More than 400 attend ‘A Time for Angels’ service

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Keely Gunderson, of Fort Dodge, holds a stack of A Time for Angels programs during the annual service at St. Olaf Lutheran Church Sunday afternoon. Gunderson started the remembrance service almost 20 years ago.

The pain of losing a loved one never does go away, according to Fran Dwight.

Dwight, of Fort Dodge, lost her son, Danny Dwight, in 1986. He was 15 years old, she said.

“They say time heals, but the hurt is always there,” she said. “Every day is hard. It’s all hard.”

But according to her, events like A Time for Angels do help.

“It’s very heartwarming,” she said. “It helps you get through it.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Rob Gunderson, of Fort Dodge, passes out a stained glass angel ornament during A Time For Angels remembrance service Sunday afternoon at St. Olaf Lutheran Church.

Fran Dwight was one of about 400 people who attended the 19th annual remembrance service Sunday afternoon.

The special service was held inside St. Olaf Lutheran Church, 239 N. 11th St. It is organized by Gunderson Funeral Home and Cremation Services.

Hundreds of stained glass angel ornaments were presented to attendees. Each one represents a loved one who has passed away.

One thousand angels were made this year. Chris Jondle, of Mrs. Tildo’s Attic, 1411 Fourth Ave. S., creates them.

Each year the angels are a different color, Phil Gunderson said. This year they are blue.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson About 400 people attended A Time for Angels service of remembrance Sunday afternoon at St. Olaf Lutheran Church.

Some people have them delivered to their homes.

Those who couldn’t attend the service or still want an angel can purchase them from Gunderson Funeral Home and Cremation Services. Cost is $15.

Dwight said she has been to the program for the past 18 years.

“Coming to this has been very soothing,” she said.

Holidays and birthdays are when she thinks of her son the most.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson A blue stained glass angel ornament is displayed here. Each angel represents the loss of a loved one.

He was very likeable, she said.

“He was an outgoing young guy,” she said. “He loved riding his dirt bike. He was loved by all.”

In 1998, Keely Gunderson, of Fort Dodge, wanted to provide a service during the holiday season for area residents to remember lost loved ones.

She got the idea when she attended a state convention for funeral homes earlier that year.

It was also a very personal time for her.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Wicker baskets containing hundreds of stained glass angel ornaments are displayed here at St. Olaf Lutheran Church Sunday afternoon prior to the A Time For Angels service.

“The year I started the program, both of my parents were in the hospital,” Keely Gunderson said.

Since that time, she has lost her parents, along with other siblings and close friends, she said.

Helping to comfort those in pain means a lot to her.

“It’s very near and dear to me,” she said.

The event has grown tremendously since its beginnings.

“The first year we did it, we had 40 people,” Keely Gunderson said. “Now we have room for 400.”

It was first held at First Presbyterian Church before being moved to its current location.

“We have people that come almost every year,” she said. “The program means so much to them.”

Phil Gunderson credited his wife for making the program a success.

“She does so much to make this happen in the background throughout the years,” he said. “She has made this so meaningful to so many people.”