Our beloved mother, sister, aunt, and friend, Marjorie Kurtenbach died in Vernal, Utah. At the age of 89, on October 17, 2019. Her positive attitude allowed her to fight a valiant battle against cancer for many years. She proved the doctor’s wrong many times because she never gave up the fighting and kept her wonderful sense of humor right up until the day she died. She was determining to survive to celebrate her 89th birthday. Regardless where she went, she was a ray of sunshine to everyone who knew her.
Marjorie was born September 12, 1930 in Stickney, South Dakota to Theodore and Lena (Sivert) Shonley. Her parents prayed that she would survive the winter since she only weighted one and a half pounds. Times were tough in the Midwest during the Great Depression. Her family didn’t have inside plumbing. From that day she was born, Marjorie had to fight to survive. Lena set several bricks on the top of her pot belly stove and set Marjorie in a concord grapes basket to keep her warn in an effort to keep her alive. Since Lena already had four sons, this was no easy task. She already had her hands full.
Marjorie went to school, some children made fun of her because she was so little. Her parents raised her to believe that simply because she was so small, that gave her no excuse for not being able to do whatever any kid her age could do. Their advice created a competitive spirit in her that everyone thought out her entire life knew not to challenge. She fine-tuned her mind since she knew she couldn’t complete on a physical level. Bu her people skills drew people to her like a magnet. She acknowledges that she might be different, but people soon learned that if anyone ever needed anything done, she was the person for the job.
Growing up in a small rural community of Ethan, South Dakota never stopped her from following her dreams when she graduated from Ethan High School in 1948. That summer, she moved to Mitchell and was employed by the city attorney, H.F. Ricketts. On her first day at work, she met the love of her life, Denis Kurtenbach, who delivered a telegram from Washington, DC for her boss. Unfortunately, he was in court. Denis convinced her she would not get fired if her didn’t take the telegram over to the courthouse. By the time he came to the office the next time, she not only knew his name but knew everything about him. She kissed her plans to attend Rapid City Business College goodbye and concentrated on kissing Denis instead. They were married on January 6, 1950, on his birthday. She didn’t want the marriage certificate saying she was older than he was. Later, she found out the ages weren’t even on the marriage certificates! Later in life, they joked about how they had nothing when they started out, but it didn’t matter because they had each other. They were married for 60 years before Denis died in 2010.
After working many years for Doctors Business Service and the Credit Union, she created her own collection agency, Mitchell Collection Center. Local retailers and doctors quickly transferred their accounts to her. Later, she landed her favorite job as a roundhouse clerk and stenographer to the master mechanic of the Milwaukee Railroads for the Iowa, Minnesota and Dakota division. She loved her job because Denis worked there, too. He worked nights; she worked days. They joked that it kept the family small in more ways than one and the arguments short. They had two daughters, Linda Kay and Mary Lou. Only having an eight-grade education, Denis was so proud both girls earned their Master’s degrees. Marjorie was proud of that, too and of being a notary public for 32 years as well as being the president of Milwaukee Women’s Club.
Throughout her life, Marjorie’s motto was “I can do twice the job in half the time of people half my age and twice my size.” And she was right, even when she celebrated her 89th birthday.
There wasn’t much she couldn’t do. He coconut cream pies were better than Marie Calendar’s. Her embroidered dish towels became famous in the Uintah Basin. She created over 200 sets and donated them to the Current Topics. She could sew anything and could figure in her head faster than a calculator. When she was in her seventies, she took a computer class. Up until the day she died, she focused on having fun and living every minute. People loved that about her. She loved her country and President Trump. But more than anything else, she loved to play pinochle with her, knowing it brought her the greatest joy. She regarded her family, especially her only grandson, Dustin, and her friends as her most precious treasures. She loved recalling when she and Denis took Dustin to 24 states. Just so everyone knows, one of her last journals entries read: “Make sure the people of Vernal know how much I appreciated how they welcomed Denis and me with open arms and loving hearts. And don’t forget to thank everyone at hospice and in Dr. Michael Olsen’s office for doing everything they could to preserve my quality of life as long as they did. I was truly blessed to have such wonderful caregivers. They were all amazing.”
She is survived by her two daughter, Linda Kay Kurtenbach, Vernal, Utah; Mary Lou (Brian) Bullert, LaBolt, South Dakota; a grandson, Dustin Jon Bullert, Kranzburg, South Dakota; two sisters: Erma (Don) Shanklin, Corona, California and Deana (Bernard) Hargreaves, Mitchell, South Dakota; one sister-in-law, Vinetta Shonley, Mitchell, South Dakota and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, and infant daughter; Twila, three grandchildren, four brothers, and her parents.
Funeral services will be conducted on Thursday, October 24, 2019 at 11:00 AM at the Blackburn & Sons Vernal Mortuary. Viewings will be Wednesday evening from 6-8 and on Thursday at the Mortuary one hour prior to the services. Burial will be in the Maeser Fairview Cemetery. www.blackburnvernalmortuary.com
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