Catherine “Bessie” Wanken, 93, died Tuesday, July 17, 2007, at the Liberty County Nursing Home.
Rosary prayers will be at 7 p. m. today at the Rockman Funeral Chapel in Chester. Her funeral mass will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Chester. Burial will follow at the Chester Cemetery. Catherine “Bessie” Wanken was born Nov. 23, 1913, at the family farm near Hay Coulee, south of Chester. She was one of 15 children born to Stanley and Katherine (Lopata) Kantorowicz. She received her formal education at the Hay Coulee country school, then began working for neighboring farm families. Catherine married John Wanken on April 16, 1934, in Hingham. They lived and farmed in the Chester community, where she worked diligently as a homemaker and mother of three. In 1964, the Wankens moved to a farm southwest of Shelby and remained active in the farming operations until John’s death on July 18, 1989. They had been married 55 years when John passed away at age 82. Catherine returned to their Chester home and remained independent until age 90. She moved to the Wheat Country Estates (assisted-living facility) three years ago and enjoyed her time there. In November 2006, she transferred to the Liberty County Nursing Home. Baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith, Catherine remained loyal to her strong Christian values. She was a member of St. Mary’s Church and Altar Society in Chester. She was also a member of the Republican party and always exercised her privilege to vote. Catherine’s hobbies were many. She enjoyed sewing, embroidery, gardening and cooking, some of her specialties included wonderful turkey dressings, apple breads and homemade pies. In her earlier years, she liked to play pinochle and checkers. During her quiet time at home she enjoyed reading, especially country magazines and Reader’s Digest. She also enjoyed a few favorite soap operas on television. Catherine loved scenic trips to the mountains with her family, who were the mainstay in her life. She was a proud and loving mother and grandmother. She is preceded in death by her husband; parents; brothers, John, Frank, Carl and Chester; and sisters, Anna, Julia, Helen “Sister Susanne,” Sophie, Josephine and Agnes. She is survived by her children, Louise Susan (Bob) McDonnell of Helena, Frank (Marion) Wanken of Chester, and Dr. Helen (Ashton Welch) Wanken of Omaha, Neb.; siblings, Ruth Corbett of Helena, Mary Ennis of Spokane, Wash., Alfred Biggs of Tonasket, Wash., and Bernice McCabe of Muskogee, Okla.; sister-in-law, Mildred Kantorowicz of Chester; special friends, Doris Fraser, Diane Darlington, June Ternstrom and Margaret Longcake; four grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. Memorials will be given to local charities, including the Liberty County Hospital and Nursing Home, the Wheat Country Estates, the Chester Swimming Pool Fund and/or St. Mary’s Catholic Church (Stained-glass Window Fund).