Norma (Opp) Merkel, 88, entered the arms of her Lord and Savior on Thursday, March 19, 2020, at the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center in Gillette surrounded by her loving children and grandchildren.
Norma was born March 11, 1932, to Christ G. and Maria (Hieb) Opp on the family farm in rural Eureka, South Dakota.
Norma’s childhood was spent on the family farm, where she milked cows by hand and then separated the milk by turning a separator, brought in fresh water by the bucketful, scrubbed the laundry on a washboard and hung it on the line to dry, ironed almost everything with a flatiron that had been heated on the cookstove, plucked and dressed chickens on butchering day, hoed the garden in the summer and harvested vegetables in the fall.
Norma was baptized and confirmed at St. Paul’s Congregational Church in Eureka.
She received her education through the eighth grade in a one-room schoolhouse. She and her brothers walked more than 2 miles one way to get to school. She felt very lucky when her teacher, Otto Strobel, was driving to school and stopped to give the Opp kids a ride.
In the winter, her Dad took them to school in a horse-drawn sled.
When Norma began school, she only spoke German. As she learned English through the years, her mom still only allowed German to be spoken in the home.
She lived on the family farm until October 1952, when she began work as a nurse’s aide at the Eureka Community Hospital for 7½ years. In December 1959, she met Enoch H. Merkel and they were united in marriage June 26, 1960, at St. Paul’s Congregational Church.
During the first years of their married life, they worked on dairy farms near Ashley, North Dakota. For one year they lived in Pierre, South Dakota, where Enoch worked on the Oahe Dam and Norma worked at St. Mary’s Hospital.
They returned to work in rural Ashley and their first daughter, Melody, was born in Eureka in January 1964. In 1965, the family moved to Lead, South Dakota, where Enoch worked for Homestake Mining Co. and Norma took care of her family.
In August 1965, they welcomed their second daughter, Michele, and in March 1970, their son, Anthony, completed the family. Norma received her GED certificate in 1988 when her son graduated from Lead High School.
Following Enoch’s passing in 1994, Norma moved to Spearfish, South Dakota, where she volunteered for RSVP Stations, the Senior Center, Dorsett Home, Chamber of Commerce and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.
She enjoyed quilting and playing cards.
Norma’s lifelong dream was to visit her father’s homeland of Glueckstal, South Russia. On Sept. 28, 2001, she finally saw the area where he was born and the Lutheran Church her grandparents, father and his siblings attended. She was incredibly proud of her German/Russian heritage.
She belonged to the Black Hills Germans from Russia in Rapid City, Spearfish and Belle Fourche, where she served as vice president for seven years.
In May 2017, Norma moved to Gillette to be closer to her family. While living there, she attended Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and enjoyed Wii bowling at the Senior Center.
Above all, Norma’s family was most important to her.
Norma is survived by her children, Melody and Tim Quenzer, their sons, Cole and Heath of Gillette; Michele and Rob Gordon, their children, Grace and David of Gillette; and Anthony and Jessi (Calvert) Merkel, their daughter, Orianna, and Orianna’s son, Beckam, of Deadwood, South Dakota. She’s also survived by four sisters-in-law; and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Christ and Maria; husband, Enoch; brothers, Edwin (Margaret) and Edward (Eleanor), twin brother Norman; and sister, Martha (Walter) Aman.
Public viewing was March 23, 2020, at Fidler-Isburg Funeral Chapel in Spearfish. Graveside services for the immediate family was held at Mountain Lawn Cemetery in Lead and a memorial service with family and friends will be at a later date in Spearfish. Please continue to check the funeral home website for an announced date and time for the memorial service.
Norma left the following note dated July 10, 2017: Many thanks to my three lovely and caring children for seeing to it that I was cared for and taken care of, Melody, Michele and Anthony, their spouses and my five grandchildren, Cole, Heath, Orianna, Grace and David, and great-grandson, Beckam. God bless you all!
Arrangements are under the care of Fidler-Isburg Funeral Chapels and Isburg Crematory of Spearfish.
Online condolences may be written at fidler-isburgfuneralchapels.com.
This paid obituary was provided by family and friends.