Bernice Abby Holthus was born to Clyde and Nellie Pharris in Winner, SD on November 21, 1932. She passed away on September 22, 2020 in Gregory, SD at the age of 87.
Funeral services for Bernice were held Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 2 PM in Hamill, SD at the Hamill Hall. Burial will be at the Hamill Cemetery.
Bernice was the second youngest of eight and grew up on a farm south of Winner where she developed her love for horses and taking care of animals. She graduated from Winner High School in 1951. After high school, she helped her father and mother on the farm and also helped her father put up windmills for area ranchers. She always had a special place in her heart for windmills. Bernice also worked for a few families as a nanny and took a job with Donald and Agnes Holthus when their youngest son, David, was born. While there, she met Donald’s youngest brother, Jake, just before he was drafted into the Korean War.
Bernice married Alvin (Jake) Holthus in 1955 and moved to the farm in Hamill where they raised three children; Crystal, Dennis and DeEtta; and a few other kids that landed on their doorstep, including Roger Fiala and quite often, her nephew, Mitch Ptacek. She always had a large garden with vegetables and fruit trees and loved to can everything possible. She loved to cook and bake. She had lots of animals and many horses that kept her busy as well as working the farm with Jake. She could work cattle all day and be back to the house with supper on the table before anyone knew she was gone. Bernice also enjoyed hunting season when she would have a house full of hunters to feed. It was her favorite time of year next to Christmas. Bernice was a devout Christian and had a special relationship with Jesus and a philosophy that Jake did not always agree with but left it alone and that was not to turn any animal away that showed up at her house just in case she was being tested by God.
Bernice was an active member of Zion Lutheran Church in Hamill and spent lots of time working projects and events with the LWML, Ladies Aid group. Bernice was also one of the founding members of the Hamill Horseman’s Club and always looked forward to each rodeo season and watching many kids grow up in that arena. Bernice was also an excellent rodeo mom and you could always find her at the 4-H and High School rodeos in the stands, with her sunflower seeds, keeping scores and times, and cheering for the kids. She cherished those times with her friends and family.
Bernice worked many years at the Homestyle Café in Colome and the café at the Winner Livestock Auction and enjoyed taking care of the patrons and visiting with old and new friends. Bernice was an active member of the Winner DAV, Colome American Legion, the Rural Letter Carriers Association, the Southern Bell Cattlewomen, the Tripp County Historical Society and the Tripp County Thrivent Chapter.
Bernice and Jake moved to their house in Winner in 2003. Jake passed away in 2006 and Bernice stayed in Winner until illness took her health and she moved to the nursing home in Gregory in 2018.
Bernice is survived by her oldest sister, Grace Sattler, Rogers, AR; daughter, Crystal (Dusty) Needham, Hamill, SD; son, Dennis Holthus, Hamill, SD; daughter, DeEtta (Wayne) Mathisen, Keenesburg, CO; and Roger Fiala, Carter SD; three grandchildren; Christopher Stieha, Joey Stieha and Cheyenne Needham; two greatgrandchildren; Jacob Stieha and Gus Plumbtree; four step-grandchildren; twelve step-great-grandchildren; three step-great-great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jake; her mother and father; her mother-in-law and father-in-law; two brothers; four sisters; eight brothers-in-law; four sisters-in-law and one step-greatgrandchild.