Sarah Gutknecht

Published 1:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sarah M. Gutknecht, 54, of Minneapolis passed away with family at her side on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, from pancreatic cancer.

After accumulating several undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota, Sarah found her true passion in nursing and was in the first class of students to earn a doctorate in nursing practice from the University of Minnesota. She began her career as a nurse practitioner at Shriners Hospital for Children in Minneapolis and then moved to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul. Sarah’s infectious smile, boundless energy and ability to charm even the most apprehensive child made her well-loved by colleagues and patients alike. She loved having a job that allowed her to interact with children. She often said she could not believe she got paid to sit on the floor and play with children all day.

Sarah Gutknecht

She was a skilled leader, which led to involvement in organizations both locally and nationally. Among these was the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, including a stint as chairwoman. She was also a member of the boards of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners, Institute for Pediatric Nursing, Minnesota International Health Volunteers and Ready Set Smile.

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Her career earned her awards for the Distinguished Nurse of the Year from the March of Dimes, Minnesota Chapter; the President’s Award from the Minnesota Chapter of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioners; Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award from the University of Minnesota School of Nursing; and this year the Donna Poe Davis Award for Excellence in Nursing from Operation Smile.

Sarah had a strong desire to use her knowledge and skills to help others. She went on nearly 30 missions around the world with Operation Smile (cleft lip and palate repair) and with Healing Hands for Haiti. She joked that only Antarctica did not need her help, because penguins don’t have lips.

She made time for fun — traveling to all seven continents, skating inline marathons, biking, cross country skiing and taking photographs. Above all, she was devoted to her family and an inspiration to her nieces and nephews.

Sarah is survived by her spouse, Ann Kools; parents Arthur and Suzanne Gutknecht; brother, Scott (Joni) Gutknecht; sisters Anne (Michael) Schreck, Julie (Donald) Savelkoul and Amy (Steven) Nelson; nieces and nephews Megan Greengard, Erin Gutknecht, Caitlin Schreck, Lisa, Schreck, Sarah Savelkoul, Hannah Savelkoul, Emily Nelson, Clare Nelson, Anthony Schreck, Alexander Schreck, Michael Savelkoul and Samuel Nelson; and her faithful dog, Otto.

A celebration of life will take place Sept. 17 at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center. There will be a service at 2 p.m. with a reception to follow until 5 p.m.

Memorials are preferred to Operation Smile or the Animal Humane Society.