On August 1st, 2021, Sara D Ojard, 46, passed away after a heroic struggle with cancer at home in Duluth, MN watching the sun rise over Lake Superior with her husband by her side and surrounded by the love of her family and friends.
Born to Thomas and Sharon Prochnow, February 23, 1975 in Fort Madison, IA, Sara was raised in Des Moines and Gilbert, IA. She attended Gilbert High School, graduating in 1993, where she played volleyball and basketball and ran on the track team. Sara loved music and participated in band, jazz band, earning All State Honors. She taught piano lessons in Gilbert and loved working with the men’s quartet at Gilbert Lutheran Church.
Though Sara was a lifelong Iowa Hawkeye fan, she attended Iowa State University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1998, after which she moved to Seattle for a year to work for Boeing prior to beginning her Master’s Program in Civil/Structural Engineering at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, researching the development of earthquake resistant steel connection designs, along the way making numerous friends and meeting her husband Nels Ojard. They married in September of 2001 and moved to Bellingham, WA to begin a life journey of love and adventure together. That journey brought her back to the Midwest and Eau Claire, WI in 2003 to be closer to a wonderful family. The family ultimately moved to her adopted home of Duluth, MN in 2006 where she found great joy in her two children, Evelyn and Thomas. She was so proud of their beautiful smiles and caring hearts, finding great joy watching them begin their life journeys.
Sara worked for many years in practice as a Structural Engineer at Geiger Engineers, SDS Architects, and Krech Ojard & Associates, becoming a Licensed Professional Engineer in 2005. Ultimately, she found her professional interests drew her to teaching and mentoring, leading to a new work home as a Lecturer at the University of Minnesota Duluth Department of Civil Engineering, focused on structural engineering and senior Capstone courses. Sara found renewed energy working with faculty and students while contributing to developing the next generation of young professionals. Sara was passionate about doing all she could to be a caring and supportive teacher and she took great joy in helping her students learn and grow. She was humble about her teaching, and honored to be recognized with the Swenson College of Science and Engineering Teaching Award in 2017.
Sara enjoyed her church community at Gilbert Lutheran in Iowa, First Lutheran in Duluth and Grace Lutheran in Hermantown. As an extension of her deep Christian faith, she committed to giving back to her community through her work with the Rhubarb Festival in support of CHUM, volunteering for Meals on Wheels, working with the Gitchi Gummi Soccer Club, and volunteering for whatever activity or school need, always ready to jump in where she could lend her time and talent.
While her work life mattered, her true passion was being a mom, partner, daughter, sister and friend. Whether it was a lovingly made baptism quilt, birthday cake, or family dinner; quiet hike, or sunset boat ride around Pike Lake, Sara was happiest being with those that loved her and showing them how much she loved them back. It was important to her that those around her understood that grace, kindness and giving were foundations for her and she wanted them to find the gift of joy in those values. While our journey together in this world was too short, it was rich with love and special moments. Her lessons and memories are an amazing gift.
Sara loved people and gave her heart and energy wherever it was needed. She enjoyed the quiet contemplation of quilting, playing the piano, the smell of good food being made with love, helping with homework or music lessons, hiking and snowshoeing (regardless of the weather), lakeside campfires, watching her children’s soccer and hockey games, enjoying good meals and wine with friends, campfires, and seeing the world with her husband and children. When she was physically no longer able to do those things, she took up cross stitching and gave her energy in creating memories for her family.
When Sara was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2020, she had to stop her work and immediately took up the difficult battle against the disease. Like all things in her life, Sara moved forward with strength and determination with the support of a wonderful, loving community of friends and family. It was important to her that she never gave up hope in her battle with cancer and she showed courage, grace, and love at every step of her journey through treatment and, ultimately, hospice. She was humbled and grateful for all the outpouring of love and caring from so many friends and family during the past year while dealing with her cancer. The blessings of support and kindness gave her strength and hope not just for her battle with cancer, but as clear signs that there is amazing goodness in this world. It was powerful for her to be surrounded by that love.
She is survived by her husband Nels Ojard, her treasured children, daughter Evelyn and son Thomas. Parents, Rev. Thomas and Sharon Prochnow, brothers David (Dawn) Prochnow, Jonathan (Emily) Prochnow, father and mother-in-law Richard and Nancy Ojard, brother-in-law Bjorn (Nicole) Ojard. Nephews Noah, Owen, Emmett and Wade Prochnow; Nieces Gretta and Anja Ojard, Nora Prochnow. Numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. Proceeded in death by her grandparents, Dave and Elvina Loewen, Ray and Evelyn Prochnow, and aunt Terri Prochnow.
Sara’s family wishes to thank Dr. Homan Alkaeid, Dr. Nils Arvold, and the entire Oncology & Infusion team, the amazing staff of St. Luke’s ER and 2 West who were so good to her during her hospital stays, other medical professionals at St. Luke’s and Mayo Clinic who provided care through her journey with cancer. A special thanks to the Essentia Solvay Hospice care and support team during her final days, enabling her to stay at home with her loving family and affording her as much dignity and comfort as possible.
Memorials can be shared for the public good of the community that she loved to CHUM (102 West Second Street, Duluth, MN 55802), or the Ojard Family Fund at the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation (324 W. Superior St, Ste 700, Duluth, MN 55802) to promote giving back to those in need. Most importantly, remember Sara by simply loving one another and giving kindness without question.
A celebration of Sara’s life is scheduled for 1:00pm Thursday, August 5th, at First Lutheran Church Duluth, MN, with a visitation prior to the service beginning at 11:30am. In support of Sara’s wishes, please consider the current COVID climate and honor her by considering your safety and that of others while attending.