As a head librarian for more than three decades at Hopkins North Junior High School, DeVee Thiele shared her love of books with the students who came through the doors. And when the school day ended, she shared her love of tennis, coaching junior high students who wanted to learn the game and get better.
"She looked at every single student as one of her own," said her stepson Randy Thiele of Eagan. "Every student had library [time] so she didn't have a class of 30 but a class of 400 every year."
Thiele, who grew up in Fergus Falls, died Oct. 13 in Inver Grove Heights. She was 71.
Dianne Smith, who worked with Thiele for 15 years at Hopkins North, said teachers relied on Thiele for materials in their classrooms. "She could put her hands on anything that anyone wanted," Smith said. "She knew her collection forwards and backwards."
And as the digital age evolved, Thiele, who retired 18 years ago, not only paved the way for a new and bigger library but orchestrated putting the book collection on computers. "We had to learn the computers from scratch," Smith said. "We didn't know one thing about them or the terminology. ... She was a very, very intelligent woman."
In the library, Thiele ran a "tight ship," Smith said. It was a place where she expected students to be quiet and working. "She had high standards," Smith said.
On the tennis court, she combined her love of teaching children with the love of the game, said her stepson's wife, Sandy. "She also taught me," she said. "But I was a hopeless case."
It was tennis that brought DeVee and Lynn Thiele together, with the two marrying in 1983 and playing tennis and golf from Minnesota to Mission, Texas, where they retired.
Throughout their 29-year marriage, the two traveled the United States and Europe. At home, they entertained.
"She was a gourmet cook who put on fantastic meals," Sandy Thiele said. "And being the librarian, she of course had hundreds of cookbooks. Her mother didn't cook so she taught herself."
As a voracious reader, she researched the menus she prepared and the trips she and her husband took. "She would research where to go, what was there and the history of it," Randy Thiele said.
She also taught herself to paint and later took a class on bricklaying. "She was just amazing," Sandy Thiele said. "She would just decide to do something, and then she went at it 110 percent."
And through it all, music was her constant companion, particularly classical and jazz. She had an "amazing array" of CDs that she catalogued in an address book. "It was the librarian in her," Randy Thiele said. "She was always just so well-organized."
But that doesn't mean she didn't let loose. As jazz music played during a Minneapolis festival, Thiele stepped out and began an improvised dance as a big crowd surrounded her, Randy Thiele said. "I didn't even know she knew how to do that."
Thiele is also survived by her husband, Lynn of Inver Grove Heights; stepson, Dan of Hastings, and 10 step-grandchildren.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788