Cover photo for June Smith's Obituary
June Smith Profile Photo
1933 June 2017

June Smith

May 5, 1933 — April 29, 2017

June Kathryn Smith passed away April 29, 2017, after a long illness, at the age of 83. She died peacefully in her home, and was surrounded by her loving family. She had a long and happy life, and spent it joyfully showering love on her large family and many friends.

She was born at home in Bradley, SD, to Ruth and Melvin Skavang, on May 5, 1933. She grew up on a small farm during the Great Depression, and attended school in a one room school house. Although she realized in retrospect that her family was poor, she always said that she never felt poor growing up. Her mother was a wonderful cook with a large kitchen garden and her father was a farmer who also directed the church band and the Crocker Men's Choir. Their home was filled with love, laughter, music and stories. Her passion as a girl was horses, and she filled many scrapbooks with pictures of horses. She practiced riding bareback on the cows until her frustrated father managed to buy a small white gelding that she named Silver, after the Lone Ranger's horse. She was an independent tomboy who loved the freedom of her prairie life.

She had an amazing opportunity to go to Augustana Academy, a Lutheran boarding school. She developed her love of music and singing there, and even as a very young girl, learned she had a talent for singing. From there, she went to college for a year at St. Olaf, where she also sang in the choir. Life and money prevented her from completing college there and she dropped out to work in Moorhead, MN at a variety of jobs to pay for the rest of her education. She finally went back to school at Concordia College. She became a soloist in the choir, toured with them to Norway, and in her final year, met her true love, Richard Smith. Their love story began when he heard a beautiful voice practicing in the music building one summer evening. He followed the song to June. They launched a whirlwind romance, were engaged on New Year's Eve, and married on graduation day in May, 1960.

She was a working mom before everyone was a working mom. She taught high school English while raising three daughters. She created a beautiful home out of rummage sale finds and her own skills. If she needed something, she sewed it or learned how to make it. She taught herself to upholster furniture, make blinds, and do every kind of needlework. She wrote stories and poetry. She ran the high school newspaper in Jamestown. She always had the coffee on.

Her love and faith were tested when Richard became gravely ill and needed a liver transplant. This was a difficult and frightening time and changed their lives together forever. They would never not worry about Dick's health, even though his transplant was an astounding success. Dick's health was precarious, and she dealt with it in her own way. She did what she could with what she had, and it was more than enough. When Dick needed to limit his sodium, she learned how to make sodium-free food taste good. When he needed to gain weight, she invented a 900-calorie milkshake. When he needed a kidney, she gave him one of her own. In return, when she was ready to retire, he bought her a lovely place on a lake, where they could live for the rest of their lives in a magical town called Hackensack.

Their years in Hackensack were some of the happiest years of their lives. They had many friends here, and woke to the sun sparkling on the lake every morning, and went to sleep to the calling of loons every night. Church was their life here. June was active in choir, cantoring, governing, quilters and Bible study. They traveled to warmer places in the coldest months, and visited their growing brood of grandchildren. June continued to pursue her interest in reading, writing, sewing, needlework, decorating, cooking and enjoying every day of her life as much as she could. Laughter was the most common music in a musical house. She was generous with her time and possessions. Her little cabin was often offered to friends who had overflow lake guests, or young couples who couldn't afford a much needed vacation.

After Dick died, in 2011, June never stopped missing him for a single minute. They had been married 51 years, nearly her entire adult life. Even so, she found consolation in the church, her children and their families, her friends, music, and literature. She dove into the Bible study groups and often stated that she grew more spiritually in her last 5 years of life than in the 78 years preceding. Today, she is finally reunited with her husband, Richard Smith, mother, Ruth Skavang, father Melvin Skavang, sister Ruthie Brekke, and many dear friends. One of the last things she said was, "I had the chance to love your father, and live this amazing life, in this beautiful place. So many people will never know the blessings of a life like this, so to complain about anything now, would seem so ungrateful."

Services will be 11 AM on Thursday, May 4, at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Hackensack. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service.

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