Vergil “Vergie” Lois was born April 10, 1926 in Waconia, MN to Hildegard (Splettstoesser) and Albert Hedtke, Jr. and was their only child. She was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church by Rev. Schneider. In 1929, the family moved to a wheat ranch near Conrad, Montana. It was here, living in a remote location and without the company of other children, where Vergie began to love animals and nature. Her daily playmates were the family’s Jack Russell terrier (Peggy), cats, snakes and all of the other farm animals. At age six, the family returned to Waconia where there were many other relatives, including her grandparents. Living next door to her German speaking Grandma, Vergie learned to speak German by spending a lot of time with her.
Vergie began her formal schooling in the 1st grade at age 7 in Waconia. She loved going to school and having classmates to play with. The next year the family moved to a farm between Rockford and Buffalo. Here she attended a small rural school with only about 20 children. She was only in the second grade a couple weeks before she was moved up to third grade, in spite of Hildegard’s protests to keep her in the second grade.
The next year, Albert and Hildegard purchased a farm between Montrose and Waverly. This was the home they stayed in through the rest of Vergie’s schooling. She was confirmed by Pastor Alvin Leersen at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Just before her senior year in high school, the entire Montrose High School was absorbed by Buffalo, so she graduated from Buffalo High School in 1943.
Vergie attended St. Cloud Teacher’s College, earning her elementary school teaching certificate in May 1945. That fall, she began teaching a combined 1st/2nd grade class in Big Lake. After two years in Big Lake, she was hired by the Monticello Superintendent to teach 2nd grade, where she taught for the next 15 years, before returning to Big Lake as an elementary teacher.
In 1948, she married Ellsworth Eugene (Gene) Putnam of Big Lake. After 15 years of marriage, they adopted their son, Kurt, and two years later their daughter, Tori. Vergie’s children, son-in-law Michael, and granddaughters, Sophia and Nichole, were a great joy to Vergie.
In addition to teaching full-time until 1963, Vergie then substitute taught in area schools through 1994, for a grand total of 49 years until she stopped to take care of Gene due to his failing health. Vergie was also the bookkeeper for Gene’s Interior Decorating business for 30 years.
Vergie and Gene built their brick home on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1956 and remained there for 41 years, moving to her parent’s home on 4th Street in Monticello following her mother’s passing. They also enjoyed their cabin (Puguna) and 40 acres of lakeshore on Indian Lake near Nevis, MN for 26 years.
After Gene’s death in 2001, Vergie remained active in the community through a variety of organizations. She volunteered for over 25 years on Thursdays at the Wise Penny Thrift Shop in Buffalo. She sang with the Riverside Ramblers choir, directed by her dear friend Sharon Werner, for many years. Vergie was also a longtime member of the Ladies Missionary Guild and congregant of St Peter’s Lutheran Church, and a member and officer in the GALA club. Vergie was an avid card player and loved to play and host “500” and Whist card parties.
In her last two years of life, when she needed more care, Vergie lived at Sunrise of Minnetonka, at Tori’s house during the summer of 2020 at the height of the pandemic, and finally at a small group home, Legacy Care Home of Minnetonka. Her daughter Tori (while fighting her own personal battle with cancer) cared for Vergie continuously and lovingly and was a great comfort to her. During all of that time, Vergie was able to have the company of her beloved cat, Meow Meow.
Vergie touched all who met her. Her life was guided by her steadfast faith in God, her optimistic nature, her care and service to family and community, and her love of animals and nature. It was a life well lived, and we are all fortunate to have been in Vergie’s presence and grace.
Vergie is loved and missed by her children, Kurt Putnam and his partner Louis Gutierrez, of San Francisco, Tori (Michael) Showalter of Minnetonka, grand daughters Sophia and Nichole Showalter, and many other relatives and friends.
Vergie is greeted in Heaven by her parents, Albert and Hildegard, by her loving husband, Gene, and many relatives and friends who have gone before her.
The Celebration of Vergie’s Life will be Saturday, August 14th at 11:00 am at Peterson Grimsmo Funeral Chapel, 250 East Broadway, Monticello. Visitation from 9:00 – 11:00 am. Internment immediately after the service at the Big Lake Cemetery, Big Lake, MN. Memorials preferred to the Animal Humane Society, the American Red Cross, or the charity of your choice.
A very special thank you to Reverend Pat Williamson of Unity Minneapolis, The Riverside Ramblers Choir, and to the Peterson Grimsmo staff for helping to make Vergie’s Celebration of Life special. Thank you to the pastors of St. Peter’s Lutheran church for the many years of service to Vergie, especially as her health was failing. Finally, an Extra Special thank you to the caregivers at Legacy Care Home and the Park Nicollet hospice staff for all of the wonderful care Vergie received during the last year of her life on earth.
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