Elaine Perry

Ruth Elaine (Nielson) Perry, best known as Elaine, 83, of Spearfish, died Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, at her home with her husband, Howard, and her two daughters, Cathy and Sharon, by her side.

A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Spearfish with Pastor Stephan Sandness officiating. Interment will be at Rose Hill Cemetery in Spearfish following the service.

Honorary pallbearers include Jamie Sullivan, Josh Christen, Kristina Rana and Raul Rana.

Elaine was born March 26, 1938, in Yankton, to Magnus and Lila (Forman) Nielson. Elaine grew up in the Yankton area and graduated from Yankton High School in 1956. She then attended Yankton College, where in addition to classes she worked for the college president, graduating in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in English.

Elaine taught school for one year at Bowdle, S.D., (1960-61), one year at Salem, S.D. (1961-62), and three years at Lemmon, S.D. (1961-65). It was in Bowdle where she met Howard Perry, and “to make a long story short” they were married on July 19, 1962. Whether it was her quick typing skills, or her chocolate chip cake, we don’t know, but they spent over 59 years together, almost making it to 60!

When Howard got a job at Black Hills State College (University), the pair moved to Spearfish, which became their home. In Spearfish, Elaine worked for the Chairman of the Education Department at BHSC. She also took “time off” to raise their three girls, Paige Elaine (1965), Catherine Leigh (1969), and Sharon Rae (1971). In 1967, they had their house built where Elaine resided for the rest of her life. In the early 1970s, Howard and Elaine temporarily moved to Colorado during Howard’s sabbatical to work on his doctoral degree. Upon returning to Spearfish, Elaine began working at Grace Balloch Memorial Library. While she worked at the library, she attended BHSC and received her degree in library science. She eventually became the director of the library and led the construction of the new public library in town. She retired in June of 2000 after working 25 years (part-time and then full-time) at the public library.

Elaine loved social events (although dressing up was not her favorite thing to do). Some of the organizations she belonged to over the years included PEO, Zonta, Coronet Club, Friends of the Library, SD Library Association, BHSC/BHSU Faculty Wives (Women), among other social and service groups. She volunteered at the West Elementary library during retirement and worked for the library at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. She loved her bridge and sewing and knitting groups. She demonstrated hardanger embroidery technique at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church’s annual Julefest in hopes that someone would take interest in intricate needlework as her daughters were remarkably unskilled. She enjoyed celebrating birthdays with her close friends and neighbors.

She was an involved mother and grandmother to Kristina and Raul. If she took a trip outside of Spearfish, it was to visit her daughters and/or grandchildren. She created Valentine’s Day, May Day, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas traditions that were treasured by her family and friends. She felt that every birthday was worth celebrating and made many wonderful memories for her daughters with the various birthday activities and themes she created. She will be greatly missed.

Elaine was preceded in death by her parents; two brothers: Robert and Neal Nielson; two sisters: Judy Riedeburg and Marilyn Gunn; and one daughter: Paige Perry-Reeser; three brothers-in-law: RS Hooper, Bob Long, and Lyle Perry; and one sister-in-law: Judy Nielson.

Survivors include her husband, Howard Perry of Spearfish; two daughters: Cathy Sullivan of Eugene, Ore., and Sharon Perry of Athens, Ohio; two grandchildren: Kristina and Raul Rana of Athens, Ohio; two sons-in-law: Jamie Sullivan and Ron Reeser; one future son-in-law: Josh Christen; one former son-in-law: Rico Rana; two siblings: Paul Nielson of Yankton, and Jeanette Long of Brigham City, Utah; two brothers-in-law: Maynard Gunn and Ted Riedeburg; two sisters-in-law: Patricia Nielson and Marge Perry; and many nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews, and great, great nieces and nephews.

Cancer may have taken Elaine, but she left a better community for us all by her active involvement and generosity toward others. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Howard and Elaine Perry BHSU Scholarship Fund or Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

Arrangements are under the care of Fidler-Isburg Funeral Chapels and Isburg Crematory of Spearfish. Online condolences may be written at www.fidler-isburgfuneralchapels.com.

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