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Ernestine “Erna” Kokesch

September 5, 2013
The Journal

05/23/1916 - 08/31/2013

Ernestine "Erna" Kokesch, 97, of Willmar died Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 at Bethesda Heritage in Willmar.

Mass of Christian Burial will be 11 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 at Church of St. Mary in Willmar.

Article Photos

Ernestine “Erna” Kokesch

Visitation will be from 8 a.m. Thursday until the time of service at the church. Burial will be 11 a.m., Saturday, September 7, 2013 at St. George Catholic Cemetery in New Ulm. Arrangements are with Harvey Anderson Funeral Home in Willmar. In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to the St. Mary's Quilting Group.

Ernestine "Erna" Mary Kokesch was born May 23, 1916, on the family farm between old Fort Ridgley and Historic Harkin Store/Riverboat Landing Site.

The daughter of Guy and Anna (Dummer) Merkel, her youth centered on the joys and hardships of farm living; a loving family; and her Catholic faith.

She attended a nearby country school and graduated high school in New Ulm.

She and her future husband both were members of the West Newton Township Parish Church at St. George. Her early memories of him were as a very hard worker and a "so-so" dancer.

Erna and Walter were married on Aug. 4, 1943, in Victorville, Calif., before he was shipped out to his army assignment in England.

While remaining in California, Erna held a "Rosie the Riveter" type of job at an airplane factory.

The couple moved to Willmar in 1948, where Walter began a long teaching career.

Over the years, Erna worked in the school system food service, worked as a night baker with Town Talk Bakery and also for the telephone company in Willmar.

Walter and Erna regularly took part in VFW and Elks Club activities.

They were charter members of an international square dance club, The Knuckleheads. (Along the way, Erna, a natural dancer, had found a way to make a passable square dancer, out of Walter.) Enthusiastic trailer campers, they traveled across the country sight-seeing, grouse hunting and attending conventions. A determined bowler and dedicated Twins fan, Erna was also a barefoot gardener.

As a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church, she volunteered as "Grandma" in the nursery, as a Befriender and Eucharistic Minister. A longtime, loyal member of the Daughters of Isabella, she had served as Regent of the Ave Maria Circle. For her outstanding parish activities and commitment to community and Jesus, she was given the Bishops Medal of Service.

Erna and Walter had three children, Karen (1946), Paul (1950) and Mary (1952). In turn, Karen (Donald) Hanson of Rice, had three children: Jeffrey, Christina and Ryan. St. Paul residents, Jeffery Hanson and Sonja Hanson-Rosenberg have three children: Alexander, Morgan and Casey. Erna's granddaughter, Christina (Nathan) Kulberg of Rice has three children: Nikolas, Ashcer and Zakary. Erna's grandson Ryan Hanson lives in St. Cloud. Danube resident, Paul Kokesch has a daughter, Erin Kokesch who lives with her daughter, Madelynn in Apple Valley. Erna's daughter Mary, married Thomas Wiese of Hancock, and they have a son, Andrew, of Minneapolis.

All of the above listed survive Ernestine with the exception of Karen, who died two months ago, and Mary who died a year and a half ago. Erna was also preceded in death by her parents; husband Walter (1989); brother George Merkel, a farmer; sister Aurelia Strauss, a teacher; sister Pat Rubischko, a business woman, and sister Dolores Merkel, a nurse.

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