Violet Stenehjem, 98, passed away Oct. 7 in Fargo, N.D., after a full, happy and grace-filled life. In the course of that life, she was many things – a loving daughter and sister, Vince’s patient and adored wife, the matriarch of her loving family, a woman of faith, a community leader and a loyal friend.
Born to Con and Louise Sax on Sept. 4, 1916, in Banks, N.D., Vi was the first girl to arrive after seven boys. She loved her mom, dad and brothers unconditionally, and was happy when sister Lois was added to her large group of siblings. Growing up in rural McKenzie County in the early 1900s was an adventure for a young girl and Vi regaled her family with tales of buggy rides, baseball games, dances, church and school. She often said that Vince married her because he wanted to hunt and play baseball with her brothers. After attending the Banks’ one-room school for eight years, she moved into Watford City for high school. There she worked for her room and board until she graduated in 1934.
Vi was working as a bookkeeper at the Farmers Union Oil Company when she met the love of her life, Vince Stenehjem. They say they fell in love through the teller’s cage at the First International Bank where Vi made business deposits and Vince was the teller. They were married on April 19, 1939.
Vi was Watford City High School’s first cheerleader and continued to be a dedicated and active member of her community and church throughout her lifetime. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Senior Citizens Center, for which she received the Mrs. Jaycee Special Service Award, and served as co-chair of the Bicentennial Celebration. Making new friends, enjoying old friends and working with community volunteers were special joys in her life. Her leadership as President of the Watford City Toastmistress Club, Watford City Women’s Club, First Lutheran Board of Deacons, Dorcas, and Ladies Aid were challenges she enjoyed as she did her job at the post office. The new library, built during her tenure on the Watford City Library Board, always held a special place in her heart. And we also remember her 11 years as a Girl Scout leader when her daughters were young.
She also loved to have fun. Bridge and golf were her favorite pastimes, and we can’t forget the early-days hunting parties for the girls, the neighborhood “come as you are” events, the NY Eve parties which included the many new friends who came with the ’50s oil boom. Memories abound with weekends at the Lake, winters in Mesa and the later-in-life experiences of being a rancher’s wife with roundups, branding and calves in the laundry sink. Learning to fly at age 51 was one of her proudest accomplishments. And even through her busiest times, she made the “house on the hill” a warm and welcoming place for her daughters’ friends.
She rolled with the punches and lived life to its fullest. Her life was an eloquent testimony to abiding themes of love and joy, family and friends, faith and service. Vi touched many lives, and we are deeply thankful that ours are among them.
Vi is survived by daughters, Diane Anderson, Lynne Ebner and Claire Hopkins; son-in-law, Al Hopkins; five grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; sister-in-law, Phyllis Rovelstad; and many nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her husband, Vince; grandson, Drew Anderson; sons-in-law, Ron Ebner and Daryl Anderson; her mother, father, seven brothers and one sister.
A memorial service is planned for Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2 p.m. at Touchmark Retirement Community, Fargo, N.D., and funeral services will be held on Friday, Oct. 17, 11 a.m., at the First Lutheran Church, Watford City, N.D.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Watford City Library, P.O. Box 990, Watford City, N.D. 58854; First Lutheran Preschool, P.O. Box 441, Watford City, N.D. 58854; or a charity of your choice.