Wanda Irene Brekken, 102, of Crookston, MN, passed away Monday afternoon, November 6, 2023, in RiverView Health, while comforted by many family members who were at her side.
Wanda, the youngest of 6 children of the union of Henry and Elizabeth (Tinnermeier) Pester, was born on November 30, 1920 in Grand Forks, ND. While growing up on the family farm near Johnstown, ND she began her education in the local grade school. In 1929 the family moved to Crookston. It was during the Great Depression and times were hard but the family met the challenges of those years and persevered. Wanda attended Crookston High School and graduated with the Class of 1938. She had a talent for sewing and won a trip to the Minnesota State Fair to represent West Polk County in the 4-H clothing competition. Lo and behold, Wanda returned to Crookston with the title of Style Queen. She soon met a young man by the name of Albert J. Brekken. Love blossomed and they were united in marriage in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where they were devoted members, on November 30, 1939 (her 19th birthday!) They settled in their farmstead near Crookston and they farmed in Fairfax Township. Over a span of the next 23 years Wanda and Albert would be blessed by the births of 12 children, 9 boys and 3 girls. That meant years of dirty diapers, preparing meals, bathing her babies, and sewing their clothing. Wanda wouldn’t have changed her life for anything. Hers was a labor of love.
Eventually the children left the nest, some to go far away, some to stay close by. Wanda would correspond weekly with those who had moved away, wearing out more than one typewriter. With the advent of the computer and email it made her task much easier. Magically, many would return to help with the fall harvest as the farm grew from 320 acres to over 6,500 acres. Wanda and Albert watched with great pride as their family grew to number over 170, spanning 5 generations. Sadly, Albert would pass away on February 15, 2001. Through all the changes and challenges in her life Wanda remained an extraordinary matriarch and has left behind a legacy of sacrifice, humility, and love; lessons of what it means to be family.
Wanda was known to be an avid card player and was especially cunning and competitive at Smear and Bridge. She also loved playing Scrabble and would regularly outsmart her children and grandchildren (and would often play against her grandkids online). Wanda would light up the room with her smile when in the presence of the babies and youngsters of her extended family. She was a devout Catholic and attended Mass regularly throughout her life.
Wanda is lovingly survived by 9 of her children: Roger and Edie of Emily, MN, Marcella and Pat McConville of Livonia, MI, Dennis and Bev of Crookston, David and Shirley of Birchwood, WI, Gregory and Maggie of Sunset Beach, NC, Mark and Jody of Apple Valley, MN, Vincent and Marie of Crookston, Christine and Robert Olson of Colorado Springs, CO, and Michelle and Elliott Solheim of Crookston; a daughter in law, Kristie Ricard of Crookston; 41 grandchildren; 71 great-grandchildren; 18 great-great grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews, extended family, and friends.
In addition to Albert, her beloved husband of 61 years, Wanda was preceded in death by 3 sons, Curtis, Gerald, and Philip; 2 grandsons, Jeremy and Travis Brekken; great-grandson, Isaiah Murphy; and her 5 siblings and their spouses: Harlan and Muzz Pester, Charles and Etha Pester, Margaret and Bennie Strickler, Dorothy and Romuald Brekken, and Marion and Michael Carroll.
May God richly bless the memory of Wanda Irene Brekken.
Wanda’s life will be celebrated at a Mass of Christian Burial to be held at 2:00 p.m., Monday, November 13, 2023, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with Msgr. David Baumgartner, presiding. Visitation will be at the Cathedral on Sunday the 12th from 5-7:00 p.m., with a prayer service and time of sharing at 7. Both services will be livestreamed by going to www.crookstoncathedral.com and clicking on the prompt to view. Burial will take place in the Calvary Cemetery. Messages of condolence may be offered to the family on Wanda’s obituary page at www.stenshoelhouske.com. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to Care and Share of Crookston or the Cathedral School Scholarship Fund of Crookston.