Services for Wahna J. Smith

Wahna J. Smith of Thief River Falls, MN passed away on Thursday, February 22, 2024, at Oakland Park Communities, Thief River Falls, MN.
Wahna Jean Torkelson was born November 28, 1938, the sixth of nine children born to Melvin and Helen (Wiken) Torkelson. The last of the children to be born at home instead of a hospital, Wahna was a carrot top, full of freckles, and the baby of the family for almost six years.
“Honey,” as she was called as a child by her older sister Geraldine, was slow to anger, always ready to laugh at herself, and enjoyed a good joke to the end of her days.
At an early age, her mother taught Wahna to read music and play the piano. Later on, Wahna would teach her nieces and nephews little piano duets, and she still had her Baldwin “fun” machine and enjoyed playing old tunes with the bosa nova beat.
Wahna attended Washington District 221 country school and was one of very few who went to “town school” for one year when the country school temporarily closed.
She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1956 and left soon after for Milwaukee, Wisconsin where her older brothers and sister were living. Having learned shorthand and typing at Lincoln, she was immediately hired for a secretarial position at Ladish Corporation in Cudahy. Oh, the stories she would tell about these single years in the big city! Trying to appear more worldly than her country upbringing, her first order for a fancy drink at a bar was for a shrimp cocktail. Imagine her surprise when it turned out to not be a cocktail, but a pile of shrimp hung on the rim of a glass.
After six years, Wahna decided it was time to move back to Thief River. Here she worked at Benson Optical until she met and married Darryl Smith, also of Thief River Falls. Their two children, Maury Jay Smith and Cere Alene Smith, were born at Northwestern Hospital in Thief River Falls. 
Together, Wahna and Darryl built a new house at the corner of Sherwood Ave and Stephens Drive behind the former A&W Drive-In. Wahna loved being around children and the unfinished basement there was the source of hours of joy for her nieces and nephew who would race around those concrete floors until they wore holes in their socks. Having been the “fun auntie” to more than 30 of these nieces and nephews, she was especially pleased when her grandson, Colin Smith, became part of her life on June 15, 1996. 
When Darryl returned to college at Moorhead State, Wahna worked at Arctic Cat in the fiberglass department. Wahna never did like the cold and that hot corner of the factory seemed to suit her just fine. Darryl’s career with Goodyear took them to a variety of places: Anchorage, Alaska, Canal Fulton, Ohio, and finally to Lawrenceville, George, a suburb just outside of Atlanta. 
Wahna loved to travel, whether it was a drive to Strathcona to buy doughnuts or vacations to most of the states in the U.S., to Mexico, Norway, the Baltic countries, and even Hong Kong.
Wahna was always a dancer. From the wedding dances of her youth to the dance halls of Milwaukee and then back to the rounds of old-time dances in Trail, Brooks, East Grand Forks, and McIntosh, Wahna loved them all. Her dancing friends, who only saw Wahna in her post-retirement years, would not be surprised to know that in her younger years she once owned a green sequined sheath dress that showed off her red hair to perfection. 
After retiring from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 2004, Wahna returned to TRF and moved into a lovely yellow home on North Arnold Avenue.
Purple was always her favorite color and after a nasty water accident in her basement, the family helped her design the “lavender lounge” in her repaired basement. A full guest suite with living room, Wahna entertained family and friends there and on her large deck outside.  
Wahna had many friends, from her good neighbors Ron and Judy Lindberg, Raelene Berg and Sandee Rude, to dancing friends, and to her St. Pauli family. And even though her bright red hair had migrated to mostly gray, she was still the life of the party. Her family fondly remembers Christmas gifts that were unusual. Her last round was the best of all – cartoons and handwritten jokes specifically tailored to the person who received them.
Shortly after New Year’s, the family knew there was something wrong when Wahna stopped going to dances and just wanted to sleep. After trips to doctors and hospitals and a short stay in hospice at Oakland Park, Wahna passed away peacefully in her sleep at 3:30 am on Thursday, February 22, 2024 – her daughter’s birthday.
Wahna is survived by her son, Maury Smith (Traci McCarthy), daughter, Cere Smith (Lars McCaslin), grandson Colin Smith; brothers, Wallace and Marvin Torkelson; sisters, Faye Auchenpaugh and Pamela (Kevin) Kittridge; sister-in-law, Terri Torkelson; and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents; brothers, Francis Marion Torkelson and Willis Duane Torkelson; sisters, Geraldine Mae Guerard and Ivette DeVerne Garrett; sisters-in-law Delores (Dodie) Torkelson, Dorothy Torkelson, and Darlene Torkelson; and brothers-in-law, Robert Garrett and Theodore Guerard.
A prayer service will be held on Friday, March 1, 2024, at 6:00 PM at Johnson Funeral Service, Thief River Falls, MN, with visitation starting at 5:00 PM. Funeral Service will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, March 2, at St. Pauli Lutheran Church, 11015 - 170th Avenue Northeast, Thief River Falls, with Kevin Reich Officiating. Visitation will also be held one hour prior to the funeral service. Following the service, burial will take place at St. Pauli Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be given in Wahna’s memory to the St. Pauli Cemetery Association. 
Condolences may be sent at

Richards Publishing

P.O. Box 159
239 2nd Ave
Gonvick, MN 56644
Telephone: (218) 487-5225


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