Chase Novotny, 27

chase novotny obit

Chase Christopher Novotny was born to Chris and Kami Novotny on Oct. 12, 1989. Chase was born in Winner, South Dakota. He grew up on the family ranch just west of Winner. He attended college at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, SD in 2008 and 2009. He graduated with his degree in welding. After spending part of a year working in Winner he joined the United States Marine Corps. In January of 2011, Chase left for boot camp in San Diego, Calif. On his leave after boot camp graduation, Chase proposed to Misti Dawn Hofeldt, also of Winner. He and Misti were married the following year on May 26, 2012. After their marriage, Misti moved to live with Chase in Jacksonville, North Carolina where he was stationed.

Chase served 4 honorable years in the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Division stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC. During his service, he worked as a Motor T Mechanic and Wrecker Operator. He did one deployment in Afghanistan in 2013. In February of 2015, Chase completed his USMC duty and left The Corps. He and Misti moved to Avondale, AZ in June of 2015 where he began taking motor enhancement and mechanic courses at Universal Technical Institute. He had completed the general mechanic courses, the Ford program, and was in the process of finishing the diesel program. Chase is receiving his Honorary Degree.

Chase is survived by his wife, Misti Novotny; his parents, Chris and Kami, Winner, SD; his sisters, Kristyn Schuyler (Jayd) Winner, SD, Aryn Koupal (Dan) Dante, SD; his nephews, Tatum Swan, Waylon Koupal, and Coleton Schuyler; his nieces, Sidda Schuyler, and Raye Schuyler; and his grandfather, Gene Green, White River, SD. He is also survived by many other aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family, and friends.

Chase is preceded in death by his grandparents Leo and Frances Novotny and his grandmother Winnie Green.
Chase was an ambitious, kind, and caring individual who left us too early. At 27 years old, Chase’s death was sudden and unexpected and with the loss of a loved one it is always hard, but to lose someone so special to many is unbearable. Chase’s ambitions were to make those around him happy, especially his loving wife. He always had a way of placing a smile on your face and will be missed by everyone who knew him. Chase made sure to never miss a moment in life to support his wife and anyone he met. This entire family, including those throughout the world, will know that this hero and friend will forever be in our hearts and prayers. The family wants to express their deepest appreciation to all of those that have provided support during this time.

Luree Wacek, 94

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Luree Wacek was born to John and Rosa (Forst) Wacek in the Murdo Hospital, June 26, 1922. She passed away peacefully in the Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD on May 11, 2017.

Her parents had come to Mellette County in 1912 when the land was opened for homesteading. Her father, John, had registered for the land drawing and was among the 3000 whose names were drawn to “prove up on” land in Mellette Co. He built a one room house 8 miles north of the town of White River. In 1913, Luree’s sister Rosa Marie was born and her brother, Bernard in 1915. Luree was born in 1922 and was baptized Gertrude Luree in the Catholic Church, but she always went by Luree. She attended a one room school thru the 8th grade; she said, drinking from the same tin measuring cup that she had brought to the school the first day of the first grade. It is still one of her prized possessions. Interestingly her sister, Rosa, was her fourth grade teacher.

Luree was about 10 when her father passed away, leaving them to take care of the farm through some very hard times in the 1930’s. When Luree began High School in White River in 1937 they left the farm and moved into town. After graduating from high school, Luree attended one year of college at Spearfish, SD and then began teaching in a rural school. Next, by taking state exams, she got a State Teacher’s Certificate that qualified her to teach in a town school. She then taught, along with her sister Rosa, in Mission for 7 years.

Luree went back to Black Hills State College and got her Bachelor’s Degree and later a Masters from the University of Wyoming for School Administration. She served as the last County Superintendent of Schools for Mellette County and then as the Elementary School Principal in the Mid-70’s in Hill City, SD.

After Retirement, she and Rosa spent time doing things that they liked best; some of which including traveling, sewing, collecting antiques and refinishing old furniture. Luree loved to garden and took pride in the assortment of flowers and rose bushes in the large shaded yard around the house she and her mother had moved into when she as a sophomore in high school. On occasion, when talking about her tree covered “garden-like” yard, she would reminisce about when they moved into the house the was nothing around the house but bare ground (and being in the drought-stricken 30’s it undoubtedly was BARE ground!) What a difference 80 years can make as it became one of the loveliest , tree-shaded yards in White River as long as she was able to maintain it.

