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Gwen Lawrence was a doting Minneapolis mother of eight who, in addition to raising her own family, cared for infants awaiting adoption.

Lawrence and her husband provided foster care for 189 infants from the 1960s through the 1990s for Catholic Charities, sometimes caring for more than one baby at a time.

"She was a giver. She always wanted to help however she could," said her daughter Carla Stevenson.

Lawrence died in her sleep of natural causes on Feb. 22 at Summit Place Senior Campus in Eden Prairie. She was 90.

Born in Bloomington on Nov. 30, 1931, Lawrence was one of seven children of Theodore and Lorraine Pahl.

"She was part of the Pahl family that have a reputation for truck farming," said her oldest daughter, Mary Jo Herrmann. "Rhubarb was the big thing."

Lawrence attended the old Bloomington High School on Penn Avenue. She was active in theater, graduating in 1949.

She met her husband, F.W. "Larry" Lawrence at a county fair. He was immediately smitten with the young Gwen, and he called all the Pahls in the phone book to find her. They married in 1950 and remained together for 67 years until his death in 2018.

The couple moved around a bit for Larry Lawrence's accounting career, but they ultimately settled in a four-bedroom house in south Minneapolis to raise their family. Lawrence worked for the telephone company in the billing department before staying home with her children. The couple had eight children between 1951 and 1961.

The couple agreed to provide foster care for newborns awaiting adoption in the mid-1960s while still tending to their own kids. Herrmann said her parents were motivated by their love of children and their deep Catholic faith.

"She liked babies," said Herrmann, noting her mother's patient and gentle nature. "I hardly ever heard a cross word from my mom."

"Sometimes my mom and dad would go right to the hospital to pick up the babies. They would be three days old and we would get them," Stevenson said.

The couple received a small stipend.

"My dad kept a book — an accounting of it. It was just enough to cover the expenses," Stevenson said.

Herrmann said her mother's technique with infants was simple. She held them often, cuddled them and understood the importance of eye contact and speaking to them in a soft tone.

She insisted on using cloth diapers with all the tots in her care.

"She did keep a few letters from birth mothers who visited the babies while in her care," Herrmann said. "They thanked my mother for the wonderful care she was giving their children."

The family provided foster care until Larry Lawrence retired around 1995. The couple enjoyed playing bridge on Saturday nights. They attended Mass each week, most recently at Pax Christi Catholic Community in Eden Prairie. Lawrence was an avid sewer, making and mending clothing for the children when they were young and later creating quilts. She made wedding dresses for both Herrmann and Stevenson.

The family eventually moved into a bigger house in Bloomington to better accommodate their children and spouses and grandchildren.

Lawrence is survived by her eight children: Herrmann of Bloomington; Paula Lawrence of Rochester; Claudia Vee of Maple Grove; Stevenson of Bloomington; Roger Lawrence of Lenexa, Kan.; Edward Lawrence of Rosemount; Charles Lawrence of Meridian, Idaho; and Anthony Lawrence of Golden Valley. She is also survived by 33 grandchildren, 73 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren.

Lawrence enjoyed family gatherings. And she loved ABBA's "Dancing Queen," playing it at every family wedding. "She had the ABBA CD in her car and the vinyl record at home," Stevenson said.

The family played the joyful song at her burial.