Juanita Tongen, 76, of Montevideo, passed Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, at St. Cloud Hospital. Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 11, at Our Savior's Lutheran Church. Visitation will be held one hour prior to services on Saturday. Arrangements are with the Wing-Bain Funeral Home of Montevideo.
Juanita was born March 21, 1943, in Canby, Minnesota, to Alfred and Mildred Jants. She was the third of four daughters. Her youngest sister passed away just after birth, making Juanita the youngest of the three sisters to be raised in the house. Juanita had different health challenges throughout her life starting at a young age, but NEVER did she let that get in the way of what she wanted in life. As a young child her parents ran businesses, such as a car dealership and several cafes in Canby. They kept the family very busy. The businesses were demanding, and days were so long that Juanita had a place in the back of the café where she could rest on a pallet turned makeshift bed. Shortly before her senior year Juanita moved with her mother to El Paso, Texas, as they thought the climate would benefit her health. Shortly after arriving to Texas, Mildred and Juanita were in a car accident injuring Juanita. Her medical treatment led to terrible scare when the medication she was given nearly killed her. That experience led to the decision to come back to Minnesota. Juanita's father was working for Mooney's road construction, so they selected Montevideo to make their home. Juanita graduated from Montevideo Senior high school, class of 1961. After graduation, Juanita attended the Robinson Beauty Academy in the Minneapolis area.
Juanita's love story with Richard happened by accident, literally. Richard was in a car accident with some friends while on leave from the Navy. A friend of Juanita's wanted to visit one of the other young men and asked Juanita to go with her. It was in this hospital room that she met Richard. Shortly after this chance encounter they had their first date at the Chippewa County Fair, before Richard returned to the Navy base in San Diego. During this time, they exchanged many love letters. They decided they were in love and would get married when Richard completed his service. They married at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Watson, May 9, 1964. Little did they know they would be welcoming their first child, Wade, just before their first anniversary. They bought their first home together in Bloomington where they remodeled the basement to build Juanita a beauty shop. In 1969, they made the decision to purchase a farm in the Norwood.With Richard working full-time at NSP and farming 80 acres in the Norwood area, Juanita concentrated her time on family and farming. Shortly after the move to Norwood their family grew again. Holly was born September 1969.
They stayed in the Norwood Young America area until 1976. At that time, they decided they wanted to go back home, to Montevideo, where they both graduated from high school. After returning to Montevideo, Juanita got involved in local clubs and groups, such as Brownies with her daughter, circle and teaching Sunday school here at Our Savior's Lutheran Church and joining a craft club. In the late 70s, Juanita's passion for crafts led her to a job working at The Yarn Corner. After a couple of years an opportunity came up for her to join Punt Real Estate as the office administrator. In the late 80s, after her kids graduated from high school, the owner of The Yarn Corner called Juanita to inquire if she would be interested in purchasing The Yarn Corner. Juanita and her sister Marlene became the co-owners of this business on main street of Montevideo for the following two years.
As Richard and Juanita entered retirement, they wanted to experience lake life. They started in Alexandria at Mill Lake and later moved to the Cambridge area to Fish Lake to be closer to Holly and her son Christopher. Both Juanita and Richard were not quite ready for full retirement so they found part-time opportunities to work that allowed them to get to know the community better and meet people that would become cherished friends. They spent eight years there before they decided to move to the city where they were working and had developed so many friendships, Rush City. Juanita was fulfilling her passions working at a quilt store spending all of her earnings (and then some) while creating an impressive stash of fabrics. While living in Rush City, both Juanita and Richard had some health challenges and realized it was time to move to a one-level home. As much as they loved Rush City, they felt it was time to return to the place they considered home, Montevideo. This past May they fulfilled that wish. The return to Montevideo allowed them to re-connect with many old friends and extended family. Juanita frequently called Wade and Holly to tell them who they had run into, who they reconnected with, who they met for lunch, and how much they were enjoying events they attended at Our Savior's Lutheran Church.
Despite health challenges throughout her life, Juanita never let health stand in the way of her passions. Juanita cared deeply for her family and friends and took every opportunity to spend time with them. She was also happiest when in service to others and participated in many sewing, quilting or service projects where she could use her talents to provide comfort to others. Juanita overcame rheumatoid arthritis in her 20s, breast cancer in her 30s, diabetes in her 50s and heart disease in her 60s. She powered through a broken ankle, knee replacements, a couple of stents, a compound leg fracture and two broken wrists. Each time she healed faster than expected to get back to the things she loved. While recovering in an assisted care center she became a one-woman social committee by bringing joy, conversation and connection to the other residents and giving out hugs to her care team. Juanita was always a shining example of resilience, a role model for perseverance; and a good reminder on days that we may want to complain about a light ache or pain that a good attitude, strong faith and support from friends and family and making time to enjoy your life's passions are the keys to happiness and fulfillment.
She is survived by her husband, Richard; children, Wade (and Jill) Tongen, of Colleyville, Texas; and Holly Bunn, of Fuquay Varina, N.C.; grandchildren, Danielle Tongen, of Colleyville, and Christopher Dvregsten, of Fuquay Varina; sisters, Marlene Gibson, of Brooklyn Park and Dorene and Robert Swenson, of Burleson, Texas; sister-in-law, Sally Tongen, of Coon Rapids, and 10 nieces and nephews.
Preceding her in death were her parents; sister, Ruby Jants; and niece, Rebecca White.