Gene Neitzel, 54, Albert Lea

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2005

The funeral service for Gene Arthur Neitzel, of Albert Lea, will be held 3 p.m.

Thursday, July 7, at the United Methodist Church in Albert Lea. The Rev. John Bromeland will officiate. Interment will be in Fairview Cemetery, Moscow. Military honors will be accorded by Albert Lea Veterans’ Organizations. Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Bonnerup Funeral Service, Albert Lea, and one hour before the service at the church.

Gene, age 54, died at home after a courageous battle with cancer on Sunday, July 3, 2005, surrounded by all of his loving family.

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He was born on July 7, 1950, to Roger and Marietta (Gieger) Neitzel at Naeve Hospital in Albert Lea.

Gene graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1969. After high school he enlisted in the United States Army where he served in Vietnam. He then returned to Albert Lea where he made it his home. Gene worked at Queen Stoves and various other jobs, but for the last 28 years was employed at Fleetguard (Deluxe) in Lake Mills, Iowa.

Gene married Diane Zimmmerman on Aug. 2, 1980, in Austin. They enjoyed a marriage of almost 25 years together. Family was extremely important to him.

Although they both had children from previous relationships they raised them all as if they were their own.

What made him happiest was being able to put one little smile or one little twinkle in every child’s eye by playing Santa at Beaver Trails Campground, day cares, nursing homes, hospitals, and also by ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. His own grandchildren knew him as &uot;Grandpa Santa,&uot; and &uot;Santa’s Helper.&uot;

He is survived by his wife Diane; daughter, Theresa and son-in-law Shawn and their children, Stephanie, Ryan, BreeAnna,

Ashley and Madison, of St. Cloud; son, Jonathan and daughter-in-law Missy and their children, Michael, Alex and Jonissa of Fairmont; daughter, DeAnn Stevens and son-in-law Clint and their children, Emmitt and Kylee of Albert Lea; mother, Marietta Neitzel of Albert Lea; brother, Jeffrey Neitzel and his wife Patricia from Kentucky; sister, Sandy and her husband Rodney from Buffalo Center, Iowa; sister, Cindy Frydenlund and her husband Jim from Lake Mills, Iowa; sister, Colleen Solberg and husband Peter from Albert Lea; sister, Marsha Indrelie and her husband Craig from Albert Lea; sister-in-law, Rhonda Hanson from Albert Lea; many nieces, nephews; and true friend, Greg Madrigal.

Gene had extended family at Beaver Trails Campground where he was &uot;Santa.&uot;

He was preceded in death by his father, Roger Neitzel (1991); mother- and father-in-law: Kenneth (1974) and Anna (2000) Zimmerman: grandparents: Chris and Sophie Gieger; grandparents: George and Eloise Neitzel: brother-in-law, David Hanson (2000); brother-in-law, Bruce Zimmerman (1974); and uncles: David and Slung.

He will be missed by his little girl, &uot;Sammy Sue&uot; and all that knew him. The spirit of &uot;Santa&uot; will always live on.