Growing up during difficult times, Luree became a strong, persevering woman; who treasured special items, special occasions, special people and special places. Her appreciation for learning and growing in knowledge kept her interested in in world affairs and politics. It also kept her humble and she was thankful for all of her blessings. Her strong faith in God kept her going, even when it grew very hard to continue on. Luree’s compassion for God’s creatures was evident, and she never gave up trying to take care of the many cats and kittens that would come into her life. She loved them all! Even authoring a book title “Blackie”, memorializing one of her many cat-related adventures. Luree was a gifted writer, and over the years, she maintained contact with many of her friends and classmates by writing long letters to them. She has kept those people updated on White River’s progress while, at the same time, her book entitled “Back Then-Early Days in Mellette County”, continues to keep the younger generations updated on what life was like when our area was being settled. Luree did not want these “times” and circumstances to be forgotten.

Robert J. “Bob” Peklo, 80

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Robert J. “Bob” Peklo, 80, passed away May 6, 2017 in Omaha, NE.

He served in the U.S. Navy from 1956-1960.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents Emil & Elsie Peklo (Spicknall) and 2 sisters.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Mary Lou Peklo; Daughters: Kathy English & husband Rick, Karen Peklo; Grandchildren: Ryan English, Katrina McKeagney & husband Adam; 3 great grandchildren; 2 brothers & 2 sisters.

Leonard Nieman, 83

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Born April 11, 1934 at Dallas, SD to Emil and Christina (Drefs) joining the family Leona, Annetta, Ervin, & Elta.

Leonard grew up in the White River area. He entered the Army in 1956. After his discharge from the Army he married Thelma Evans. Leonard went to work for Terrace Park Dairy a career that lasted 28 years. He delivered to small towns around Winner, Murdo, and Pierre. The family moved to Winner to help his brother Ervin run the Westside cafe.

Missing the milk business the family moved to Pierre. Leonard worked for Pierre Public School as he enjoyed working around the children. Leonard enjoyed people he liked to prank, scare or tell a story and make people laugh. Leonard loved hunting and being out in nature.

Harold Bender, 83

harold bender obit

Harold Gidion Bender was born in Dallas, SD on Jan. 31, 1934 to Robert and Emma (Hoffman) Bender. Harry grew up in the Dallas and Gregory area. He entered the Army in November of 1956 and served his country until his honorable discharge in November 1958. Part of Harry’s time in the Army was spent in Germany. Harry then transferred and served in the National Guard.

Harry was a trucker and hauled cattle and grain for several area companies. He enjoyed trucking and did it well. Harry married Vera Condon Dooley on Dec. 19, 1969 and became the father to her four children. A few years later their son Andy was born.

When it came to fixing and tinkering on things–from cars and tractors to working with wood–Harry could do it. He was an excellent mechanic and carpenter.

Harry passed away on May 12, 2017 at Sanford Long Term Care in Chamberlain, SD at the age of 83.

Lois Elaine Weidenbach, 63

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Lois was born September 18, 1953 to Elmer and Gladys (McElroy) Kauer of Winner, South Dakota. She graduated from Winner High School and then went on to Mt. Marty College in Yankton, SD. Before completing her degree, Lois grew too ill with kidney disease to continue with school, but was given the gift of a kidney transplant in 1974 in Minneapolis, MN. She returned to Mt. Marty and finished her B.A. in Home Economics in 1981. On November 6 of that same year she was married to Paul Weidenbach of Lesterville, SD. Lois received a second kidney transplant in 1984. In 1988 they adopted their daughter, Elizabeth and in 1992 adopted their son Jakab. Lois’ battle with kidney disease continued and she received a third transplant from her brother, David in 2004.

Lois loved crocheting, cooking, gift-giving, and most of all she loved being a mother. By the grace of God, she was able to live a full, happy life despite battling kidney disease for nearly 50 years.



Marjory Ellen Caldeira (Wing), 70

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Marjory Ellen Caldeira (Wing), 70 years of age, passed away unexpectedly while sleeping peacefully in her home in Carter, South Dakota on Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

Marj was raised in Braintree, Mass., by the late Charles and Marjory (Doherty) Wing of Braintree. She was a graduate of Braintree High School and Massasoit College earning a degree in Liberal Arts. In 1973, she worked at Tufts Medical Center as an echocardiographer, researcher, and trainer all over the world for over 20 years.

