Lamps, armchairs, racks of shirts and shelves of pots and pans -- the Steeple People Thrift Store is an enduring Lyndale Avenue institution that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for community programs.

Until just a few months ago you could find T. Dorothea "Dottie" Garwick there, working the cash register.

Garwick and her husband were key founders of Steeple People back in the late 1970s, and the surplus store has powered through the decades as a project of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, where the two were extremely active.

Garwick died peacefully at her home in Minneapolis on July 6, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. She was 87.

Peace and justice

Steeple People manager Mark Schneider said Garwick left a mark as a strong advocate for peace and justice.

"She was kind of heroic to me," Schneider said.

Garwick's family described her as someone fully engaged in life -- knitting, gardening, cooking, traveling -- and dedicated to serving others.

Daughter Jennifer Gottdiener of Buffalo, N.Y., said her parents were "completely anti-materialistic."

"They gave it away on every level," Gottdiener said.

Gottdiener described her mother as a strong advocate of women's rights and an active member of the American Association of University Women, for which she performed with a marionette troupe for decades.

At the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, she was active with the United Methodist Women (Susanna Wesley Circle), wrote the church newsletter for a time, helped serve community meals, taught school and helped start an intergenerational class for junior high students and parents.

It was at the church that she first met her husband, Henry. They were in high school at a Sunday night youth program called "University of Life," Henry recalled.

"She had beautiful hands," Henry said. "They were expressive."

A mutual friend encouraged her to write him letters when he joined the Army Air Forces in World War II, he said. Romance blossomed and they married in 1944. They started a family and graduated together from the University of Minnesota.

He worked as a mechanical engineer at Honeywell; she focused on raising their five children.

Gottdiener remembers a house filled with books, art and music. They hosted foreign exchange students and "shared what they had," she said.

Church mission to India

In the early 1980s they decided to go on a foreign mission for the church. They landed in India, in a town called Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, where they lived for several years, helping run an elementary and technical school. The school worked with a group of people with leprosy, and the Garwicks joined in to help establish a support community for them.

Over the next few decades they returned to India together many times, sometimes leading tours for people to learn about charitable work and Indian culture. Until her death, Garwick sold clothing and other goods woven by people from that community at events such as Third World Jubilee.

Henry Garwick said he plans to scatter his wife's ashes at a private family memorial garden at the family cabin, near a trout stream in Wisconsin.

"We had a good life," he said.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683