Valborg Margaret (Vadheim) Smith

WILLMAR, MN. – Valborg Margaret (Vadheim) Smith, fifty-year resident of Willmar, Minnesota and ten-year resident of Marquette (Harvey) Michigan, died peacefully May 25, 2014 at home, cared for by her family, Private Duty Aides and Hospice R.N.s from Upper Peninsula Home Health Hospice and Private Duty. Val was 100 3/4 years old, born September 4, 1913 to Christine Breen Vadheim and Dr. Alfred Lyman Vadheim in the prairie town of Tyler, Minnesota. She was able to join in reciting the Lord’s Prayer and 23rd Psalm until the last weeks of her life, when Pastors Dave Van Kley and Amanda Kossow of Messiah Lutheran Church carried these words for her. She died of old age and exhaustion following a chest cold.

Val remembered riding in a fur-laden sleigh as a child while her father traversed the snowy fields of Southwestern Minnesota making winter house calls to provide medical care to farm families. She remembered him being paid in fresh bread, chickens, churned butter and preserves, and she told of a neighbor who could not pay in any way for medical care, but needed milk for his children’s health. The medicine Val’s father provided was his purchase of a cow to provide fresh milk for the man’s family in exchange for the man’s care of the cow and any excess milk. Val’s formal education was in Minnesota, graduating from Tyler High School, then attending St. Olaf College, Northfield for one year in preparation for nurses’ training (R.N.) at Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, which she completed in 1935. She met her husband, Dr. Lloyd A. Smith (deceased 1991), at Fairview. They were married November 21, 1936 in Val’s parents’ home in Tyler by Reverend Nesheim of First English Lutheran Church. They practiced medicine for a time in a small upstairs clinic in nearby Balaton, and in Tyler. Val remembered vividly the Tyler tornado of August 1918 which destroyed her father’s downtown clinic and five bed hospital, a frightening memory she carried with her all her life. Her father garnered support from the surrounding areas and rebuilt the hospital where Val eventually became nursing supervisor. The Hospital became the A.L. Vadheim Memorial Hospital, and today is the Tyler Healthcare Center/Avera.

In 1953 Val and Lloyd moved to Willmar, Minnesota where they lived the rest of his life. She was nursing supervisor at the Willmar Nursing Home for many years and Lloyd practiced medicine at the Willmar State Hospital. They were members of Vinje Lutheran Church where Val’s activity included the Vinje Christmas Bazaar for which buyers came from Dayton’s department store in Minneapolis to purchase for resale the beautiful Christmas handwork of Val and her Vinje friends. The bazaar was a year-long “serious” and social undertaking. Frequently a leader, Val volunteered at a Shelter Workshop for disadvantaged individuals, at Rice Memorial Hospital as a One-on-One cancer councilor, as an R.N. assistant for school vaccinations, and as a Boy Scout Den Mother and Girl Scout mother. She was an active member of Ladies Aid, a hat club, a bridge club, community theater, and judged flower arrangements at the county fair. She was an antiquer and basket weaver. In summer she entertained her weaving group at her and Lloyd’s little cottage on Diamond Lake–she and her friends would drop their reeds into the water to soak while they sat on the dock and wove baskets. The cottage was literally a tar paper shack with an outhouse and no running water-just a pump room-and, by design, only moderately “improved” over time. Lloyd added a screen porch and would sit there at night with a single light shining down on him, his little table, and his dictation work, while Val plied him with coffee-he in his swim suit after an evening dip in the lake, and she in her summer robe-the mosquitoes humming all the while. In town, she entertained State Hospital women employees at Christmastime with her homemade cookies, candies, tea, coffee, and elegant table settings, and she (food and planning) and Lloyd (fire and fireworks on the beach) entertained colleagues and friends on the 4th of July. At 85 she walked the Brooklyn Bridge both ways.

At Val’s 90th birthday family reunion, her niece Gretchen thanked Val for being someone that could hold individuals and groups together during very trying times.

