Thelma (Erickson) McKenzie, age 96, passed away Wednesday, July 1. 2020, joining her eternal heavenly family after a long and productive life.
She was born on April 7, 1924 in the Blanchardville, WI area to Clarence and Beulah (Ayen) Erickson. Thelma was a 1942 graduate of Blanchardville High School and attended Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN. She married Burt McKenzie on August 13, 1944 in Blanchardville and was Burt's lifetime partner at Sturdy Oak Farm, rural Hollandale, where the McKenzie family operated a Registered Holstein dairy herd for over 50 years.
Thelma was predeceased by her husband, Burt in 2013; her parents and in-laws, Max and Marie (Paulson) McKenzie; brother, Leif Erickson; brother-in-law Donald Berg; brothers/sisters-in-law Jim & Alice Whitford; Jake & Marian Larsen; Irving & Carol Larsen and Herbert & Edith Lindokken.
Thelma is survived by her six children: Anita (Jim) Huffman, Monroe; Nancy (Paul) McMahon, Madison; Kathryn (Tom) Kammerude, Blanchardville; Ken (Marla) McKenzie, Stevens Point; Frances (Mike) Breyer, Crystal Lake, IL; and Gary (Sue) McKenzie, Mount Horeb and one sister, Mary (Berg) Ardrey, Woodstock, IL. She is further survived by 13 grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Thelma always had a friendly smile and a kind word for all whom she encountered. A woman of personal sacrifice and selflessness, Thelma was devoted to her family and community in countless ways.
A child of Blanchardville in the late 1920's and '30's, Thelma would, later in life, wistfully recall there once was a time when she knew literally every house on every street in town and who resided within.
Thelma fondly recalled that as a small child, she traveled to school in early mornings, riding along with her father when he drove his horse drawn wagon and milk cans into Blanchardville to the local cheese factory. Another childhood memory was riding the Illinois Central to the Windy City on the five plus hour journey from the local train depot to downtown Chicago for the 1933 'Century of Progress International Exposition', known as the Chicago World's Fair.
A "Depression Child" and member of America's greatest generation, she could clean any fish, butcher chickens, squirrels and rabbits and when a home butchering service came to the farm, she once slightly unnerved her own children as they watched her rush to the day's freshly killed Holstein to catch a couple of buckets of fresh blood to utilize later in making of Norwegian klub. Lefse, sandbakkels, rossettes, fattimund were holiday seasonal favorites and Thelma routinely made the best pie crust around - she could bake them all to perfection.
Sewing, patching and mending the family's clothes were all in a day's work on the farm and numerous young 4-Hers enjoyed the tutelage, guidance and positive encouragement in cooking, sewing and any number of project areas from the 1950's to 1980's during Thelma's stints as a leader and guiding force for Iowa County's Up & Over 4-H Club.
Bull buyers and international genetics purchasers from across the US and from around the globe were sometimes 'drop-in' guests at Burt and Thelma's nationally known Sturdy Oak Registered Holstein farm from the mid-1940's to 1997 and so many, stopping by to purchase or simply to talk 'Registered Holstein' lingo, enjoyed home-cooked, canned beef, baking powder biscuits and all the trimmings.
If you sat down to a meal at Thelma's table you never departed hungry; as evidenced by the reputation amongst the threshing crews of an era gone by who preferred (and sometimes manipulated) to be at the McKenzie farm around lunchtime, knowing they'd benefit from a trip to Thelma's much celebrated luncheon spread.
Across many decades, her devotion to her graduating school class was ever-present -- never more than at 'Homecoming Parade' time with her beloved classmates of the iconic 'BHS Class of 1942’. This was a class of spontaneous float builders whom other classes over the years have tried to emulate but rarely could duplicate in assembling witty-themes for the jaunt down Main Street on Blanchardville / Pecatonica’s annual special day.
A longtime Sunday school teacher, church deacon and clergy call committee member, Thelma served for many decades in a variety of capacities at Blanchardville Lutheran Church including Sunday School superintendent. She was also a decades-long devoted contributor of time and talent for Ladies' Aid, Circle, Bible Study groups, Church Council, quilt sewing assemblies and more. Later in her life, she was counted upon in the 1980's and '90's and early part of this century to assist in providing communion to shut-ins on behalf of the parish.
She was an avid attendee of College Week For Women on the UW-Madison campus and traveled to Washington DC to attend national 4-H leadership conferences.
Forever an admirer of history, of English and of reading, Thelma developed friendships with a pair of farm industry 'pen pals' in Great Britain and on three separate occasions made the long trip to the British Isles to see these friends and relatives.
Thelma was a steadfast contributor in her volunteering of not only time but also in donating historic materials and family heirlooms to the Iowa County Historical Society. In its infancy upon incorporation in 1976, Thelma helped with that group's goal of both discovering and preserving the history of the people of Iowa County, Wisconsin and in maintaining historical archives at the organization's museum in Dodgeville.
Thelma was also a decades long member and leader within Iowa County Homemakers Association circles and thoroughly enjoyed organizing and participating with club members in civic and/or historic site day trips to numerous destinations all across southern Wisconsin. Not one to sit idle until well into her 80's, Thelma mastered gardening, canning, food preservation, stenciling, scrapbooking, Norwegian rosemaling, decoupage, wallhanging production, needlepoint, and several other forms of crafting and home artistic pursuits.
Amidst it all, as a student from another era, initiated within the walls of a one-room schoolhouse in tiny Moscow - even up until her passing, Thelma’s sweeping and immaculate script penmanship remained in a word - perfect - as evidenced in her propensity to send cards and letters to family and friends.
Even during the recent COVID lockdown situation, her impact on others was notable as her resident peers and staff at the Ingleside Communities posted an encouraging note outside her door, asking her to "keep singing"! Thelma has now joined with the heavenly choir.
A public visitation will be at Blanchard Hall, 204 South Main Street, Blanchardville, WI on Tuesday, July 7, 2020 from 4 - 7 p.m. With COVID 19 concerns in mind, friends and family attending are encouraged to wear face masks and apply social distancing as a safety precaution. A private family funeral and graveside committal service is scheduled at 11:00 AM Wednesday with livestream viewing available. Burial is in Middlebury Cemetery in rural Barneveld. Saether Funeral Service in Blanchardville is assisting the family. Online and video greetings sharing memories and condolences can be shared with the family at saetherfuneralservice.com
You are invited to watch the service live streamed at:
In these days of COVID-19, if you don’t wish to travel, or if you have special memories of Thelma, please consider leaving the family a short video with a notebook computer or a smart phone by going to the following link:
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