted family, now 4 generations deep, occupied all of her happiest moments. Audrey was the “cool” Grandma, with her sparkly duds, jingle-jangle jewelry, and up-for anything attitude. Although the last half of Audrey’s life was riddled with insurmountable obstacles, she somehow managed to maintain a sunny disposition. Even after a tearful night, by morning she’d be humming a happy tune.
Her child-like sweetness seemed miraculous to those who witnessed her daily struggles. The beauty of Audrey’s tender heart was on full display in her demonstrations oflove for God’s creatures. She’d fret about the outdoor critters during the frigid winter months. In the spring, she’d talk to butterflies, birds, or any wild creature when she thought no one was looking. Audrey would nurse wounded or orphaned animals (she housed a baby skunk in her youth). Audrey’s random observations were most endearing. She’d curiously muse, “Do you ever wonder what the squirrels are doing in their little homes?” Or she’d gaze into the Heavens and comment, “I’ve been seeing lots of shapes in the clouds today.” Then there’s the quotable family favorite, “Ever since they made it better, it’s not as good.” Audrey was silly, unfiltered, and refreshingly self-deprecating. You could always count on her for one good belly laugh. But most of all, Audrey was kind. She always thought the best of everyone, extending mercy to even those who treated her poorly. She was a friend to the least, the last, the lost, and the lonely. And it didn’t matter if you were a prince or a pauper. You were equal in her eyes. Audrey had the purist heart of anyone we’ve ever known.
Dearest Audrey Mae. We’re so incredibly grateful for the generations of family you brought into this world. You loved us well. We’re forever changed and inspired by the unflinching courage you displayed during your final decades, and especially … your final months, days, and hours. Even though this cruel affliction reduced you to skin and bones… inside of you beat the heart ofa lion.
Fly high, dearest Audrey! Fly high above all the pain this world brought you. You are finally free! God has surely prepared one of Heaven’s most beautiful rooms for you. Someday we will all meet in that place where the roses never fade.
Audrey is survived by her children: Terry Gottschall (Connie), Mandaree, ND; Carlotta Gohman (Tom), Phyllis Johnson, Harlan Gottschall, Saint Cloud, MN. Grandchildren: Nastassia Smith (Dylan), Carver, MN; Jovyel Grant (Daniel), Blaine, MN; Chantell (Brett) Quememoen, Fargo, ND; Cheyenna Poganski (Drew), Treystyn Gohman, Winston Johnson, St. Cloud, MN. Sisters: Jean Oleson, Bremerton, WA; Celeste White Bear, Mooreton, ND; Connie Bennett, Garrison, ND; Holly Fox, Maxine Torres Vasquez, Mandan, ND; Madonna Dickens, Parshall, ND. Brothers: Donald Dickens, Gary Dickens, Felix Dickens, White Shield.
Audrey was blessed with 7 great-grandchildren: Jaydaley, River, Ivory Smith; Adiya, Natania Grant; Jones, and Fjord Quernemoen.
She was preceded in death by her parents: Felix Sr. and Maxine Dickens; Brothers: Max Dickens, Dallas Dickens, Felix Dickens Jr. (1st born); Sisters: Vickie Buckingham, Helen Ray Hunter; Son-in-law: Stefan Johnson; and Grandson: Oliver Johnson.
Audrey Gottschall’s Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, April 9th at 1:00 pm at Miller-Carlin Funeral Home in St. Cloud, MN.