Dr. David Pence

Dr. David Pence founded the oncology department at the Mankato hospital in 1990 and spent his later years volunteering as a teacher at a youth seminary. Photo from Jose Sanchez del Rio Minor Seminary

Dr. David Pence founded the oncology department at the Mankato hospital in 1990.

His colleagues back then remember him as a great teacher, which might explain why he committed time in his later years to instructing young seminarians.

The man of faith and medicine died June 4 at age 72.

Barb Ahlman and Nan Olinger, Pence's former colleagues, heard from him shortly before his death. The doctor wanted the old hospital crew to get together.

Olinger said Pence will get his wish, but it’ll sadly come at his funeral.

“He will be missed,” she said. “He made a lot of friends and had a good sense of humor.”

A radiation therapist, she described Pence as a frank but compassionate doctor. He demonstrated it even in retirement.

After Olinger’s son-in-law was recently diagnosed with cancer, Pence drove out to his house to take a look at the medical records and offer encouragement.

“He made my son-in-law feel really good,” she said. “He had a way of being really compassionate.”

Ahlman, a registered nurse, remembers how much Pence taught her about radiation when she was new to the field. He wasn’t the type to talk down to anyone, she said.

“I never met anyone like him,” she said. “He had a great sense of humor, was a great teacher and taught me a lot about cancer treatments.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he volunteered as a teacher in retirement. A man of deep Catholic faith, he taught science at the Jose Sanchez del Rio Minor Seminary in Mankato up until his death.

“He always wanted to help the boys be really good men and strong in their character,” said the Rev. Javier Ibarra, director of the seminary. “He would teach about responsibility about the mission.”

As the pastor at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Ibarra often found Pence deep in prayer in the church.

“He would come here to the church every morning, receive communion every day,” he said. “He took his faith very seriously.”

Pence’s obituary notes his life was “dedicated to service of God, church and family.” He’s survived by his wife, Candice, eight children and many more relatives.

His funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola