Hertha Gross 1927 – 2019

PIERRE, SD – Hertha Weller Gross, 92, of Pierre, passed away Tuesday, June 25, 2019. A memorial celebration of life will be held at 1:00pm, Saturday, July 13, 2019 at Feigum Funeral Home. A tribute to Hertha will be made at the cemetery in Eureka, SD at a later date.

Hertha Weller Gross was born on her grandparents’ farm in McPherson County near Eureka, SD on April 4, 1927. The Wellers were steadfast Germans from Russia who spoke German in their home. Upon entering country school where German was forbidden, Hertha realized that she needed to learn English and fast, so in addition to studying by a kerosene lantern after her chores, she slept with the English language learning guide under her pillow for good measure.

After milking the cows, collecting the eggs, and managing a horse-drawn plow by the age of 12, Hertha made time for fun by playing “Andy-I-Over” and cat-and-mouse with her cousins and younger siblings: Bernice, Raymond, and Orville (O.R.). She earned her first job in Eureka at the soda shop and prided herself in providing service to customers in the order of their politeness rather than their place in line.

In 1949 her daughter Kathy was born, which Hertha accounted for as one of her fondest memories. Hertha’s home served as a gathering place for her daughter and friends “as long as they played nice.”

Hertha moved to Pierre in 1951, getting a job as a waitress at the St. Charles Hotel and Restaurant. She prioritized seeking opportunities for continued education and planting her roots in the religious community of Lutheran Memorial Church. As was her reflex, she sought leadership roles and held positions of Sunday school teacher, funeral food coordinator, church council secretary, and deacon.

In 1954, Hertha began her 40-year career with the State of South Dakota, working in various departments such as the Office of Highway Safety, the Bureau of Personnel, the Department of Public Instruction, and the Department of Labor. Upon her retirement, she worked part-time for South Dakota Legislature for three years and hosted legislators to live in her home during session.

Despite her dedicated professional allegiance, Hertha found her greatest fulfillment in serving as a volunteer. She became a member of the Capital City Chapter #39 of Eastern Star in March of 1958 and served in multiple leadership positions including warder, treasurer, secretary and compiler of the Masonic Messenger (for 27 years), Associate Matron and Worthy Matron. In 1989, Hertha also served as the founding president of Die Deutsche Glieder, the Germans from Russia Chapter in Pierre. She was a lifetime member of both organizations and contributed to several other boards and committees within the community. In 2007 she was recognized with the Retired Citizens Volunteer Award for providing over 4,000 hours of community service.

Hertha felt it was important for people to be fully informed so they could make well-educated decisions. In fulfilling this quest, she became highly involved with finding speakers for the Pierre and Ft. Pierre Senior Citizens Centers and serving as community coordinator for the Pierre Chapter of AARP. As an extension of her role with AARP, she initiated the Triad Program, which included sheriffs, police chiefs, and older or retired leaders mutually working together to reduce criminal victimization of the elderly. Primary accomplishments included multiple community workshops, a monthly column about safety in the Capital Journal, and providing free cell phones and cell service to senior citizens should they need to contact 911.

Whenever the opportunity called, Hertha seized travel excursions as ways to meet new people and capture hands-on learning. Whether through the Germans from Russia travel society, BankWest Dakota Club, or spontaneously on her own accord, Hertha constantly sought ways to expand her knowledge through experience, and she made sure to bring back postcards and memories so others could learn with her.

Hertha loved to be a grandmother. She shared the lesson that “hard work yields well-deserved fun,” and she showed through example that giving back to the community and simply loving one another will get a person through virtually anything.

In her “free time,” Hertha was an avid gardener, specializing in roses. She loved to cook German meals, sing German songs, and dance like her life depended on it. In all aspects of her life, Hertha emphasized an important virtue: “We’ve got to know where we came from and know where we’re going…and no one can change any of those things for us.” She successfully accomplished this mission by way of determination, conviction, foresight and faith.

Hertha’s fulfilling life on Earth transitioned to the beautiful bounty of Heaven, while in the arms of her granddaughter, on Tuesday, June 25, 2019.

Hertha was preceded in death, and guided into her Heavenly life, by her dear mother Emma Kramlich Weller. Also preceding her departure from this life-as-we-know-it was her father, William Weller; her infant brother, Clifford; brother, Raymond; brother-in-law, Barry Pence; daughter, Kathy; and adopted family members, Adeline Grandle and Berni and Howard Kusler.

Carrying on her memory are her granddaughter and life-long admirer, Betsy Valnes, Pierre, SD; son-in-law, Jim Valnes, Pierre, SD; sister, Bernice Pence, Aberdeen, SD; brother, O.R. Weller, Seattle, WA; sister-in-law, Norma Weller, Eureka, SD; nieces and nephews, Randy Weller, Debra (Weller) Serie, Derek Weller, Tim Pence, and Cam (Pence) Fischer; brothers and sisters of Eastern Star and Germans from Russia; and many community friends.

Memorials made in Hertha’s honor may fittingly be shared with, and greatly appreciated by, the Pierre Chapter of Eastern Star #39, the Pierre Chapter of Germans from Russia, Avera@Home Hospice, or Meals on Wheels. Condolences may be conveyed to the family at www.feigumfh.com