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Published: Saturday, 11/18/2006

Ex-teacher served Lutheran schools in Toledo, Michigan

Donna Marie Bickel, 63, a retired area teacher, died of cancer Tuesday in her home in Elkton, Mich., where she was under hospice care for the last week.

Mrs. Bickel, who lived in Toledo from 1971 to 1997, retired a few years ago as a substitute teacher for Lutheran elementary schools in the Michigan thumb-area, where she had taught since 1997.

Before that, she taught at St. Stephen's Lutheran School in Adrian, Zion Lutheran School in Toledo for 25 years, and St. John's Lutheran School, then a one-room schoolhouse, in Alma City, Minn., where she started her teaching career in 1965.

A native of Clarkfield, Minn., Mrs. Bickel, whose maiden name was Steinke, graduated in 1961 from Clarkfield High School as salutatorian.

In 1965, she received a bachelor's degree in education from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., graduating sixth of 72 students.

Besides education, religion was a very big part of her life, said her husband, the Rev. Elton R. Bickel, pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Elkton.

Baptized in 1943 at St. John's Lutheran Church in Yellow Madison County's Omro Township, Minnesota, and confirmed there in 1957, she became a member at St. Paul's Lutheran School in South Haven, Mich., in 1967.

"One of her favorite Bible verses was 'I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.' (Philippians 4:13)," Mr. Bickel said.

"She was always cheerful and upbeat. The children whom she taught always liked her and her attitude," he said.

In her free time, she enjoyed playing the organ, helping with Sunday and vacation Bible schools, quilting, and reading. She also was a Lutheran Girl Pioneer leader in Elkton.

She was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Elkton, where she was active in the Women of Trinity.

Her other memberships included the Elkton Historical Society, of which she was a past treasurer.

Surviving are her husband of 37 years, the Rev. Elton R. Bickel, and brothers, Gary Steinke, Roger Steinke, and Loren Steinke.

Visitation will be after 10 a.m. today in Trinity Lutheran Church, Elkton, where funeral services will be at 11 a.m. today. A second service will be conducted Wednesday at St. John's Lutheran Church in Omro Township, Minnesota.

The Champagne Funeral Chapel, Elkton, is handling arrangements.

The family suggests tributes to the Trinity Parsonage Kitchen Fund or Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.

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