In Memoriam: Fall 2012

May 25, 2011

In Memoriam


Neomi Wilson Stevens34 (Harmony, Minn.) passed away on July 4, 2010. She was 95 years old. She taught school in Filmore County from 1934 until 1950. Two of her sons, Ronald and Joseph, and two grandsons, William and Ronald, are Winona State alumni.

Wava Cipra Verdoorn38 (Delavan, Minn.) passed away on May 30. She began her teaching career in Hollandale and then taught elementary school in Delavan for many years.

Duane Caryl “Sprie” Spriestersbach39 (Iowa City, Iowa) passed away on April 25. After graduating from Winona State, he received his master’s degree at the University of Iowa and, following service in World War II, his PhD. He was professor of speech pathology and audiology at Iowa, dean of the Graduate College, vice president for Educational Development and Research, and interim president from 1981-82. He specialized in the field of cleft lip and palate and authored many books and articles related to their management.


Marcella Schrank Fisher42 (Oakdale, Minn.) passed away on March 26. Her first teaching job was in a one-room prairie schoolhouse in Grant County with 18 students from grades one through eight. She enjoyed a 41-year teaching career that touched the lives of more than a thousand students.

Rosewayne Stephenson Thiele42 (Eitzen, Minn.) passed away on January 14. She taught for 37 years in Michigan and California before retiring in 1979 and returning to her family home in Houston, Minn.

Sarah Helen Freese ’44 (Lake City, Minn.) passed away on June 17. She earned a teaching certificate at Winona State followed by a bachelor’s at St. Teresa College and master’s in social work at Loyola University in Chicago. She worked for Catholic Charities and also taught for several years.

Melba Meitrodt Knox45 (Onalaska, Wis.)  passed away on August 23, 2010.


Robert Verchota50 (Duluth, Minn.) passed away on March 28. He earned degrees in biology and education at Winona State and served two stints with the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and the Korean Conflict. He taught and coached in Manly, Iowa, and then in Preston and Crosby, Minn., and for 30 years in Duluth.

Rudolph Ellis52 (Winona) passed away on May 4. He earned degrees at Winona State and Northern Michigan University and was longtime teacher, coach, trainer, and athletic director at Shawano High School. Rudy retired in 1985 and remained active in professional and community organizations.

Everett Steckel53 (Fountain City, Wis.) died on April 25 at home with his family. He attended the University of North Dakota and received his master’s at WSU and taught and coached for 32 years in Fountain City. Following his retirement, he was scorekeeping official for the Cochrane-Fountain City Pirates for many years.

Maxine Lewis Gilbert54 (Canton, Minn.) passed away on May 27. She taught in several Fillmore County country schools and then for 27 years in the Mabel-Canton School District.

Gordon Hanson56 (Shoreview, Minn.) passed away on September 21, 2010 after battling renal cell cancer. He earned his undergraduate degree from Winona State and master’s at Bowling Green State University. He taught secondary math in Roseville District 623 for 39 years. He was an avid golfer and professional sports fan.

Neal Lang59 (Rochester, Minn.) passed away on March 29 at his home. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Navy and went on to teach for 32 years in Rochester


Wayne Buswell60 (Fountain City, Wis.) passed away on March 29. A lifelong resident of the area, Wayne worked as a math teacher for the Winona Area Public Schools and the Mauston, Wis. schools. His teaching career lasted 34 years.

Clarence Quanrud60 (Preston, Minn.) died on May 3 in Rochester. He graduated from Winona State with a business degree after serving in the U.S. Navy. He was a probation and parole officer for Fillmore and Houston Counties and then later for Community Corrections with Fillmore, Olmsted and Dodge Counties retiring in 1993. He most recently had been a part-time employee of Root River Hardwoods.

Marian Strand Engelhart63 (La Crescent, Minn.) passed away on September 23, 2010. She became a teacher after graduating and was employed by La Crescent High School. Marian loved teaching and particularly enjoyed being with family and friends.

Barbara Pribble Johannsen66 (Austin, Minn.) passed away on June 5. She was a teacher with the Austin Public Schools and traveled extensively around the world during her retirement.

Cleon Wilbur66 (Mabel, Minn.) passed away on December 17, 2010.

Thomas Cook68 (Cherry Hill, N.J.) passed away on May 1 following a long fight with melanoma. He retired after a more than 20-year career with Healthcare Services Group and enjoyed golf, tennis, boating, and travel.

Virgil Riggle ‘68 (Winona) passed away on June 26. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he worked as an electronic technician for ten years. Virgil attended several colleges and universities and earned his bachelor’s in physics and master’s in science at Winona State. He taught physics and math at Winona Senior High School and coordinated science fairs for many years.


Bruce Murdock71 (Mukilteo, Wash.) passed away on January 1.

Anna Neumann Siems ’71 (Oronoco, Minn.) passed away on January 15. Anna taught in country schools in the Rochester area and also taught in Bemidji, Kasson, and Burley, Idaho. She completed her teaching career in Rochester and retired in 1980.

