The five Geis kids grew up at Our Lady of Good Counsel, where their dad, Dr. Leroy Geis, served as medical director for 25 years.
They have vivid memories of playing at the hospice, where their dad made rounds every week. Juliann, David, Michael, Steven and Brian brought youthful, unbridled energy to the building.
“We’d go running and then slide underneath the beds,” recalled Steven, who is now a father of four and the principal of North Trail Elementary in Farmington. “Once we hit a catheter and made a mess. That habit came to a screeching halt.”
Juliann hopped aboard Sister Imelda’s roller skates, sailing down the halls. “I fondly remember skating patient to patient to say hi,” said Juliann, a mother of two who works as a florist in Mendota Heights.
The kindness of the Hawthorne Dominican nuns left a powerful impression, the Geis siblings say. “When we would arrive, Sister Patrick always had a sandwich and some fresh fruit and chips for us to share before Dad started seeing patients,” Juliann said. “The sisters were like my aunts, and as I grew up, they became dear friends.”
Dr. Leroy’s expertise in end-of-life care was matched by his wife’s intuitive grasp of the spirituality of death. Dorothy shared her insights over the years, making a powerful impression on the staff and the relatives of dying patients. The Geis family volunteered at Our Lady every Sunday. They celebrated every holiday by attending Mass with the nuns in their chapel. “The sisters always served a large meal at noon, and we would help serve the other families,” Juliann said.
The experience shaped their young hearts.
“Our parents were very insightful: ‘We want to expose our children to this place,’” Steven said. “We learned so much. My dad said it was the closest thing to heaven.”
Over the decades, spending Sunday afternoons at the front desk, greeting visitors and answering the phone, became a touch point in each week, he said.
Once the Geis siblings had children of their own, it was only natural to involve them at Our Lady. Steven named his firstborn after the inimitable rollerskating nun, choosing the name Faith Imelda.
“When we started having children, we asked the sisters, ‘Can we bring our kids?’” Steven said. “We wanted them to have the same experience.”
The third generation started early. Many were baptized at Our Lady. Steven named his firstborn, Faith Imelda, after the inimitable rollerskating nun. As young kids, they continued the family tradition of volunteering, and they have helped in various capacities over the decades.
Juliann brought her young daughters to visit patients, deliver mail and decorate for holidays.
Once they were older, she invited their Girl Scout troop to Our Lady on Halloween to hand out candy. The Girl Scouts would also come over to sing for patients. Before Covid, Juliann loved to adorn the chapel with floral arrangements she made and donated.
She and her brothers were key supporters of Our Lady’s annual luncheon, serving as table hosts and introducing many friends to their father’s former workplace. “We have spread the word about Our Lady of Peace to everyone we know, for we feel it is such a treasured gem,” Juliann said.
Their father died in 1995, and their mother passed away last December. Now that both of their parents have died, their connection to Our Lady endures.
“Even though our mom passed away last year, we would never not want to be involved with Our Lady – rather the opposite,” said Juliann. “When I pull into the newly expanded, wonderful parking lot, I feel so happy to be there! It feels like coming home.”
And she looks for a sign. “A part of me hopes for a mini miracle, that I might get a sign from my mother, father or deceased brother [David], all of whom loved the home. When I see butterflies greet me in the garden, I accept that as the sign and feel their continued love for the home.”