After a debilitating illness, Penny Lynn Zwecker peacefully and gently passed away on August 8, 2023 at Mill City Senior Living with her family by her side.
Penny was born in Bloomington, Minnesota September 17, 1952, to Richard and Lodeema (Zuehlke) Drayer. Penny was a premature baby, small enough that her father said she “fit in the palm of his hand”. However, she was a very feisty baby, overcoming this early handicap and grew up to be academically gifted. She graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Bloomington in 1970 and continued her education at Grinnell College in Iowa, earning a BA in Psychology in 1974. She then moved to San Antonio, Texas where she attended Trinity University and graduated with a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology.
After graduation, Penny accepted a job as a staff psychologist at the Faribault Regional Center and for over thirty years she worked for the State of Minnesota at various facilities including the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center. In addition to her full-time work for the State of Minnesota, she established a part-time private practice as an individual and couples’ therapist.
In 1977 Penny married Jerry Zwecker and they had two sons, Brian and Adam. They were later divorced. Unbelievably, in addition to working two jobs and raising two young sons, she managed to earn her PhD in Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1985. Eventually Penny established a professional psychology practice with Dr. William Scurry, and they purchased the Reed Building on 3rd Avenue in Faribault. Their practice, Scurry, Zwecker & Associates, continued for twenty years. After working for many years at Regional Centers, Penny decided to transfer to the State of Minnesota Corrections system. She worked at several facilities including the maximum security prison, Oak Park Heights. She also worked in other capacities for the state and served for a period of time as the Civil Commitment Coordinator. Eventually she tired of commuting, and she transferred to the Faribault Correctional Facility.
After retiring from her career with the State of Minnesota, Penny began a second career as a court appointed examiner for county courts throughout the state for involuntary commitments. This process involved reviewing records, evaluating individuals through interviews and testing, then writing lengthy court reports summarizing her conclusions. She also testified in court during these commitment proceedings. Her reports were well known for their thoroughness, compassion, and fairness; always trying to help the individual achieve the best possible outcome. Penny retired from both her court work and her private practice in 2019.
Surprisingly, Penny’s life did not involve all work, and she had many great times with her children, her friends, and dear friend Karen and her large family. She and Karen loved musical theatre, fine dining, trips to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and other renowned destinations. Las Vegas was their favorite twice yearly vacation, and they loved to wine and dine, gamble, and attend shows by the greatest entertainers. Penny and Karen had season tickets to the Ordway Theatre and Minnesota Vikings, and for many years cheered wildly, but fruitlessly, for their team in both the old Dome and the US Bank Stadium.
Penny’s love for her cats, Winston and Calli was astronomical. The felines followed her everywhere waiting for cuddles, grooming and treats. In the middle of the night, when Penny was once again typing a report, one cat would be sleeping on her feet while the other was curled up in her lap. Getting three birthday cards from Penny was the rule: one from her and one from each of the cats.
Penny had a quiet reserved demeanor, and she radiated a caring, nurturing aura that helped people feel comfortable talking to her whether professionally or personally. She rarely thought of herself; her focus was always to care for and to help others. Anonymous acts of kindness were common for her; she was always looking for ways to help others live a better and happier life. She loved to laugh, and to see and hear Penny laugh was a treat: her head thrown back, her mouth wide open, gasping for breath and making strange noises! We all loved Penny dearly and will miss her forever.
Penny is survived by her dear friend Karen Winslow; her son Brian (Naomi) Zwecker and their children Ezekiel, Lev and Lena; her son Adam Zwecker; and brother-in-law Tom Lillehei and a niece and nephew. She was preceded in death by her parents, and her sister Pamela.
A private family celebration of life will be held according to Penny’s wishes. In lieu of flowers the family prefers memorials in her name to Prairie’s Edge Humane Society, Animal Rescue 55021, or River Bend Nature Center.
For online condolences and further information, please visit ParkerKohlFH.com