MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Hundreds of people came to Minneapolis on Monday to celebrate the life of former Gopher and pro runner Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald.
Her funeral was held at noon at the Basilica of St. Mary.
Grunewald was born and raised in Perham, attended the University of Minnesota, and lived in Minneapolis. She died in her apartment last week after living with cancer for a decade.
Those who knew Gabe say she was a relentless optimist.
Grunewald earned her spot on the Gopher track program as a walk on. She left as an All-American and team captain.
In 2009, she was wearing the maroon and gold at a meet in Arizona when her doctor called to tell her she had cancer.
The next day, she set a personal best in the 1500-meter race. Her record at the U of M still stands today.
The type of cancer tested her strength even more.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma affects about 1,200 people a year. There is no cure.
Gabe could have changed course, but, in Gabe’s words, “You don’t cure cancer by resting.”
So, in between treatments, surgery and remission, she kept competing.
“I remember once at Notre Dame, she messed up a race and I was like, all over her,” Grunewald’s former U of M track and field coach, Gary Wilson, said. “I was all up in her face … and the next day, she came out and ran a PR in the 800. So she’s just one of those kids that could…could just, ‘Oh, I got cancer. Well I’m gonna beat this.'”
She went on to win a national championship, finishing fourth in the Olympic Trials, and she started her Brave Like Gabe foundation, raising money and awareness for the fight against rare cancers.
“You don’t have cancer for 10 years and fight like she did and then just kind of stop,” Adam Lindahl, a friend of Grunewald’s said. “And I think there’s a huge, huge family here that I think is, it’s gonna get bigger. And it’s all thanks to Gabe.”
Gabe completed her personal fight last Tuesday, at home, next to people she loved.
On Monday, strangers who never met Gabe paid tribute to her.
“It’s not all sad just because of the way she lived and the legacy she left,” said runner Jeff Bull, who attended a visitation. “It’s not all sad, there’s a lot of hope.”
After the funeral service, Gabe was laid to rest in a private ceremony at Hillside Cemetery in Northeast Minneapolis.
Her spirit will live on in the city she loved and in the lives she touched around the world.