In Memory of Bertha Christensen
Bertha A. Christensen, age 96, of Northwoods Beach died Tuesday, March 10, 2020 at Hayward Area Memorial Hospital in the loving presence of her family. She was one of those wonderful people who cherished her friends, took care of family whenever called upon, and understood the joys of life were not to be taken lightly.
Bertha Smith was born March 18, 1923 in Hayward, WI, the second daughter of Fred and Madge (Heenan) Smith. Eventually there would be ten children of Fred & Madge, not including two who died in infancy. She and her siblings grew up in the Round Lake Village. Bertha was enrolled in the Hayward Indian School, a boarding school built to educate Native children from the State of Wisconsin, but she transferred to Kinnamon School, graduating in 1938. Bertha received a high school diploma from Flandreau Indian School in 1942.
While she intended to enter nursing school in Oklahoma after graduating from Flandreau, her father asked her to return home. Back in Hayward, she worked as a nurse’s aide at the Hayward Hospital, transporting herself 15 miles a day on a bicycle. She later decided to move on to a better position at the Milwaukee County Hospital.
World War II had started when she was a student at Flandreau. She marveled at the large number of Native students who immediately enlisted when the war began in 1939, leaving the campus with very few male students. In 1944, Bertha decided that the military was the next step in her life. She enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force and was stationed at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia for basic training. She was later assigned to the 211th Army Air Force Base Unit in Casper, WY where she received training in and worked as a nurse’s aide. She was next stationed at the Army Air Base in Pueblo, CO. It was there in 1945 that she received orders that she was being deployed to the South Pacific. Bertha was on the loading platform, beginning her long trip when word was received that the war had ended. Had Bertha been sent to the South Pacific she would have been in the middle of one of the major theaters of war of WWII.
After her tour of duty was over, she returned home briefly, attended secretarial school at Spencerian College in Milwaukee and then on to Chicago where she worked briefly for the Navy Department and then 40 years at Avon. It was in Chicago that she met and married her lifelong partner, John “Buckshot” Christensen. She returned with him to his home, Lac du Flambeau, and worked at the LDF Casino until her retirement. After Buckshot passed away, she returned to LCO.
In a recent article in the Sawyer County Record Bertha said, “Believe in yourself, do good things and think good thoughts.” That advice sparked a remarkable 96 years. For the many who had the privilege of spending time with her, they were regaled by stories from her many years, stories of joy, sadness, generosity and sharing, all recited in great detail. We have lost one of the most precious assets of our community but are better for having known her.
She is survived by her siblings who she cherished, Richard Smith, Lorraine Smith, and Sandy Bird; a multitude of nieces & nephews. Although she had no biological children, there were many who called her Mom and Grandma.
Bertha was preceded in death by her husband John “Buckshot” Christensen; parents Fred & Madge Smith; brother Leonard Smith; sister Beatrice Stewart, Frieda McPherson Smith, Marge O’Leary, Geraldine Butterfield & Jeanette Lowry.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:00 a.m., Friday, March 13, 2020 at St. Francis Solanus Indian Mission in Reserve. Father Gregory Hopefl will officiate with music by Sister Felissa Zander. Burial will be in Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cementer in Spooner, WI. Visitation will begin at 5:00 p.m. Thursday, March 12th at Pineview Funeral Service in Hayward.
Honorary casket bearers will be Mary Ellen Baker, Roberto Palumbi, Gary Quaderer, Sr. and Dorothy Sharon.
Casket bearers will be the Bird Family.