Marian Gunderson (Boekelheide)
Marian Gunderson, proud South Dakotan and passionate supporter and practitioner of responsible civic discourse and action, died in Sioux Falls on February 18, 2018.
Born April 10, 1927 in Aberdeen, Marian grew up on a farm in Spink County where she lived until her mother died in 1936. When her father remarried, they moved to Redfield where Marian graduated high school in 1944. She chose the University of South Dakota where she belonged to Chi Omega and was active on campus and in her social life. The summer after her freshman year, Marian worked in a bomber plant in Omaha until WWII ended, August of 1945. She found a job in an ice cream factory to tide her over until she returned to USD for her sophomore year. Marian received her B.A. in Economics in 1948 and moved to Omaha where she worked first as an assistant buyer for women’s clothing at Thomas Kilpatrick and Co. department store and later taught business courses at Omaha Technical High School.
Marian met Dexter Gunderson at USD when he was one of the hundreds of men who enrolled in college after WWII. They met again while Marian worked in Omaha and married in 1951. They made their home in Irene, South Dakota.
Marian was a caring mother, wife, and friend. She was an “improver,” a mentor. Marian believed: “Disagree without being disagreeable and get on with it.”
She co-founded the Irene Public Library, was a community builder through the Irene Civic Club and PTA and taught as a substitute at Irene Public Schools. The family spent many joyful hours with friends boating on Lewis & Clark Lake in the 1960s. Marian and Dexter worked to make a success of the family implement business in Irene and Yankton and were a great team during Dexter’s ten legislative terms as a legislator from Clay County. Marian served as Legislative Counselor for South Dakota Girl’s State for 15 years. She studied painting at USD and loved art.
From the mid-1970s, Marian moved with Dexter first to Pierre, then to Yankton, then to Huron, then back to Yankton. She was an active member of each community, renewing friendships and making many new ones along the way. In Pierre, Marian worked for the SD House of Representatives and managed the Pierre constituent office for US Senator Jim Abdnor. She served on the South Dakota Water Board for 26 years and as chair for 14 years, during which time South Dakota updated water law and the Homestake hearings established water rights in the Black Hills.
Marian and Dexter traveled to Norway and Brazil and widely in the U.S. Marian joined USD business students for a trip to Europe in 1978. Their lives took another turn when Dexter was diagnosed with ALS. Marian cared for him until his death in 1989.
Marian revised her life plan, continued her activism and zest for life in Yankton and beyond. She served on the boards for both Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health and United Way and Volunteer Services and was an active member of Rotary International, Interchange, Inc., the Yankton Chamber of Commerce, Christ Episcopal Church, PEO-Chapter K and Questers. She was an early supporter of both the Backpack Project and the Boys and Girls Club.
In 1998, Marian was elected to the Yankton County Commission where she served a term as Commission Chair and spearheaded the effort to build a new courthouse and to plan for a new government services building. Marian was forever loyal to USD, including serving a term on the Executive Board of the USD Foundation. She managed the family farm operations. In 2009 Marian was chosen to receive Yankton’s first Woman of the Year Award and was the recipient of the Frank Yaggie Award, given for vision and dedication to the community.
Marian and travel buddy Marge Gross, made memorable trips including driving through Portugal’s Algarve region, walking the streets of Ephesus in Turkey and viewing the art collection at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. She always had a book or two going and loved her book club. Marian was hard to beat at gin rummy, but less fierce at bridge and Scrabble. She enjoyed playing any kind of card game or board game with family and friends. She treasured time and travels with her beloved grands, Andrew and Annicka.
Marian made the best peanut brittle anyone ever tasted and showed many how to make it. She loved to sing in the car and float in the Missouri River. She adored watching professional tennis and cheered for Pete Sampras. Marian loved having company and entertained with ease and generosity throughout her life. In Yankton she often had 15 to 20 friends and family at her giant dining room table. She enjoyed the frequent reunions with lifelong friends from her grade school class in Northville (SD) Public School. Marian was the family historian for both her family and Dexter’s.
She is preceded in death by her husband Dexter, her parents, Fred Boekelheide and Mary Wiedebusch Boekelheide, an infant brother Donald, her brother Gerald and brother-in-law Herm Van Lier. She is survived by sister Karen Van Lier, son John Gunderson (Grace Ann Schiefen), Irene, daughter Mary Gunderson, Minneapolis and grandchildren Andrew, Vermillion, and Annicka, Jessup, Iowa as well as several cousins and nieces and nephews and their families.
Marian lived with courage and determination for 11½ years after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia. From 2011 Marian lived at Dow Rummel Village in Sioux Falls. Thanks for wonderful care from staff of Home Health, Assisted Living, the Allen Wing at Dow Rummel and AseraCare Hospice. A memorial service will be held at Dow Rummel Chapel in Sioux Falls on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 at 2 pm. Services will be announced later in Yankton and at Bluff View Cemetery in Vermillion.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to the Yankton Boys and Girls Club, PEO Education Fund, or the Bertha Boekelheide Nursing Scholarship at South Dakota State University.