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Irene Struxness Ulvilden Sawatzky

September 26, 1924 June 6, 2022
Irene Struxness Ulvilden Sawatzky
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Obituary for Irene Struxness Ulvilden Sawatzky

Irene Struxness Ulvilden Sawatzky, born on September 26, 1924, to Julia and Edward Struxness in Nome, ND, died on June 6, 2022, in Peoria IL. Irene grew up in Belgrade MN, graduating from Belgrade HS in 1942. In 1946 she received a BA degree in English and Music from Luther College in Decorah IA. She had a beautiful soprano voice singing in choirs, small groups and as a soloist. Irene was Luther’s Homecoming Queen in 1944.

Irene married James A. Ulvilden in July, 1946, after his discharge from the Navy. She taught in Spring Grove MN and together they taught in Westby WI until returning to college in Brookings SD. Irene and Jim moved to Russell MN in 1953, where Irene taught English and Music until she retired in 1973.

Irene was multi-talented, directing choirs at Russell HS, Grace Lutheran Church, and participating in the Marshall Sweet Adalines Chorus and the Music Educators Chorus at Southwest State University. She also served as President of the congregation at Grace Lutheran Church, served on the school board as well as working with Jim at the Farmers State Bank of Russell. She became VP and oversaw operations of the bank after Jim’s death in October, 1979.

In September, 1980, Irene married Martin E. Sawatzky. They divided their time between Mesa AZ and Russell MN until a permanent move to Mesa in 2002. Irene directed the Mesa Towerpoint Mixed Chorus. She sang in Victory and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church choirs. Irene and Martin volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club of Phoenix, Valley Lutheran Hospital and in many capacities at Towerpoint Resort in Mesa. Irene became an accomplished artist in her retirement, enjoying oil painting, silver jewelry making, crafts work, and tap dancing.

Martin died in 2003. Irene relocated to Lutheran Hillside Village in Peoria IL in 2012.

Survivors include two daughters, Jennifer (John) Gregg, Peoria IL and Deborah (Tony) Anderson, SeaTac WA and their children. Stepsons Doug (Mary) Sawatzky, Wilmar, MN and Mike (Karen) Sawatzky, Slayton MN and their children.

Irene was preceded in death by her parents, five brothers and five sisters.

You may send a memorial to the Weston Noble Anniversary Scholarship, to benefit Luther College choral music students, at www.giving@Luther.edu. Scroll down, choose other, and type in the scholarship name in memory of Irene.

A family graveside service will be held at West Nidaros Lutheran Cemetery, Crooks, SD at a later date.

The Cremation Society of Mid-Illinois Co. Pekin/Peoria is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be made at csmico.com

To plant a tree in memory of Irene Struxness Ulvilden Sawatzky, visit the Tribute Store.

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