Sandra “Sandy” Ann (Popken) Winter, age 80, died at her home near Luverne, Minnesota, on Thursday, November 10, 2022 under hospice care after being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer on October 27, 2022.
Sandy was born May 11, 1942 to Otto and Emma (Marineau) Popken in LeMars, IA. The youngest by 17 years of six siblings, she grew up playing with nieces, nephews and cats on farms in Sioux County, IA and south of Luverne, MN. She attended the Ash Creek country school and graduated from Luverne High School in 1959. She met Gerald Winter at a Luther League roller skating party when she was 15 and married him a month after her 18th birthday in June of 1960. They spent the next 62-years raising livestock, crops and kids on their farm seven miles southwest of Luverne.
Sandy was a mom, a grandma and a great-grandma. Her greatest accomplishment in life was giving her children, Mike (1962), Brenda (1963), Lori (1964), and Sarah (1982) good soil in which to plant their own gardens. She delighted in snuggling and rocking each one of her 17 grandchildren as babies and then watching them become gifted musicians, athletes, scientists, dancers, salesmen, managers and parents. She planted and harvested a fall crop of radishes with a great-granddaughter this fall.
Sandy was a motorcyclist. In their years together, Sandy accompanied Gerald on countless motorcycle trips including across Alaska in 2003. When “caboose” daughter, Sarah, was about to join the family, Sandy told Gerald, “We’re going to need a side car.” and he knew what she meant. The three of them repeated the camping trips and travels the older three kids had enjoyed 20 years earlier.
Sandy was employed seasonally at Wally’s Nursery in Hills, MN for 40 years, retiring in 2015. She enjoyed the plants and the customers who shared her love of gardening. Some of her grandchildren delighted in “go-to-work-with-Grandma day” and got to pull the plant wagon with her.
Sandy was a gardener. In the spring, her sunroom was filled with hundreds of seedlings. In the summer she tended a massive garden and shared the abundance with friends and family. She spent the fall canning, freezing and drying the harvest. Sandy spent the winter months perusing seed catalogs and waiting for spring.
Sandy was a quilter. Every wall of her home displays a quilted panel celebrating beauty, colors and patterns. Several unfinished quilts and countless bins of fabric remain in her sewing room. Sandy was a bookkeeper. A high school business teacher recommended her for the secretarial position at Luverne City Hall which she held from 1959 until Mike was born. She kept the farm books and served as the Financial Officer for Bethany Lutheran Church from 2010 until last Sunday.
Sandy was a listener in a family of talkers. She said her secret to a successful marriage was, “not saying everything you think.”
Sandy was a follower of Jesus Christ. She used her final days and nights well. She said a special goodbye to as many of her grandchildren as could visit, telling them how much she loved them and reminding them to love Jesus and be good. When it became difficult to sleep at night, she spent the hours “counting my blessings, singing ‘praise God from whom all blessings flow’ and praying for Gerald.
She died with a Bible and a seed catalog on her nightstand and her family by her side.
Sandy is survived by her husband Gerald; children Mike (Karen) Winter, Brenda Winter (Jim Juhl), Lori (Dave) Tingle, and Sarah Winter (Clayton Peters), all of Luverne; grandchildren, Trenton (Sydney) Winter, Jess (Kyle) Connelly, Brandon, Austin and Jordan Winter; Emilia (Adam) Simmons, Joe (Jennifer) Juhl, Kate Juhl; Bo Biever, Jackson Winter, Sydney Biever, JaShon and Kianna Winter, Kaleah and Kingston Woods, Danika and Isaiah Peters; and 10 great-grandchildren Charlie, Harrison and Isla Winter; Nathanael, Fisher, and Christian Connelly; Evelyn and Lillian Simmons and Tenley and Addison Juhl; and a sister, LuElla Karr, Haywarden, IA. She was preceded in death by her parents; and four brothers, Kenneth, Darrel, Arnold and Wayne Popken.
Memorials may be given to the Bethany Lutheran Church Helping Hands mission fund.