Anyone who worked with Annette Dreier at the Wedge Community Co-op had a good chance of finding themselves chuckling over a reminder to turn in expense reports or sign an invoice.
For 26 years, first in the deli and later in the accounting department of the Minneapolis food cooperative, Dreier was as well known for her levelheaded calm as she was for her penchant for squeezing joy out of even the most mundane of tasks.
She wrote a customer service training manual based on the TV series "Gilligan's Island." She sent employees who'd forgotten to file company credit card statements a "CCR" — credit card receipt — score, plus a clip of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. She updated department managers on accounting requirements through pop quizzes that mixed the practical with the ridiculous.
A sample: "While checking in a delivery, you notice that we only received 25 boxes of Mr. Pupu's Super Colonic Bars but the invoice charges us for 26 boxes. What to do?
A. Write a note on the invoice about the discrepancy.
C. Walk around the store laughing to yourself and repeating, Mr. Pupu!"
Dreier, who died Oct. 16 at age 61 of complications from lupus, was beloved, said longtime Wedge co-worker Amy Ball Wicklund.
"Annette was not the life of the party — she was really quiet — but she had this quirky wit that was just razor sharp," she said. "She was a joy to work alongside."
Born in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio, Dreier attended college in Maine before following a friend to Minneapolis. She'd heard the city had a well-established gay community and was particularly intrigued by the Minnesota Freedom Band, a group of LGBT musicians. Dreier, who had begun playing the tenor saxophone in her 30s, joined the band, found a welcoming community and met her future spouse: Carrie Magnuson, then the band's director.
After two decades together, Dreier and Magnuson were among the first couples married in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, 2013, the day same-sex marriage became legal in Minnesota. Their ceremony, one of 46 officiated by then-Mayor R.T. Rybak at City Hall, took place around 4:30 a.m.
"We had to wait 20 years in our relationship to get married, and then we had to wait a long time also that night," Magnuson said, "but gladly, because it was such a happy event."
Over the last 20 years of her life, Dreier suffered from lupus, an autoimmune disease that sometimes limited her work, her music and her avid bird-watching. But she charged through with little complaint, shifting from the Wedge deli to the more limited physical demands of the accounting department, and playing the drums when her fingertips could no longer press the keys of her saxophone. Chris Kieser, a co-worker, said she frequently marveled at how Dreier remained steadfast in the face of major health problems and more typical workplace frustrations.
"I cannot tell you how many times I was faced with any tough situation, whether it was work, or usually life, and I thought to myself: 'What would Annette do?'" Kieser said.
In her final weeks, when she could no longer walk to Lakewood Cemetery, a favorite bird-watching spot just blocks from her Minneapolis home, Dreier would drive over, park, and sit inside her bright yellow Honda Fit to listen for familiar bird calls.
Inside her home, Dreier's binoculars still sit by the kitchen window, peering out at the birds.
In addition to her spouse, Dreier is survived by six siblings and their families. Services will be held in the spring at Lakewood Cemetery.