Judy Whetstone75 (Winona) passed away on April 25 after being struck by a vehicle while riding her bicycle. She taught for 28 years at Central Elementary School in Winona and retired in 2002. Judy was a pioneer for the Grandparent Program, affiliated with pen pals program, and always kept in touch with her students throughout their lives. A lifelong area resident, she enjoyed tennis and visiting her beach house in Florida.

Debra Rosentrater Haugen78 (Aurora, Ill.) passed away on April 1 after a courageous fight with ovarian cancer. She earned her nursing degree at WSU and worked as a parish nurse for 18 years for Advocate Healthcare in the Chicago area. She had a profound joy for ministering to many and the highlight of her life was planning and participating in women’s spiritual retreats.

Horace Hallman79 (Rochester, Minn.) passed away on September 6, 2010.

Judy Frick Ruggles79 (Eagan, Minn.) passed away on September 16, 2010 following a courageous battle with ovarian cancer.


Dale Howe82 (Carrollton, Texas) passed away on March 1. After earning his degree at WSU he went on to Dallas Theological Seminary for his master’s in theology. Dale pastored for many years in Winona before moving to be with his children and grandchildren.

Richard Benson83 (Winona) died on May 1. He earned his art degree at WSU and worked various jobs over the years, the last at Gold’n Plump in Arcadia, Wis.

William Schuth, Jr. ’83 (Trempealeau, Wis.) passed away on April 25. He earned his bachelor’s at Winona State and master’s at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 1999. Bill taught in the Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau School District for 25 years, teaching math, English, and film. In 2001, he joined the Wisconsin Academy Staff Development Initiative as lead teacher. Bill was active in his community and church and enjoyed many lifelong hobbies and interests.

Douglas Kocer84 (Lake City, Minn.) passed away on March 16 after battling cancer. He earned his BS in nursing at WSU and worked in cardiology for the Mayo Clinic System for more than 23 years.


Paula Campney91 (Estherville, Iowa) passed away on October 24, 2010.

Pamela Nystrom Kiehne93 (Cannon Falls, Minn.) passed away on May 23 in Rochester. She received her bachelor’s in business administration and worked with the City of Hampton until her illness.

Maureen Richter Sperbeck99 (Rochester, Minn.) passed away on February 11.


Christopher Marg04 (Winona) passed away on March 9 after suffering heart failure while in Trinidad on a work assignment. He earned his degree in computer science. After graduating, he worked at Mayo Clinic and Best Buy before receiving a degree in computer game design at Brown College. He began working for Wyde Corporation, first as a software developer and then as an integrator. Christopher was an Eagle Scout with a passion for reading and video gaming.

Students, Faculty & Staff, Friends

Kevin Dammen (Austin, Minn.) tragically passed away after his kayak capsized in Lake Superior on June 7. A sophomore at Winona State, Kevin was a computer science major and member of the cross country team. “Kevin had an adventurous spirit and enjoyed doing anything out-of-doors,” said Neal Mundahl, cross country head coach. “ He will be deeply missed by all members of our team.”

Monica Gadient (Goodhue, Minn.), a freshman student at Winona State, passed away unexpectedly on April 6. She graduated from Goodhue High School in 2010 where she participated in a number of activities including volleyball, basketball, choir, and yearbook. At WSU, Monica lived in Morey Hall and was known as a passionate individual and strong student.

Richard Jarvinen (Winona), professor emeritus of mathematics and statistics, passed away on July 6. An accomplished mathematician who gained recognition for his work with NASA, Jarvinen joined the Winona State faculty in 1989. He worked for Univac on the Nike Zeus aerospace project after earning his master’s at Vanderbilt University, and then for General Electric while a doctoral student at Syracuse University. Jarvinen used a sabbatical leave at WSU to serve as a research scientist consultant at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He created statistical models developed from a previous stint at Mayo Clinic to study the reliability of aerospace hardware. His models helped diagnose the spectacular failure of Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded in 1986. For his work, Jarvinen received the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Award. He continued to perform projects for NASA, doing work to research the 2003 Columbia accident and serving on a national team to support the NASA Engineering Safety Center.

Ed Kohner (Winona) passed away at his home on March 6. A star athlete at Cotter High School, Ed attended Winona State and the University of Minnesota, where he was a member of the Golden Gophers’ football team. He joined the Winona Fire Department in 1954 and was promoted to chief in 1980, a position he held until retiring in 1992. Ed led and served on many community organizations and causes, and was a faithful supporter of Winona State.

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About Winona State University

Founded in 1858, Winona State University is a comprehensive public university with more than 8,500 students. The oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, Winona State offers 80 undergraduate, pre-professional, licensure, graduate, and doctorate programs on its three campuses: the original Main Campus in Winona, the West Campus in Winona, and Winona State University-Rochester.

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