When This Mother Passed Away, Her Children Penned A Painfully Honest Obituary

The obituary pages in news papers are often full of heartfelt messages from loved ones expressing their grief at the loss of a relative. In some ways, for Kathleen Dehmlow it was no different. When she passed away in 2018, her kids took the opportunity to express exactly how they felt about her.

Kathleen Dehmlow was the daughter of Joseph and Gertrude Schunk, who lived in Wabasso, Minnesota. She came into the world in 1938, on March 19, to be exact. And we know this because it appeared in her obituary, which the Redwood Falls Gazette published in June 2018.

Indeed, Kathleen passed away on May 31, 2018, around two months after her 80th birthday. And although the obituary did not state the cause of ther death, it did say that she died in Springfield, MN, at a nursing home. The obituary then told the reader more about Kathleen’s life.

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According to the obituary, Kathleen married Dennis Dehmlow at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in her home town in 1957. Basic math tells us that she would have been 19 years old on her wedding day. Over the next few years, however, the couple welcomed two kids to their family, Gina and Jay.

It’s here, however, that the story takes a dramatic twist. The death notice goes on to say, “In 1962 [Kathleen] became pregnant by her husband’s brother, Lyle Dehmlow, and moved to California.” Reading more like the script of a daytime soap opera than an obituary, the truth was laid out bare.

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The notice then goes on to describe how Kathleen “abandoned” Gina and Jay. The siblings were then left to be raised by their grandparents, Kathleen’s mom and dad, in Clements, MN. And if you thought the obituary was bitter so far, the real sting in the tail is yet to come.

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The death notice concluded, “[Kathleen] passed away on May 31, 2018 in Springfield and will now face judgment. She will not be missed by Gina and Jay. And they understand that this world is a better place without her.” Not, it’s fair to say, a glowing assessment of the woman’s parenting skills. So where did it come from?

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The notice was in fact written by Kathleen’s eldest son, Jay, the very man who claimed his mother abandoned him when she left for California. The pair had the idea for the scathing obituary when a cousin told them that their mother was soon to pass. Clearly, then, the Dehmlows had not been a close family.

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Jay, 58, now goes by the last name Dehmalo in a deliberate move to put distance between himself and his mother. An ex-boxer and an Army veteran, he currently lives in Avon Lake, Ohio, just outside Cleveland. He and his sister, 60-year-old Gina, a cleaner who lives in Florida, wanted the people to know the truth about Kathleen.

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“You can’t believe the dysfunction of the family,” Jay told the Daily Mail newspaper in June 2018. “They’ll never know what we went through, but it helped us [to write this]. We wanted to finally get the last word.” Indeed, time appears to have done nothing to heal Gina and Jay’s wounds.

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Jay’s childhood memories are of a family in disarray as the siblings went from one home to another before eventually settling with their grandparents. As he recalled, “You could write a book or turn it into a movie and people wouldn’t believe what we went through.”

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In fact some of Jay’s friends who saw the obituary don’t believe it. Indeed, Kathleen’s detatchment from her children was so complete that people thought she had passed away years ago. Jay described, “I’ve got calls from buddies who’ve said, ‘We didn’t know she’d left you. We thought she’d died in a car crash or something.’”

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Indeed, Jay claims that he and his sister were told very little of their mother’s new life. Only years later did they learn of their two half-brothers from Kathleen’s affair with their uncle. It’s understandable, then, that the unhappy siblings pictured their mother, “off having a great life in California with her other kids,” in Jay’s words.

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If Jay’s account of his and Gina’s upbringing is true, spite and jealousy runs deep in the family. And money seems to exacerbate the situation. “If I got a new pair of pants or a new bike I was ‘being spoiled.’ It was unbelievable,” the 58-year-old claimed.

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It’s a theme that’s spilled over into the siblings’ adult lives. When Jay borrowed money from his grandfather and didn’t pay it back, he alleges that family members were angry about it. So much so that Jay and Gina were out of his obituary when he passed away in 1981.

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It was a situation purportedly made worse when Gina and Jay received a few thousand dollars in inheritance from their grandparents. It was money, Jay claims, that the rest of the family felt they had a claim to. It’s apparently a family split in half, then, with neither side seemingly holding much affection for the other.

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“We didn’t have so much as a card from [Kathleen],” Jay recalled of his mother. “I remember she came home twice, and on one occasion she was showing pictures of her and her kids, playing cards. Gina and I were standing in the room, just standing there, and she didn’t even acknowledge us. It’s like we didn’t exist.”

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Indeed, it’s a character assessment supported by other family members, including Lyle Schunk, Joseph’s godson. He told the U.K.’s Daily Mail, “[Joseph and Gertrude] took [Jay and Gina] in because Kathleen was an unfit mother or something. Kathleen liked to drink. She liked to party.”

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But, never forget that there are two sides to every story. And while Dwight Dehmlow acknowledged Jay’s account was accurate, he added, “There is a lot of stuff that is missing.” Though his familial connection is unknown, he came to Kathleen’s defense. He told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in June 2018, “The sad thing about this is there is no rebuttal. There is more to it than this. It’s not simple.”

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“[Kathleen] made a mistake 60 years ago, but who hasn’t?” Dwight continued. “Has she regretted it over the years? Yes.” Kathleen returned to Minnesota after her husband, Lyle, passed away in 2008 in California. Gina and Jay’s father, Dennis, passed away in 2016 in Washington State. Jay concluded to the Daily Mail, “We knew there would be backlash but it really has helped us to finally get the last word.”

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