Stella was born on a farm near Brunswick, Neb., May 27, 1919, to David William and Hattie Estella (Dawdy) Harris. The last of five children, she was the only one not born in Iowa, and the only one who returned to Iowa to live. She was baptized into the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Orchard, Neb., in 1921. In the absence of EUB churches, she attended various denominations through her youth. In 1924, she moved with her family to Polk County, Neb., where she attended one-room country schools through the eighth grade. Due to the "Great Depression," her formal education was terminated during her junior year of high school. She was in the class of '37.
In September 1941, she moved to Sioux City in search of gainful employment. She held positions as house maid, nanny, waitress, salesperson at Katz Drug Store, Avon and Tupperware dealerships, assembly line worker and later clerical work at Wincharger, personal seamstress for Sisters of Mercy at St. Joseph Hospital, sewing machine operator at Hovland Mfg. Co and Morey and Raymond's Tailor Shop. She served as secretary of Dakota Co. Farm Bureau for a time.
She and Richard H. Stevens were married Feb. 6, 1943, in South Sioux City, Neb. After living in Sioux City a few years, they bought a home at Crystal Lake in South Sioux City in 1946. After this home was destroyed in the flood of April 1952, they built a house of concrete blocks in the same area. This is the only structure in the block not moved out or demolished to make way for the I-29 Highway viaduct.
While living in So. Sioux City, Stella was an active member of the Methodist Church, serving many years on the church council, as Sunday School teacher and superintendent, taking her turn at every office of the women's organization, singing in the choir, and enjoying countless hours in the church kitchen fellowship.
She was currently a member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Sioux City.
She was a 4-H leader, active in PT A, served 19 years on the election board of the city, and was involved in various other phases of local, social and political life. She was a charter member of the South Sioux City Volunteer Firemen's Auxiliary. She was instrumental in getting city gas and water extended to the Lake Park East area.
On Feb. 28, 1960, Stella married Bernard G. Gundel at St. John's Lutheran Church in rural Glidden. The ceremony was performed by Bernard's father, the Rev. George J. Gundel. They made their home in South Sioux City until May 1972 when they moved to Merrill, where she became an active member of St. John American Lutheran Church.
In 1976, Stella earned her GED and attended Westmar College the following term, having renewed her education in accounting.
She was employed as bookkeeper for Dean's Office and School Supply Store in Le Mars for eight years. Later, she worked for CPA Susan Betsworth through four tax seasons.
She and Bernard were divorced in May, 1981.
She continued living in Merrill until September 2006, when she sold her home and moved to Ridge Oaks Apartments in Sioux City. By this time, she had become quite active at the Siouxland Senior Center, especially in the Curtains Up Drama Group.
After suffering a heart attack in 1991, she immediately became involved with the Siouxland Mended Hearts Association, Chapter 41 in Sioux City. After holding every office except treasurer, she became newsletter editor, where she served until the Chapter dissolved in 2005.
Her favorite pastimes were dancing, fishing, family and all kinds of needlework. She was an accomplished seamstress and had many regular customers.
Stella is survived by two daughters: Carolyn Gobrecht of Hanover, Pa., and Constance Mueller and her husband, Paul of Remsen; five grandchildren: Barbara Mueller of St. Paul, Minn., and England, Mark Mueller of St Paul, Minn., Gregory Mueller and his wife, Michelle of Sioux City, Susan Mueller of Pueblo, Colo., and Michelle Tepfer and her husband, Jay of Litchfield, Minn.; eight great-grandchildren: Alison Rose and Emily Rose , Elizabeth Rose, Catharine Rose Mueller of Sioux City, Ilura and Sri Love of Pueblo, Colo., and Grace and George Tepfer of Litchfield, Minn.; sisters-in-law Margaret Harris of Norfolk, Neb., and Mildred Chute and her husband Mike of Ankeny; and many other relatives and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her first husband Richard; an infant daughter Raeline; brothers David, Richard and James Harris, and a sister Clarice Anderson.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 27, at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Sioux City. Visitation with the family present will begin at 10 a.m. on Friday at the church. The Mauer - Johnson Funeral Home of Le Mars is assisting Stella's family with arrangements.
Memorials in Stella's name may be directed to the Siouxland Center for Active Generations, 313 Cook St., Sioux City, Iowa 51103.
Stories, memories and expressions of sympathy may be directed through www.mauerjohnsonfh.com.