Lillian Smith

lillian smith
On Sunday afternoon, February 24, 2019, Lillian Frances Kjersten Smith took her final breath. Members of her family had quietly gathered in her room at Villa St. Vincent Nursing Home in Crookston, Minnesota to be with her during her final moments. At the time, she was under the care of Hospice of the Red River Valley. Lillian was born on a wintery day, April 8th 1921 to Thomas and Tilda Kjersten. She was birthed on the family farm in rural Wilton, North Dakota, baptized and confirmed at the Painted Woods Lutheran Church and attended a country school near their family farm. She received her GED later in life. In 1942, as a result of the hardships of the North Dakota Dust Bowl, the family sold the farm at Wilton and moved to a farm near Bagley, Minnesota. At twenty-one, Lillian embarked on the first of her many life adventures. After boarding a bus in Bagley, she arrived in Fargo, North Dakota where she admittedly knew no one, but managed to get a bed at the YWCA overlooking the balcony and eventually an entire room! While in Fargo, Lillian was hired by Armour, candling eggs but later moved to another position - “pulling guts” out of frozen chickens. Decidedly, someone had to do it, but she realized the job did not suit her. At the DeLendrecie’s Building, she worked as an Elevator Operator. In her spare time, she took accordion lessons from Don “Axel” Wardwell, a band member of the “Co-op Shoppers” who were known to perform on WDAY radio. During this time, Lillian’s brothers, Kenny and older brother, Archie were in service of their country in the Second World War. To support the war effort, Lillian, her sister-in-law Shirley, and three friends journeyed to Oregon to work in the Oregon Shipyards. They traveled by Northern Pacific Railroad, which must have been an exciting adventure, since the train was full of young uniformed servicemen. All five adventurous women found jobs at the shipyards. Lillian was employed by the Oregon Ship Building Corporation as a file clerk until the end of the war. In 1946, the news of her father’s illness brought her to his side on the farm near Bagley. Eventually, Lillian traveled east to Duluth, Minnesota working as an Elevator Operator in the Hotel Duluth. Often, famous performers such as Nat King Cole, Nelson Eddy, The Three Suns, Cedric Adams, Frankie Yankovic and many others boarded her elevator car. Lillian would collect pictures, autographs and albums from her passengers. To improve her art skills, she took a Graphic Design course by mail and made advertising signs for local Duluth business. On December 31, 1951, Lillian married Sidney Smith of Hopkins, MN. They spent a memorable honeymoon motorcycling across the US before moving back to Sidney’s childhood home of Nielsville, MN where they raised three children. Always an example of motherly love, she provided many creative activities for her children. Often she constructed treasure hunts, handmade board games as well as doll houses. She carpentered a wooden playhouse for her children to play in and sewed almost all of her children’s clothing. Lillian drove truck during the harvest, carrying beets, potatoes, and grain for Spokely Farms and Engelstad Farms. She tended bar at Edna’s and later Bob's Bar. She spent time drawing (charcoal mostly), oil painting, writing stories of her life and researching history of the family. Once she uncovered her family’s past in Norway, her husband, Sidney, proudly introduced her as a relative to Queen Sonia of Norway (which often embarrassed her but made Sidney smile). She loved playing her accordion at home as well as in area establishments. Even into her early 90’s, she played her accordion at the Villa, with no sheet music, only her memories. Lillian is survived by brother Kenneth Kjersten of Newberg, Oregon; son Lee (Carla) of Grand Forks; daughters, Sandy Paulsrud of Nielsville, Kellie (James) Muigai of Tucson, AZ; six grandchildren, Adam Smith, Tabetha (Jake) Cole, Amy (Mike) Cieslak, Aaron Smith, Abby Grund and Kelsey (Joe) Christofferson; six great-grandchildren, Gabe, Brooklin, Cameron, Alex, Caleb, Bjorn and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, sisters Thelma, Irene, and Dagney, brother Archie and grandson, Richard “Rikki” Smith. Prayer Service will be held – Friday, April 26, 2019 5:00 pm- 7:00 pm at St. Petri Lutheran Church Memorial Service will be held – Saturday, April 27, 2019 11:00 am at St. Petri Lutheran Church with visitation beginning one hour prior. A private family burial will take place at St Petri Cemetery.

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  1. My sympathy to all family members. Lillian’s life history is very interesting. I have always thought of her as a very quiet, hard-working, intelligent person who raised three wonderful children. Her written family history and artistic works of art, along with the stories of her lifetime of experiences will be cherished forever. May she rest in peace.

  2. Nice to hear about all the experiences that made up Lillian’s life. She did lots of things, followed her heart, and apparently gave her heart to many. RIP.

  3. I have so many fond memories visiting my uncle Sydney, aunt Lillian and many other aunts and uncles and cousins on the farm in the summer. Playing in the barn and climbing on the tractors and combines now that was fun! Rest In Peace Aunt Lillian.

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