Val and Lloyd were blessed with two children, Dr. Richard V. Smith and Suzanne M. (L.) Harding, and later blessed with two more children, niece Robbin A. Maves and her brother, nephew Robert A. Maves, D.D.S. They so integrated these children that on one occasion during a summer trip an older couple approached them in a parking lot to say they had decided that we children, being so close in age, must be two sets of twins- Rick and Robbin, and Sue and Bob. We thought that was very cool. Val and Lloyd often spoke of their daughters and sons.

Val’s last residence in Willmar was Sunrise Village Independent Living (seven years). In September 2003, age 90, on her own initiative, she gave her car to a grandchild, her driver’s license to permanent storage, and moved to Marquette (Harvey), Michigan, to live with her daughter, Suzanne, son-in-law Howard Harding, and granddaughter Sophia. She was sad to leave Willmar, and missed her friends and the lay of the land, but within weeks she had joined the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) knitters and knit quilt assemblers. She had her hair done once a week and was happy driving along on errands and pick-ups and drop-offs of her busy 12-year-old granddaughter, Sophie. To select a church, she asked if we could drive around and look them over. She chose St. Mark’s Lutheran Church because it looked so much like the church of her childhood and young adult years in Tyler, and it was Lutheran. She joined St. Mark’s quilting group and cherished her friends there. Years later she followed Pastor Van Kley to Messiah Lutheran Church, the wonderful guardian of her spirit for the remainder of her life. She was grateful for the pastors’ many visits, and notes, both written and sung, that she received from church members. Val said she had plenty to do, that her recovery time was much longer than it used to be. In the first years at Marquette she flew with the Hardings to visit her son in California, and drove with her daughter to Prairie Farm, Wisconsin to find her Grandfather Breen’s farm, which they located on a high hill of prairie grass, the barn still standing, gray, leaning and propped up, but there and beautiful in the sun.

Val was preceded in death by: Parents – Christine and Alfred. Stepmother – Gladys L. Donovan Vadheim. Siblings-Dr. James L. and Mrs. Jeanne Vadheim, Dr. Robert A., Sr., and Mrs. Anitra L. Vadheim Maves, Dr. Robert H. Vaadheim; Stepsister and brother in-law, Mr. Duane G. and Mrs. Dorothy M. Donovan Rude. Husband-Lloyd. Son-Robert, Jr. Daughter-in-law-Lucy Parra Smith.

Val is survived by: Children-Richard (Carole), Robbin A. Maves Rendahl (Dr. Stephen), Suzanne (Howard),daughters-in-law, Linda Maves Maguire and Terry Karro Maves and Godchild, Alfred L. Rude (Deanna). Grandchildren-Stephanie Smith Salky (Evan), Dr. Chelsea Smith, Dr. Ryan Maves (Robin), Brenden Maves (Loriane), Brenda Rendahl Dellaneva (Paul), Sophia M. Harding, and Connor Rude. Great grandchildren-Maya and Samantha Salky; Lily and Landon Maves; Astrid, Robert and Jonathan Maves; Haley and Anthony Dellaneva. Additional nieces and nephews-Anitra, Gretchen, James, Connie, Tim, Nancy. She is also survived by her nurses’ training friend of 70 years, Gladys Schennum, soon to be 102 years old.

IN MARQUETTE MICHIGAN, there will be a memorial service at Messiah Lutheran Church, 305 W. Magnetic, at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday June 3, Pastor Dave Van Kley presiding, coffee following. Sophia Harding will offer Faure’s Pie Jesu, and all present will be given music to join singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. IN WILLMAR MINNESOTA inurnment will be at Cloverleaf Cemetery, 3001-3091 8th Avenue NE, at 3:00 p.m., Monday, June 30, assisted by Vinje Lutheran Church and Harvey Anderson Funeral Home, friends invited. DONATIONS may be made to Messiah Lutheran Chuch/undesignated, 305 W. Magnetic, Marquette, Michigan 49855; or Messiah Lutheran Church/Room at the Inn (a homeless program in Marquette); or Vinje Lutheran Church 1101 Willmar Ave SW, Willmar, Minnesota 56201.

The Fassbender Funeral Home is serving the family, where condolences may be expressed online at fassben derfuneralhome.com