Mary Helen Werkmeister, 63

Mary Helen Werkmeister, 63, of Annour, S.D., died Friday, May 8, 2009, at Sanford USD Medical Center, Sioux Falls, after a four-month battle against lymphoma. A large group of family members encircled her bed as she left this world peacefully and entered the next.

She was born April 23, 1946, at West Bend, Wis., to Leo and Arlene (Schneider) Fellenz. In a family of 12 children, she was the oldest girl and assumed the role of a second mother to many of her siblings.

In 1966, Mary was a trophy queen at a stock-car race when she caught the eye of race-car driver Darold Werkmeister, who resided in West Bend but was a native of Annour, S.D. They began dating and married on June 22, 1968, at St. Michael's Catholic Church, St. Michael's, Wis. Mary undertook full-time work as a wife and mother.

In 1982, Mary displayed the devotion that was a hallmark of their marriage when she agreed to leave the tree-covered hills of Wisconsin — the only home she had ever known — for the wind-swept plains of South Dakota. They gave up Darold's steady job and left Wisconsin with five kids in a 1979 Dodge van, full of hopes and dreams for the future.

Darold established a welding business in Annour and, with Mary's help, he made it a success. Their son, Kevin, has since joined them in running the company.

With the help of Darold’s 5 father, Ebne,. Darold and Mary built their own house in Annour with their own hands. Mary was instrumental in the design of the house, which she made into a home.

To say that Mary was an avid gardener is an understatement. Her garden grew in size until it consumed roughly the area of a small house, and year after year she turned the food she grew into canned goods that she shared generously with others.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996, but she conquered that disease and resolved to live even healthier than she had before. For many years, she kept up a jogging regimen of 4 miles per day. She survived uterine cancer in 2004 and had cancerous spots on her skin removed at various times. Lymphoma was her fourth cancer.

Mary’s own struggles with cancer inspired her to volunteer for the American Cancer Society. When newly diagnosed breast cancer patients asked to be visited by a cancer survivor, Mary was one of the survivors who got the call. She lent support to many cancer victims in their homes and in the hospital.

Mary was a member of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, where she was a Eucharistic minister and was active in the Altar Society. She also was active in a cancer support group and Women in Actio11, was a local secretary for the United States Bowling Congress and volunteered at the Lorain Theater. She loved bowling, baking, music, the outdoors and spending time with her 13 grandchildren.

Mary is survived by her husband; five children: Scott and his wife, Melissa, and their children, Cameron, Makenzie, Kassidie and Sydnie, of Licking, Mo.; Kevin and his wife, Brenda, and their children, Faith and Koby, of Annour, SD; Dan and his wife, Rachel, and their children, Erin, Steven and Cole, of Freedom, Wis.; Jim and his wife, Jami, and their children, Alex and Jace, of Peoria, Ill.; and Shelly Tupper and her husband, Seth, and their daughter, Kaylie (a second child is due in August), of Mitchell, SD; 11 siblings: Richard, Ralph, Bob, Joe, Chris Deigni, Rita Stecher, Allie (Val) Cauteren, Frank, Ginny Schroeder, Caroline Kirsenlohr and Yvonne Fellenz; her father-in-law, Elmer Werkmeister, and his wife, Ileen, of Annour; and many other relatives and friends.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her mother-in-law, Luella Werkmeister; and a grandson, Michael Werkmeister.

Services were held at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Annour with a Christian Mass and burial on May 12, 2009.

A memorial has been established to the American Cancer Society, in Mary's name. To donate, contact Kevin Werkmeister at 605-770-5959 or