Gertrude E. Villeneuve, 103, of Deer River, MN passed away peacefully on July 10, 2021.
Born in Ronneby, MN in 1918, to John and Lenora Rafinski, Gertrude was blessed with a long and beautiful life. She moved to the Deer River area with her family, when she was 12 years old, where she later met and was united in marriage with Joseph Villeneuve, Sr. They were blessed with seven children.
Gertrude’s faith in God was immeasurable and touched every aspect of her life, as well as the lives of those around her. She was an active member of St. Joseph’s Catholic church in Ball Club, MN, for many years, which she attended every Sunday, sitting in “her” row near the front, wearing her distinctive little hats. She never went anywhere without a rosary in her hand and could be seen praying it anytime she had a free moment.
Outside the church, Gertrude’s faith was visible in her love and generosity. She fed anyone who walked in her door with her delicious home-cooking, often stuffing them full until they couldn’t eat another bite. Even when she wasn’t cooking for people in her own home, she was still feeding many people with fresh produce and canned goods that she produced herself. She tended to a huge vegetable garden and multiple berry patches, and shared the fruits of her labor freely with friends and family. Even more than her vegetable garden, her big, beautiful flower beds were her pride and joy, yet she never failed to cut the best blooms to use in the floral arrangements she made for the church. And what beautiful blooms they were! Gertrude grew many flowers, but her favorites were her gladiolas, zinnias, and giant dahlias. Her flowers were well-loved and well-tended, just like everything else in her life, and it showed. She even won many purple “Best of Show” ribbons for her flowers at the Itasca County Fair.
Later in life, Gertrude loved to travel. She took several religious pilgrimages where she visited places like the Holy Land, Rome, Poland, and Fatima. She also traveled to all 50 United States, and visited 16 countries in total, all the way from the snowy peaks of Switzerland to tropical Venezuela.
Most of all, Family was everything to Gertrude, she was the beloved Matriarch of a huge family. As one family member put it, “It is amazing how many branches have grown from this one strong ‘grandma willow’”. At the time of her passing, Gertrude had 131 direct descendants. In these last few years, visits from her youngest relatives were always guaranteed to bring a sparkle back to her eyes. She loved the little children, and her whole family, very much.
Gertrude was preceded in death by her husband, Joseph; sons Fred “Tony” Villeneuve and Maxwell Villeneuve; daughter Shirley Gardner; son-in-law Dennis Oihus; grandchildren Regina Oihus, Kristina Villeneuve, and Darren Villeneuve; great-grandchildren Vincent Villeneuve, Renee Short, and Spencer Yurrick; and great-great granddaughter Brin Villeneuve.
She is survived by her son Joseph Villeneuve; daughters Marilyn Oihus, Gloria (Edward) Deutschmann, and Joan (Jeffrey) Herfindahl; daughters-in-law Linda Cartwright and Lavonne Villeneuve; sister Lillian Guthrie; 34 grandchildren, 68 great-grandchildren, 15 great-great-grandchildren; and many other beloved relatives and friends.
A wake will be held at Carrol Funeral Home in Deer River on Thursday, July 15th from 4-7 pm, with the Rosary starting at 6:30pm.
Mass of Christian Burial will be at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Ball Club on Friday July 16th at 11am, with visitation 1 hour beforehand.
To send flowers to Gertrude's family, please visit our floral store.