Irma Sanderson, trusting in Jesus Christ as her Savior, passed away on September 16, 2019, and Murdo lost one of its longest-living residents.
Born Irma Arlene Marjorie Bork on July 8, 1920, in the hospital in Murdo, South Dakota, she was the first child and only daughter of Herman Bork and Anna Niedan Bork. She was welcomed into a large extended family since both sets of grandparents had emigrated from Germany and settled with their children in Jones County in the early 1900’s.
Growing up on a ranch near Okaton, Irma’s early school years were spent in the country school. High school found her at Murdo High School, where she was active in band, orchestra, girls’ glee club, mixed chorus and basketball. She also served as a class officer each of her four years and was named as Carnival Queen in 1939.
Upon graduation, Irma enrolled at the University of Nebraska where she majored in education with a business minor. Her first employment was as a kindergarten teacher in Ravenna, Nebraska. Soon, however, like so many others in our nation, she was engaged in World War II efforts as she worked as a supervisor for the U.S. Army Air Corps in Omaha in the B-29 parts department. She later worked at the Omaha Grain Exchange Company, before leaving for Greensboro, North Carolina to be married.
Irma married Murdo resident, Melvin “Jeff” Sanderson on October 27, 1944, in Greensboro. With Jeff stationed at the U.S. Marine Base at Cherry Point, N.C. after his overseas duties, Irma there resumed work for the U.S. Government.
When Jeff’s military obligation was completed, the young couple returned to Murdo. There, they joined the business community, buying an interest in the Sanderson family store and starting a farm machinery operation. The couple also built a home near that of Jeff’s parents and those of both Jeff’s and Irma’s siblings and their families. They lived in this home for over 59 years and there raised their two sons.
While involved in the family’s businesses and raising her sons, Irma still made time to serve as Cub Scout Leader for her boys’ troops. Always a consummate proponent of education for her own and other children, Irma relished the opportunity to act as Story Hour Teacher for preschool children for many years prior to Murdo having a kindergarten program.
In 1965, Irma began working for the Murdo Independent School District, first as a substitute teacher and assistant, and then as its first business manager. She enjoyed the challenge of being a part of a ten- school pilot program and took pride in the fact that the audits of her work by the State never showed any error. She retired from the Jones County School District in 1987, and thereafter worked with her son, Mark, in managing his LandMARK Country Inn.
Irma’s devotion to her Murdo community was always strong. When the Hillburton Fund Hospital was built in Murdo, Irma served as the treasurer for the Community Memorial Hospital Corporation from 1961 until its dissolution in 1993. Many of the younger or more recent residents of Murdo may not realize Irma’s role in elements now integral in the community. She was the instigating force in 1967 that brought about the Murdo Housing and Redevelopment Commission and the construction of the East and the West Prairie View Housing projects. Irma served as the organization’s President until 2002. She was also instrumental in reorganization of the Murdo Cemetery Association and the survey for a much-needed plot map and perpetual care system. She served as the secretary and treasurer of that association for over thirty-three years.
But anyone who knew Irma knew she wasn’t all about work and community service. Her faith in God played a strong role in her life. Irma was very active in Messiah Lutheran Church in Murdo where she taught Sunday School for sixteen years, served as its treasurer, and substituted as its organist. She was also active in the Church’s Mary Martha Society, but most importantly, she lived her Christian faith.
Irma was also a member of Murdo’s Book and Thimble Club joining in 1946 and serving in various offices, and a recipient of the “50 Year Certificate” from the National Federated Women’s Club. She was part of a long-standing bridge club and was the consummate hostess, frequently opening her lovely home to their many friends and extended family for gatherings, holiday dinners and parties.
Her love of travel and adventure found outlet in cruises and in visiting 48 of our United States. One of her most treasured memories, however, was when she was given the opportunity to dress in the opulent costuming of Carnival and travel the streets of New Orleans throwing beads and doubloons to the crowds from a Mardi Gras parade float.
As with many women who came of age in the 1940’s and 50’s, Irma was very conscientious about her appearance, and she was voted “best dressed” in high school. With her strong fashion sense, however, Irma always took her style to a higher level and was known for her beautiful clothes and exquisite taste. With the exception of her immediate family, it was rare for anyone to see her without her hair and makeup at perfection.
Widowed in 2003, Irma spent most of her final years living with, and later being cared for, by her son Mark, splitting their time between Murdo and his home in California.
Irma’s sons and granddaughter were the lights of her life and their own lives reflect her love, care and devotion. Irma extended that same love and caring to her nieces, nephews, Godchildren, many friends and even their children and grandchildren.
She is preceded in death by her husband, parents, and brother, Dr. Gordon Bork. Surviving are her sons, Jeff H. (Emily) of Eden Prairie, MN and Mark of Murdo and Foster City, CA, and granddaughter, Angela Sanderson-Dressel, DMV (Chad) of Buffalo, MN. Irma is also survived by many beloved nieces, nephews, Godchildren and friends.
Nearly a century of life well-lived and well-loved not just for herself, but for her family, her many friends, her church and her community. Irma will be remembered for her many contributions to Murdo, her acts of kindness and her most generous spirit. She will be missed.
As Irma requested, no services will be held. In lieu of cards, flowers or gifts of food, the family asks that those wishing to honor her memory make donations in Irma’s name to the Murdo Messiah Lutheran Church Building Fund.