Our dear mom, Dorene Theisen Leo of West Des Moines, age 94, entered into Eternal Life with her heavenly Father on July 6, 2022. She passed away peacefully at home surrounded by her loving family. Dorene was born in New Vienna, IA on March 3, 1928 to Norbert F. and Irma (McCoy) Heying and raised by her paternal grandparents, Henry and Mary Heying. Mom loved growing up in rural northeast Iowa with a very large extended family all of whom she valued her entire life. She graduated from St. Boniface High School in New Vienna in 1946. Her family delighted in her accomplishments as class Valedictorian, Editor of the “St. Boniface News,” and having had the lead role in the Senior class play “Maid of Money.”
Mom was “lucky in love” twice in her lifetime. In 1947 she married a handsome, hard-working, fun-loving farm boy, Harold “Harry” C. Theisen of Monona, IA. This 25 year union created 5 children. In 1959 the family relocated to Des Moines, happily residing in the Beaverdale neighborhood and joining Holy Trinity Catholic Parish. Harry unexpectedly and tragically died during surgery in 1974 leaving his young family behind.
Dorene finished raising her younger children in their Beaverdale home and eventually was introduced to Guido Leo by a mutual friend. The couple joined in matrimony in 1982. Guido was a wonderful, wise, kind, family man of Italian descent. Dorene and Guido made their home on the Southside of Des Moines where they were devout members of St. Anthony’s Catholic Parish. Mom embraced getting to know the Italian culture. Guido, his mother, Mary, and other Italian friends tutored mom on how to cook delicious Italian food. Mom was tickled pink with winning the 2003 and 2006 “Best Sauce” contest sponsored by the annual “Festa Italiano!.” Dorene was an active member of the Society of Italian Americans Club Women’s Auxiliary. Spending time with family and friends was time cherished. Dancing at the Val Air Ballroom over the years was a favorite past time of Dorene and Guidos.’ The couple celebrated 32 wedding anniversaries until Guido’s passing in 2014.
Mom was a fulfilled homemaker and a devoted, caring and generous mother. Dorene’s family and Catholic faith were the pillars of her life. She was a regular fixture in her kitchen preparing delightful meals and sweet treats for anyone who may drop by. She knew how to lure her children over for a visit! Dorene was an active and devoted member of the Alter and Rosary Society during her entire adult life. Her volunteer work at St. Anthony’s greatly enriched Dorene’s life. She was gifted with a beautiful voice and used her gift in the church choir of all the church communities in which she had been a member. Dorene remained an avid pen pal with life-long friends and family members.
Dorene will be lovingly remembered and honored by her devoted children, Linda (Tom) Armitage of Cedar Rapids, Jim (Marsha) of San Bernadino, CA, Debbie Theisen-Chenchar (Mike) of West Des Moines, Gina Bohler of Lake of the Ozarks, MO, Jeff Theisen of Ocala, FL; 15 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren; sisters-in-law Marfisa “Marcy” Gaulke and Rosie Gibson both of Des Moines; many admiring nieces, nephews and cousins; and a long lifetime full of special neighbors and dear friends, many of whom have gone before her. Additionally, Dorene was preceded in death by her parents; granddaughter, Rachel Theisen Roberts; her brothers, Marvin, Virgil and Ronald Heying; Brothers-in-law Clarence, Lavern, Charles and Arnold Theisen, Matthew Wilwert, Lawrence Petsche, Ted Gaulke and Dan Gibson; Sisters-in-law Ruth Heying, Helen Heying, Alma Wilwert, Leola Petsche, Lucille Theisen, Nettie Theisen, Pauline Theisen and Rachel Quijano.
Dorene and her family would like to thank the staff of UnityPoint Hospice for their expert care, compassion and support over the past several weeks. Special gratitude is extended to Alisha Ruppe CNA and Holly Smith RN.
A private Mass of a Christian burial will be held at Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church in Des Moines for family. Dorene will be laid to rest at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Des Moines alongside Harold Theisen and granddaughter, Rachel Theisen Roberts. Brooks Funeral Care is coordinating arrangements.
Memorial suggestions in memory of Dorene are to Saint Anthony’s Alter and Rosary Society or The Italian Americans Club Women’s Auxiliary for which she served as “Chaplain” for several years.