Obituary for June A. Hustad

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June Athelia (Larson) Hustad, formerly of La Crosse, passed on Saturday, August 24, 2019 at Edenbrook Care Center in Wisconsin Rapids at the age of 98. She was preceded in death by her parents, Ed and Rilla Larson; husband, Vernon (Jake) Hustad; sisters Lucille Coppersmith and Thelma Stahl; brother, Lloyd Larson; and granddaughter, Kathryn Jane Theno.
Born on June 8, 1921 in Vesta, MN she loved to tell stories about life growing up on a farm and riding bareback on their plow horse, “Old Bob,” to a one room school house. She was truly a “farmer’s daughter.” Which probably led to her lifelong love of horses and horseracing. She was thrilled when she was able to attend the Kentucky Derby. She and her sisters were known around the area for their beauty and her brother was handsome and strong, and apparently got involved in bare-knuckle fighting. One year at Mankato Minnesota State College was not spent studying as she was not readmitted her second year. There were many stories about the gypsies and men traveling through and stopping by the farm. Her mother loved to feed them even though she knew chickens and eggs may disappear. She loved to have her fortune told. Apparently a sign posted in their woods gave the invitation. The girls were fixtures at farm town dances often featuring Lawrence Welk. She and Jake were high school sweethearts, married after her brief stint in Mankato, and took off for California in their model-T automobile. She would often tell the story of how, when traveling over the mountains at night, they stopped at an overlook and below them burned the lights of Las Vegas. This for a couple of farm kids was exhilarating.
They then lived in Bremerton, Washington where their daughter, Barbara, was born. After Jake was drafted, she and Barbara moved to La Crosse where her mother and sister’s family lived. Their son, Bruce, was born there. La Crosse is where she and Jake lived for most of their lives.
She, like her mother (who sold NuBone Corsets door-to-door, with 14 year-old June behind the wheel of their automobile, traveling the countryside) also held down a job for over 30 years. She worked at National Food Store on Cass Street until she retired at 55. Following that she volunteered for Social Services, visiting and doing basic housekeeping for seniors and others who were homebound and unable to care for themselves. Volunteering at the Lutheran Hospital gift shop for 25 years earned her two Presidential Commendations – from President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama. She would comment, “What happened to George Bush?”
She remained passionate about Big Band and 40’s music her entire life. While in assisted living, as well as the nursing home, she would hum and sing along to the old standards playing on a record player or, these days, a Google device. She and her sisters had sung together in earlier years.
Taking up golf in her 50’s she played well into her 80’s. Some of her favorite times on the course were playing with her great friend, Rose Shuda, at Coulee Golf Bowl. They also had a regular foursome that was made up of two Roses and two Junes. Her other passion was entertaining friends, even during 40-hour work weeks, after golf on weekends, or after enjoying some time with other couples at Sam’s Bar on the north side. Everything she made was always delicious and she was known for her wonderful pies. Every year, she and Jake would make homemade lefse, krumkakes, sambuckles, and rosettes in the tradition of their Scandinavian heritage. She even has her own cookbook, “In the Kitchen with Grandma June,” a collection of some of her best recipes – a family keepsake. Their home became quite the gathering place with a Heileman Brewing Company decorated bar, juke box, and nickel slot machine in their basement. There was always company.
Jake had been an avid hunter and fisherman for years. In her 60’s she took to hunting as well. Stories of her hunting escapades included: shooting a moose on horseback in the British Columbia, Canada mountains (another of her favorite stories was that her horse was named Brushcut and when she had to dismount, he would pull up to a nearby stump so she could get off easier); a near-record pheasant with a 22-inch tail that she had mounted and which held a special place in the house and later outside her apartment door; and a mule deer in Wyoming. Always with Jake and his buddies. He was proud of her prowess as a hunter. They were also members of the VFW, Jake as a veteran and June as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary, and the American Legion.
After caring for Jake at home for 5 years following a stroke, she purchased a mobile home and then eventually moved into independent living at Eagle Crest North in Onalaska. She then transferred to assisted living after a successfully treated bout with colon cancer. Her laughter was contagious; it wasn’t long before she was nicknamed “Giggles” by the residents and staff. Everyone on her floor and her caregivers also became familiar with her stories. She brought life and laughter to what had been a fairly quiet environment. In 2017 she moved to her daughter’s new home in Rome, WI and then to Edenbrook in Wisconsin Rapids.
She attended and was active at North Presbyterian Church on the north side of La Crosse. She loved Pastor Skogen and his visits with her when she could no longer attend were such a blessing!
She was known as Grandma June from the time her first grandchild was born, and GG June following the birth of her first great-grandchild. Her engaging, fun-loving presence along with her stories and laughter will be sorely missed by her entire family. She is survived by: her son, Bruce (Beth) Hustad; daughter, Barbara (Hustad, Theno) Smitherman; Grandchildren, Kelly (Jay) McHenry, Kris Theno, Kip (Helen) Theno, and Sarah (Gabe) Southard; Great Grandchildren, Katlyn, Kendall, and Jake McHenry, Alivia Theno, Jake, Finn, Roan, and Harper Theno, and Clara Southard.
As we celebrate her life, we invite you to lift a glass with us and offer one final toast (in honor of her Swedish heritage) – “SKOL, Grandma June!”
A Celebration of Life Service will be held Friday, August 30, 2019 at 11:00AM at North Presbyterian Church (1327 N Salem Rd, La Crosse, WI 54603). Visitation will be from 10:00-11:00AM with a luncheon at the church following the service. There will be a grave side gathering following the luncheon.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to North Presbyterian Church, 1327 N Salem Rd, La Crosse, WI 54603.
Dickinson Family Funeral Home of La Crosse, WI has been a great comfort and help with all of the arrangements.