Igena Johnston, age 98, of Mitchell passed away Friday, July 10, 2020 at Edgewood Memory Care in Mitchell, SD. Visitation will be held Saturday, July 18, 2020, from 10:00 - 11:30 am at the Will Funeral Chapel. Burial and a brief service will be at Graceland Cemetery, Saturday, July 18 at 1:00 pm. The family kindly requests in view of the COVID-19 pandemic that guests wear face masks and maintain social distancing for the safety of all. Face masks will be provided.
Igena was born March 27, 1922, to Jacob and Matilda (Kahler) Schamber in Gregory County on the family farm. She was the sixth of eleven children. She later moved with her family to a farm in Mellette county where Igena attended country school through 8th grade. Determined to continue her education, Igena moved to Kadoka to attend high school graduating in 1940, in spite of a car accident that kept her hospitalized for four months. She worked as a waitress at the Tourist Cafe in Kadoka to support herself during high school. After graduation, Igena borrowed $75 from the bank and took the train to Mitchell to attend Reynolds Business College, later Mitchell Business College. It was there that Igena met Harvey Johnston from Bradley, SD, whom she married on March 21, 1942. She paid off her college loan working as a waitress in Mitchell. When she graduated and Harve later enlisted in the Military in 1942, Igena took over his job as bookkeeper at Automotive Supply Company in Mitchell.
Upon Harvey’s return from the war in 1945, Igena “gave Harve his job back” and Harve and Igena settled down to raise a family with children Sherry in 1946, Lynn in 1948, and Jim in 1950. In 1954 Igena was there to help Harve start Harve’s Sport and Toy Shop in Mitchell. Igena handled the retail side of the business while Harve traveled to area schools selling sporting equipment. She was as much of a presence at the store as Harve himself. She was also there to help Harve run the concessions stand at Kernel Stadium for football games, manage summer tourist souvineer sales at the Corn Palace and operate a fireworks stand during the summer. In 1968, when the store was getting out of the toy business, Igena started Jil’s Children’s Wear in the back of the sport shop. As Jil’s grew, Igena twice moved the business to different retail locations on Main Street to provide additional retail space. After several years, she sold the business, but continued to work at Harve’s Sport Shop until 2014 at the age of 92.
Igena was a member of the First United Methodist church in Mitchell. She taught Sunday school for several years and was active in her church women’s circle. Igena enjoyed many hobbies. She loved sewing clothes for her children, was an avid gardener and canned her garden harvest for many years. To say Igena had a passion for gardening would be an understatement. On summer evenings both Igena and Harve could be found working together in their garden until the sun set. Igena also loved music and enjoyed playing the piano and organ. Her love for music dated back to her childhood when her family would sing together as her father played the fiddle. She had a neverending love for music and she and Harve never missed a Corn Palace show. She also enjoyed dancing and, in later life, Igena convinced Harve to take up her passion for dancing. They spent many nights dancing at the Elks Club, VFW, and Mitchell Legion. Igena and Harve also enjoyed following Mitchell Kernels basketball and would never miss a state tournament when the Kernels were playing.
Igena had a special fondness for Cadwell Park and took great pride in “Harve and Igena Johnston” softball/youth baseball field. She never missed a year of the “Harve Johnston and Brian Wilson Youth Baseball Tournament “. She could always be seen at Cadwell Park during the State Amateur Baseball Tournament.
Igena was as unique as her name and answered to many mispronunciations and names during her lifetime - Igena, Gena, Eugena, Ike, Ikie, Martha (Harve’s favorite), mom, grandma Ikie, Mrs. Harve and even Mrs. Sport Shop. Fortunately, her quick wit, sense of humor and forever smile stayed with her throughout her life.
Igena was an amazingly dedicated wife and mother. When Harvey moved into nursing home care, Igena was there with him every day for more than two years. She never missed a day. She was both a Brownie/Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader for several years. She never missed her children’s school activities. Igena did all this while working daily beside Harve at the Sport Shop. She was a very strong and determined woman who never stopped moving until her body began to fail her.
She will be deeply missed by her son, Jim, (Mitchell); daughter and son in law Lynn and Bob Rudell (Edina, Minnesota); granddaughters and husbands, Sarah Rudell and Todd Beach (Plymouth, Minnesota), Amber Rudell and Matt Johnson (Eden Prairie, Minnesota); and great grandchildren, Abby Beach, Liam Beach, Casey Johnson, and Cooper Johnson.
She was preceded in death by her Parents Jacob and Matilda Schamber; husband, Harvey; Daughter, Sherry Sparrow; six sisters - Edna, Hilda, Esther, Alvina, Leona and Louise and four brothers - Albert, Edwin “Spud”, William “Bill”, and Art; and Brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Ralph and Shirley Johnston.
The family wishes to thank Edgewood Memory Care and Staff for their kindness and care the last 14 months. Thank you also to Avera Hospice for their services and help in seeing mom through her final months.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials for an Igena Johnston flower garden to be planted at Cadwell Park.