Petrene A. Kelleher Poss

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Petrene Ann Kelleher Poss, of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., formerly of Elkader, died peacefully at home on Nov. 17, 2020. She was 84 and the cause was a recurrence of throat cancer. 


Petrene was born in Elkader on March 27, 1936, to Harry and Mary (Connor) Kelleher. She was raised in Elkader with her siblings Colleen, Joanne, Harry Jr. (“Kelly”), Catherine, John, Gerry, Dodie and Judy. Petrene attended Catholic school in Elkader, including St. Joseph High School.


Petrene married Fred Poss in Elkader on Feb. 6, 1960, and they had four children. The family lived in Illinois, California, Connecticut and Texas, until Petrene and Fred permanently moved back to California in 1983. Fred died in 2017.


In 1998, Petrene was diagnosed with throat and lung cancer and initially given six months to live. Her doctor suggested a novel approach to treat her cancer, which was a success. Petrene was in full remission from her cancer for over 20 years, and each year for her cancer checkup she baked chocolate chip cookies for her beloved doctor.


Petrene’s experience with cancer made her empathetic to others likewise struggling with the disease. Over the years, she befriended, connected with and lovingly coached many people who were going through cancer treatment. She honestly counseled her “cancer friends” about the realities of the disease and its aftermath. She inspired them to share her great will to live and refusal to give up. Her passion was contagious. As a devout Catholic, she also shared with many of them her great devotion to the patron saint of cancer, St. Peregrine. There are too many of her cancer friends to name, but if you’re one of them reading this, you know who you are.  


Petrene’s throat cancer returned in January of 2019. During Petrene’s final 11 months of her life, she was lovingly cared for at home by her daughter Kelle. When the pandemic started, Petrene and Kelle permanently quarantined together.


In addition to her husband Fred, Petrene was preceded in death by her parents and siblings. She is survived by her four children: Sue Harrison (Brad), Kelle Reckinger (Bob), Kathy Kidd (Don) and Steve (Amy), as well as her grandchildren Peter, John, Nick, Emily, Lauren, Mary, Erin, Connor, Brian, Sarah, Annie and Jack, their spouses/partners, two great-grandchildren and many beloved nieces and nephews. 


Due to health concerns surrounding the pandemic, there will not be an immediate service. When it’s safe to travel, the family will gather in Elkader for a funeral and burial. To honor Petrene in the meantime, the family asks that you keep her in your prayers, and that you perform an act of kindness for someone else.

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