MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 20-minute trip to the grocery store would turn into two hours when Dorothy Hinrichs made the trip in Big Lake, because of everyone she knew. The 94-year-old lost her battle with COVID-19 last month just days after contracting it in a nursing home.

In WCCO’s ongoing Faces of COVID series, a family reflected on what became a lonely stretch of months for a woman who lived for her relationships.

“She was about the closest you could get to Betty White,” Dorothy Hinrichs’ granddaughter Callie Hargett said. “Such a proud Minnesotan.”

Norwegian traditions were very much alive in Dorothy Hinrichs’ kitchen, where lefse, krumkake and lutefisk were always on the menu.

“She showed us love through food and butter,” Stephanie Timmins, another granddaughter, said.

“One of her tag lines was always ‘Well, let’s see, what do we have to eat around here?’” Hargett added.

Hinrichs married the man she grew up with in LaPorte, Minnesota, their love starting over letters he sent he sent her while serving in WWII.

“We still haven’t seen those love letters to this day because they were so special and dear to her heart and private that she didn’t want to share with the grandkids,” Timmins said.

Four children turned to seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, a pack that became her source of pride in her beloved Big Lake, 40 miles from Minneapolis.

“She just loved knowing everybody in Big Lake,” Hargett said.

It’s why her granddaughters believe the pandemic was especially hard for a personality like hers. No more church, card club or family drop-ins, in the name of safety.

“I think it made her feel lonely,” Hargett said.

They noticed her dementia seemed worse. Swelling in her legs forced her into a nursing home, where days later she contracted COVID-19. Within a week, she blew kisses from her bed as a final goodbye.

“She really was the glue to our family,” Timmins said.

Grateful for the 94 years she had here, still deserving of more in her last chapter.

“We still weren’t ready to say goodbye. She was our special gal,” Hargett said.

If you’ve lost a loved one from COVID-19 and would like us to share their story, send an e-mail to tips@wcco.com.

Liz Collin