Restaurateur succumbs after long battle with cancer

Mike Gengler in 2011.

Michael P. Gengler, 58, the owner of Gulden's Restaurant, died peacefully at home on March 8, 2018. 

An obituary provided by his family said he passed away with “dignity and humor.” 

It was his way, noted longtime friend and fishing buddy Pat McFarlane, who owned Venburg Tire, a business next to Gulden's. 

“Mike understood life and he died a rich man because of it,” McFarlane said. “I don't mean material things. That wasn't important to Mike. He just enjoyed helping people.”

Diagnosed with colon cancer in 2010, Gengler underwent months of bed rest and chemotherapy. Then in 2011, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood, bone and bone marrow cancer. Treatments were less than successful. Still he persevered, always smiling, always with a good attitude, said McFarlane, who visited the restaurant owner often in his final days at his Stillwater home. 

The two men shared a love of golf and used each other as sounding boards for the “trials and tribulations” of owning a business. “He was like a brother,” McFarlane said. “He called me the day he found out he had cancer. He kept the faith. He always knew it would be a battle.”

McFarlane recalled the time a WWII veteran lost his precious rosary at the restaurant. “Mike and his employees searched everywhere for that rosary. They found it outside in the trash around 3 a.m.”

His friend did many things for people that went unrecognized, added McFarlane. “One time we took a White Bear Lake kid with brain cancer fishing. He leaned too far over the boat and fell in the water. Mike jumped in after him.”

McFarlane described Gengler as “one of those truly honest people. What he did was from the heart. I witnessed that both inside and outside. He taught us a lot about living and dying.” 

Mike is survived by his wife, Brenda; daughters, Jessie Rae (Ross) Lichty of Cannon Falls, Makenna Gengler of Stillwater, Dayna Gengler of Stillwater; granddaughters, Lainey and Ruby; brother, Dan Gengler; and sisters, Nancy (Rick) Snell, Sandy (Joe) Nilges, Sue Carroll, Patti Parsons, Kris (Matt) Nelson, Jenny (Tom) Struzyk. 

The visitation is Sunday, March 18 from noon to 2 p.m. at Mueller Memorial, 4738 Bald Eagle Ave. in White Bear Lake. A reception follows from 2 to 5 p.m. at Rudy's Redeye Grill in White Bear Lake. 

Rudy's owner, Bill Foussard, is another good friend. He remembered Gengler as someone who had passion for the restaurant business. “He was an incredible host,” Foussard said. “He was always there greeting guests. He was a good man. He really cared about people and his family.”

Gengler was in the restaurant business for 42 years and owned Gulden's Restaurant in Maplewood for the last 28. Along with his love of the restaurant business came his love of bass fishing, according to his obituary. His fishing buddies can vouch for how over-the-top excited he would get about catching a nice large mouth bass. The “whoop-whoop” could be heard across any lake.

During a recent conversation with his nephew, Mike asked, “Why doesn't everyone just do what they can to make the world a better place? It doesn't need to be newsworthy, just something that makes the world a better place.” This is how Mike lived every day and the best way to honor his memory is to adopt this same thinking, wrote his family. 

Gengler was preceded in death by his parents, Earl and Marilyn Gengler, a sister-in-law Nancy Gengler, and two brother-in-laws, Chip Parsons and Bobby Carroll. 

Mike requested memorials be designated to Gift of Life House, 705 Second St. SW, Rochester, MN 55902.


Debra Neutkens 

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