Jean Ekern, 91 years old, died Monday, Sept. 19, 2016 at her home surrounded by her devoted and beloved family.
Shirley Jean Sanders was born in Wittenberg Hospital, Williston, N.D., Feb. 27, 1925, to Edwin and Edith Swenson Sanders.
She grew up on the farm her father homesteaded in 1910 at Rawson, N.D. Memorabilia are displayed at the Alexander Settler’s Museum. Her parents are buried at Rawson Cemetery.
Shirley Jean attended the Rawson School through the third grade. She was called just “Jean” in fourth grade to avoid confusion with another student and kept the name throughout her life.
Jean confirmed her faith at the Rawson Lutheran Church in 1941, where she was church organist. She graduated as the Valedictorian at Arnegard Public School.
She earned a B.A. at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.
She graduated from Fairview Hospital School of Nursing, Minneapolis Minn. Jean was a Registered Nurse until she was 85, practicing in Flandreau S.D. and Morris, Graceville, and Willmar, Minn. After retiring she was a Parish Nurse in Morris.
John Ekern and Jean Sanders were married at Trinity Lutheran Church, Alexander, N.D., on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1948. They farmed at Flandreau, S.D. In 1962, they bought Lakeview Lanes in Morris Minn., which they expanded to a 12-lane bowling house. They provided entertainment to the community through bowling and roller skating for 35 years. Jean moved from Morris to Cottage Grove Minn. in 2008.
Jean loved to travel with family and friends. She visited 28 countries and all 50 states. Jean celebrated her 75th birthday on the Nile River and cruised the Panama Canal when she was 83.
Jean celebrated her Norwegian heritage, holding memberships in several organizations and visiting Norway twice. She has coauthored two books of family history and her memoir.
Jean Ekern and her siblings were the 2016 Old Settler’s Day Honorees in Alexander, N.D. She joined 15 relatives to lead the parade and eat barbecued beef. She had planned for two years to revisit her childhood home, see the oil wells, and tour Roosevelt National Park. She marveled at the changes brought by the oil boom and the relaxed traffic brought by the oil downturn.
She is preceded in death by four children by miscarriage; her husband, John; her son, Erik; her parents; her brother and sister-in-law, Roger and Betty Sanders, Rawson, N.D.; and brother-in-law, Douglas Rasmusson, Hancock, Minn.
Jean is survived by three daughters and their husbands; Joan and Steven Axdal, Cottage Grove Minn.; Julianne and John Degenhardt, Woodbury Minn.; and Jenifer and Jim Watters, Lake Elmo Minn. Also surviving are two grandchildren, Joey and Matthew Axdal, Cottage Grove. She is survived by her sister, Clara Louise Rasmusson, Hancock.
Visitation begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, then a memorial service at 12:30 p.m. at All Saints Lutheran Church, 8100 Hadley Ave. S., Cottage Grove Minn. Luncheon to follow. Interment will be in in Flandreau, S.D.
Interment will be with her family in the Union Cemetery, Flandreau, S.D.