With profound sadness we announce the unexpected passing of Bernette Rae Ensz (née Albrecht), 77, of Sioux Falls, SD. Bernette suffered from a brain hemorrhage and passed away on the morning of September 21, 2023 at Avera McKennan Hospital, with her beloved husband Jim and children by her side. In true Bernette fashion, she made her last evening an all-nighter and joined her heavenly family just as the sun was rising.
A celebration of Bernette’s life will be held at Salem Zion Mennonite Church in Freeman, SD on Friday, October 6th at 10:30am, with interment to follow at Tieszen Cemetery in Marion, SD. A visitation will be held on Thursday, October 5th from 5:00-7:00pm at Salem Zion Mennonite Church.
Our sincere gratitude to all our family and friends for their condolences and generous support during this difficult time. In lieu of flowers, consider a memorial gift to Freeman Academy (Bernette’s alma mater) or Swan Lake Christian Camp.
Born on August 1, 1946 in Freeman, SD to Peter and Adeline Albrecht, Bernette was the youngest of three girls. Her mother died when Bernette was just eight years old, leaving her father and two older sisters, Vanna and Darla, to raise her. Her father Peter would remarry when she was 11 years old, but just three years later, her stepmother Otilia would die from brain cancer. The loss of Bernette’s mother left an indelible mark and gave her reason to think about heaven at an early age. Despite her loss, her belief in God remained and she was often seen sharing the gospel with her quiet, yet attentive audience of dolls and cats.
She attended high school at Freeman Academy and then went on to Freeman Junior College where she studied business and graduated in 1966. It was during this time that she met her college sweetheart Jim. She fondly recalled the basketball tournament, where, as Tournament Queen, she had the opportunity to hand him a tournament trophy along with a congratulatory kiss! Maybe not surprisingly, the other team captains lined up hoping to receive the same warm congratulations.
Bernette’s dream was to get married and have children. Jim and Bernette wed at Salem Zion Mennonite Church in Freeman, SD on May 4, 1968 and built a beautiful life together over the next 55 years. After tying the knot, Bernette relocated to Northfield, IL to be with Jim and several of their childhood friends. They both found work at Evanston Hospital - Bernette in the controller’s office and Jim in engineering. Their first child, Brent, was born in 1970, and their second, Lisa, was born 13 months later. Wanting to be close to family, they returned to South Dakota to raise their children and remained in Sioux Falls for the rest of their married life.
Bernette loved her family and instilled strong values in her children that remain to this day. She was active in the PTA, enjoyed making themed birthday cakes, and cheering on her kids at musical performances and sporting events. She later found great joy in her role as grandmother and often shared photos and stories of her two grandchildren, Lilly and Harry.
Bernette had a warm, contagious smile and could talk with anyone. When she walked into a room, she seemed to know everyone, and if she didn’t, she would before she left. She was always the last to leave. She loved visiting with people and had a keen ability to remember connections. If you wanted to know about familial relationships, Bernette seemed to have the answer.
She was a friend to all whose lives she touched. Family and friendships encompassed all aspects of her life, and all were special to her. From phone calls (of which there were many – she particularly cherished 3-way calls with her sisters) to joint family outings, to sharing formal and informal meals, to helping others, Bernette was up for it all. She derived much joy from helping others and was the friend who would drive you to your medical appointment just as freely as she would join you for lunch. She saved the best of everything for others and was always the last to sit down at a meal, wanting to ensure everyone’s needs were met.
Bernette’s faith in Christ was central to her life. She regularly attended Sermon on the Mount Mennonite Church, where she was a charter member as well as the sole church historian since its inception in 1977. Bernette was very active in Bible Study, both as a participant and as a leader. She loved playing hymns on the piano and attending musical concerts with friends. Later in life, she had the trip of a lifetime and traveled with family and friends to Israel where she was able to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
Bernette will be dearly missed and forever in our hearts. We will fondly remember her love of the Lord, her warm smile, her positivity, and the ease with which she laughed. And we will never forget her love of Schmeckfest (which she attended since 1973!), her propensity to stay up all night, her immaculate house (minus the office), and the guestbook she kept at the house for all visitors (including her daughter). She was truly one of a kind. I thank my God every time I remember you – Philippians 1:3.
Grateful for having shared her life are her husband, Jim, of Sioux Falls, SD; her son, Brent Ensz of Sioux Falls, SD; her daughter, Lisa (Greg Pope) Ensz of Wellesley, MA; two grandchildren, Lilly and Harry Pope of Wellesley, MA; two sisters, Vanna Dunbar of Columbus, OH and Darla Schrag of Pretty Prairie, KS; two brothers-in-law, Kelly (Laine) Ensz of Tea, SD and Tom (Lynette) Ensz of Hartford, SD; two sisters-in-law, Peggy (Art) Farmer of Cincinnati, OH and Donna (Leon) Thaemert of Colorado Springs, CO; and countless nieces, nephews, and friends.
Bernette was preceded in death by her parents Adeline and Peter C. Albrecht; her stepmother Otilia Albrecht; her mother and father-in-law Ruth and Herb Ensz; two sisters-in-law, Linda Lowry and Dixie Ensz; and two brothers-in-law, Dell Schrag and Bob Dunbar.