She was a Crookston resident.
Leona Mary Keller Wilkens, 93, of Crookston, MN, passed away peacefully early Thursday morning, April 25, 2013, at the Villa St. Vincent in Crookston.
Leona was born on April 20, 1920 in Sherwood, ND, and was one of 7 children of the union of Henry and Mathilda (Stumpf) Keller. She moved with her family to Crookston at the age of 13. Leona was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith. She attended Mount St. Benedict Academy in Crookston and graduated as a member of the Class of 1938.
Leona met a young man named Burnie Wilkens at the local roller rink. Love blossomed and on September 5, 1942, they were united in marriage, becoming waltz partners for the rest of their lives together. Leona and Burnie raised their children on their farm in Fairfax Township. Sadly, their 2nd child, Mary Ann, died as an infant. Burnie passed away on August 20, 1985.
Leona was a wonderful mother and homemaker, remembered with fondness for her cooking and baking, especially her bread and cinnamon pecan rolls. She baked delicious rhubarb pies and made a wonderful choke cherry wine. She enjoyed spending time in her gardens pioneering organic gardening. Leona was an excellent seamstress, knitter, Rosemaler, and whittler. She loved dancing, especially the waltz. Her favorite songs included “Beautiful Dreamer” and “You are My Sunshine”. She loved animals and cared for many pets that her children brought home including a pet monkey, dogs, cats, an injured chicken hawk, baby foxes, rabbits, guinea pigs, a crow, and white mice.
Her greatest passion was quilting. Her favorite quilt pattern was the ‘Log Cabin, symbolizing home, family, and love. Leona was an expert instructor in quilting, fiber arts, design and color. For well-over twenty-five years, from the 1970’s into the 1990’s, she was an active instructor in Crookston’s Adult Education programs as well as the University of Minnesota-Crookston Elderhostel programs. Additionally, she was a guest instructor at many quilting workshops throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, and Canada. Leona was a charter member of both the Minnesota and North Dakota Quilter’s Guilds. She won numerous awards at regional quilting shows for her awesome hand quilting and unique original designs. She was the author of the book, Quilting, Patchwork and Appliqué, published in 1975, in which she first introduced her precision-piecing technique called the “Crosspoint” technique. Her famous heart design, “A Quilter’s World”, was published in 1978. In her design, she chose hearts to represent loyalty to her friends with whom she quilted. The vines showed how quilting extends and touches the lives of others and then comes back to one’s self. The leaves represented the growth and learning experienced in our lives.
Leona was a devoted member of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception parish, where she attended Mass faithfully and loved to pray the rosary. She was a Lay Carmelite and an active member of the Catholic Daughters. Leona was a member of the Fairfax Homemaker’s Club and a longtime leader of the Four Corners 4-H Club where she was honored with the highest 4-H leadership award given. The University of Minnesota also presented her with an award for having the most children (6) to receive degrees from that institution.
She is survived by her children; many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; a sister, Helen Fairchild of Hibbing, MN; 2 sisters in-law, Anna Keller of Crookston, and Veronica Keller of Hibbing, MN; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband of 42 years, Burnie, and their infant daughter, Mary Ann; as well as, her parents Henry and Mathilda Keller; and her siblings/spouses: Godfrey (Blanche) Keller, Otto (Martha) Keller, Henry (Olivine) Keller, Leo Keller, Raymond Keller and Steve Fairchild.
May God richly bless the memory of Leona Mary Keller Wilkens. The legacy she leaves with her children is one of faith, love, kindness, and generosity. She is remembered by them with great love.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Leona Mary Keller Wilkens will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Crookston, MN at 1:00 p.m., Friday, May 17, 2013 with The Rev. Vincent Miller presiding. Visitation will be at the Stenshoel-Houske Funeral Home from 5:00 -7:00 p.m. Thursday; with a time of sharing and rosary service at 7:00 p.m. Visitation will continue at the Cathedral for one hour prior to the Mass. Interment will be in the Calvary Cemetery in Crookston.