In 2000, she moved to South Dakota to join her partner, Bill Matousek. Marj then furthered her education at Sinte Gleska University to become a teacher. She was a dedicated and loving teacher at Okreek School within the Rosebud Indian Reservation. She lived her life to the fullest enjoying, music, art, sewing, gardening, birding, boating, cooking, reading, traveling, learning, and spending time with her partner, family, friends, and animals. Marj truly made a difference in the world by helping our Earth and those in need.

Vernon Elsasser, 90

Elsasser obit

Celebrating the life of Vernon Elsasser, born Feb. 15, 1927 to parents William Elsasser and Joy Audiss Elsasser. Vernon was born in Carter, South Dakota, he grew up in Anoka, Neb. and attended grade school in Anoka. He attended high school in Butte, Neb. where he attended the 10th grade.

Vernon served in the Army Air Corps from 1946 to 1948 in the Philippines and Japan. He was a radio operator directing airplanes coming back from missions. His radio operation was located in a small shack (tree house) in the top of a tree.

Vernon married the love of his life, Norma Crabtree on May 22, 1951 in Winner, SD. Norma’s father said she had to finish high school first, so they were married the day after she graduated. Vernon worked at a Hatchery, in Road Construction, for the REA and local farmers. He started at the Outlaw Trading Post in August 1952 working for 45 years as a meat cutter and meat manager until January 1998.

They were blessed with 66 years of marriage and had three children, Michael, his wife Tish who live in Oregon, Rick, his wife Cindy who live in Rapid City, and Eve, who lives in Winner.

Vernon lived with diabetes for 63 years and lived at home up until 1 month of his 90th birthday.

George R. Leetch, 73

Leetch, George obit

George Rodney Leetch was born July 14, 1943 in Colome, South Dakota the son of Charles & Myrtle (Robinson) Leetch. He grew up in Colome, South Dakota, graduating from Colome High School with the class of 1962. He entered the United States Army, April 1, 1965 serving during the Vietnam War and was honorably discharged March 31, 1967. He returned to Grand Island where he was employed at the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant until reduction in forces in February of 1971. He was later employed by the Veterans Administration working at the Veterans Hospital in Grand Island until December of 1986. He also worked at Riverside Inn, Grand Island, driving the shuttle bus and doing maintenance work, and the Grand Island Public Schools from 1998 until 2003 when he retired.

He was a member of United Methodist Church, Grand Island.

He enjoyed fishing, bowling and the company at the Grand Generation Center.

Patrick James O’Bryan, 85

patrick obryan obit

Patrick James O’Bryan was born April 10, 1931 at the homestead in Mellette County near Wood, SD to Boyd M. and Theodoshia “Doshia” [Eastin] O’Bryan. The family lived here for a few years then moving to another place in the same area. Pat attended country schools for the lower grades, then went to Winner High School for two years and continuing at Colome High School for the following two years, graduating in 1949.

  Pat worked on area farms and ranches for a few years before enlisting in the United States Army and serving in Korea. When he returned from his military service he married Ethel E. Steele in Clearfield, SD in the summer of 1954.

  One daughter, Lorinda Lou was born to this marriage in 1958. Pat worked on area farms and ranches in Tripp County until 1963 when he bought a ranch north of Hot Springs, SD bordering the Wind Cave National Park. He worked part-time as a bartender for about 4 years in Hot Springs while ranching and then worked on road construction in South Dakota and Wyoming. Pat was divorced in 1969.

  In 1973 he married Carole A. Fleming in Rawlings, WY where they worked on road construction for a few years. In 1982 the bought a bar, restaurant, and campground [Pat’s Place] south of Hill City, SD which they operated for 10 years. In 1992 they sold Pats Place and semi-retired back to the ranch north of Hot Springs. They then bought a bar in Hot Springs called the Red Eye Saloon and ran it for a few years until they sold it and moved back to the ranch full-time. He sold the ranch in 1996 and they moved into a house in Hot Springs.

  Pat was a lifetime member of the American Legion holding numerous offices in the organization. He was also a member of the 40/8 organization where he also held many offices including Nationals Grand Locale. He was a lifetime member of the V.F. W. and a member of the Eagles, both in Rapid City.