Esther Knutson

Esther Marie Knutson, 93, of Vermillion, South Dakota passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 3, 2019 at Sanford Vermillion Care Center.

Funeral service will be Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at 10 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Vermillion, South Dakota with Pastor Jim Fowler officiating. Burial will be in Bluff View Cemetery in Vermillion.

Visitation will be from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, July 8, 2019 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Vermillion, South Dakota.

Esther Marie was born on May 5 in Sisseton, South Dakota to Millie and Elias Johnstad. Her only sibling, Alice, was born a few years later; Esther always professed a deep love for and joy in her sister’s life and talent. Esther graduated from Sisseton High School as valedictorian in 1944 and attended Augustana College where she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948.With degree in hand, she taught junior high art in Mitchell, South Dakota until 1950.

It was in 1950 that Esther married Wayne Knutson and her life’s focus changed. While Wayne completed graduate degrees, she worked as a book keeper for Citizens Bank in Vermillion and then as a book keeper for the First National Band of the Black Hills. As a result of her marriage to Wayne, she found her art talents useful as a member of the Black Hills Playhouse’s company from 1951 to 1962. After Wayne’s employment by the University of South Dakota Theater

Department and the couple’s subsequent move to Vermillion, Esther became an active member in a number of clubs and associations including serving as an officer and member of the Jolley Grade School PTA, membership in the USD Women’s Club, and the Zeta Phi Eta Professional Fraternity in Communication, Arts and Sciences.

Everyone who knew her understood the importance of her Christian faith to her. At various times as a member of Trinity Lutheran Church she taught Sunday School, played piano for Sunday School exercises and was a member of the choir for many decades. Esther was elected as the first female president of the Council in the church’s history; she also served as a vice-president, deacon and member and officer of the TLC Women’s club and was a delegate to the SD Annual Lutheran Church State Convention. She practiced an active faith as she both served with or chaired church activities including the Annual Dinner, monthly circles, the ice cream social and the S.O.S. Committee as well as willingly going door to door for many charitable causes. Esther could be depended on to write cards of support to those in hospitals and care centers; she practiced a personal faith which included daily devotional readings, prayer and Bible study.

One very significant aspect of Esther’s personality was her desire to connect to people as exemplified by the literally thousands of letters to relatives and friends both in the US and Norway. This trait is well illustrated by her art which consisted almost entirely of portraits, both from her youth and adulthood. We often joked that she could remember at least ten thousand people (this may not be an exaggeration) and when meeting someone new, she always asked their name to be followed by an effort to connect it to someone she previously knew that they might know.

Esther was proud of her children and grandchildren, sharing news of their accomplishments with the other family members. She made sure that all were “taken care of” at family gatherings by doing all of the cooking, planning, etc. so that everyone would be free to enjoy each other’s company.

Esther was preceded in death by her parents, Elias and Millie Johnstad; sister, Alice Peterson; Husband, Wayne; and all 21 of her first cousins.

She is survived by sons, David (Diane) Knutson of Sheridan, Wyoming, Jon (Patricia) Knutson of Schuyler, Nebraska, daughter Jane O’Brien of Vermillion; and her six grandchildren: Jonathon Knutson, Erin Schanzenbach, Eric Knutson, Paul Knutson, Kelsey Parsons and Elen Holdsworth. She also survived by five great grandchildren.

The family asks in lieu of flowers that donations be made either to the Wayne and Esther Endowment with the USD Foundation or the Millie and Elias Johnstad Endowment at Augustana University.

Kober Funeral Home of Vermillion has been entrusted with the services.