Mary A. Torgerson, 84, of New Underwood, SD formerly of Redfield, SD passed away on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at the Good Samaritan Home in New Underwood.
Visitation will be Monday, May 3, 2021, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., at Hyke Funeral Home in Redfield, SD. Her funeral service will be 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, at the Redfield United Methodist Church in Redfield. Interment will follow at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Artesian, SD. Pastor Melissa Rowenhorst will officiate.
For those unable to attend in person, the funeral service will be live-streamed to the funeral home’s website. Arrangements have been entrusted to Hyke Funeral Home. (www.hykefuneralhome.com)
Mary Allen Torgerson was born February 1, 1937, in Woonsocket, SD, to Mary Ann (Neelan) and Arthur Paulson. She died April 25, 2021, at the Good Samaritan Society in New Underwood, SD. Growing up in the small town of Woonsocket, SD, Mary especially enjoyed attending school there, learning to swim in the lake, playing trumpet in the band, being a majorette, and going to dances with other teenagers from the surrounding towns. She worked hard helping her mother with laundry, gardening, and other chores, and watching over her younger brother and sister when needed. Later, she worked candling eggs, cleaning houses, and processing honey.
While roller-skating at nearby Ruskin Park, seventeen-year-old Mary met a handsome Forestburg graduate named Elmer Torgerson. He was quite smitten with that beautiful girl from Woonsocket, and soon they were holding hands as they skated around and around the floor. Mary often reminisced about dancing with Elmer. His parents, John and Irene, had taken him to dances since he was young, so Mary was quite literally swept off her feet! The romance blossomed, and although Elmer enlisted in the Air Force, they corresponded by mail throughout Mary’s senior year. They were married in 1955, two days after she graduated from high school as Valedictorian.
Elmer was stationed at Mountain Home, ID. The newlyweds lived on the base, and in May of 1956, Roxie was born. Seventeen months later, they welcomed Mike to the family. Mary said that the bill for Roxie was $7 on the base, but Mike cost a whole $25 at the Mountain Home hospital! Not long after that, Mary took the train back to South Dakota to stay with her mother while Elmer finished his tour of duty. She said that that was the longest train ride of her life, trying to manage a toddler and a fussy baby. Mary and Elmer made their home in Huron, and in 1960, Ricky was born. Soon after, they moved their young family to Tulsa, OK, where Elmer worked for American Airlines. Mary brought in laundry and ironing to help out so they could buy their first home. Laura was born in 1967 to complete their family.
In 1970, Elmer died in a motorcycle accident. It was a tragedy that changed the lives of their family forever. Mary had many difficult decisions to make, but she handled them with poise and strength. First, with the help of a friend, she learned to drive, then bought a Buick station wagon and moved the family to Huron to be near family. Many of Elmer’s family members and coworkers pitched in to help her through those difficult days.
Being a single mother of four was not easy, but Mary made many special memories with her children. She did picnics, parades, and fireworks on the Fourth, cooked amazing holiday dinners, baked and decorated holiday cookies together, watched TV specials and played board games. She helped her mother run a ceramics store during this time and brought home several projects to decorate their home. Soon Mary joined the Huron Solo Parents club. Not only did her children enjoy the activities and meeting other kids, but Mary made many dear friends there, as well, especially Joan Hull and Joy Johnson.
Mary also enrolled at Huron College during this time and earned a degree in Special Education, graduating suma cum laude in three years. That degree led to a teaching job at the Redfield State Hospital and School. She loved the challenge of working with the severe and profound handicapped children there and began a lifelong friendship with her teaching assistant, Mary Larsen. In 1983, she earned her Masters degree in Special Education from USD. Over the course of 19 years, Mary moved into administrative roles at RSHS and was one of the top administrators when she retired in 1996. Even after retirement, she stayed involved by joining the guardianship program, where she helped several RSHS clients who had no responsible, loving person in their lives.
In retirement, Mary was able to pursue many of her other interests. She was an avid reader and served on the Redfield Library Board for many years. She was very proud of the new programs and projects that she helped develop at the library. Although she didn’t like grocery shopping, Mary was an exceptional cook. She collected cookbooks and enjoyed reading them in search of new and interesting recipes. She could do pure magic in her tiny kitchen, feeding many hungry friends, kids, and grandkids. Over the years, Mary was able to travel with her friends. She visited Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the British Isles, and Ireland. She came home with many memories and stories to share.
Mary was a devoted member of the United Methodist Church. She especially enjoyed the Christmas Eve services, sharing a pew with her children and grandchildren. She was a proud member of the Redfield United Methodist Women, serving as president for several years.
Mary enjoyed fresh flowers, the open prairie, following Twins baseball, taking her grandkids to Leo’s for breakfast, sitting on her balcony while the sunset over Redfield Lake (only $5 extra/month!) and, of course, listening to Elvis. More than anything else, though, she loved children. No matter what life dealt her, Mary would do what was best for the children involved. She opened her home to family members who needed help through tough times and always put their needs above her own. She spent her career and her life trying to improve the lives of children.
Mary passed away peacefully in her sleep. Life had become more difficult as dementia and Alzheimer’s took their toll. She was never one to make a big splash, but we certainly believe that she was greeted with much joy in heaven by her husband Elmer, daughter Roxie, her parents, brother Jim, sister Carolyn, and many other family members and friends
She will be greatly missed by her children Mike (Kathy) Torgerson of Rapid City, Ricky Torgerson of Rapid City, and Laura (Weldon) Jones of Alvarado, TX; her grandchildren and great-grandchildren Rob (Amy) Kleen, Mackenzie, Kendra, and Teagan; Cody Strofus; Amy (Jayna) Morrill, Barrett, Jack, and Boden; Eric (Kelsey) Torgerson; Nicole (Jason) Midtdahl, Isla and Lainey; Austin (Hannah) Jones, Elowyn, Asher, and Shiloh; Jeremiah Kiehn; Dallas Kiehn; and Richard Jones; her sister-in-law Arlene (Dick) Baysinger; brother-in-law LaMoine (Barb) Torgerson and their families.
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