Wilma Janet Pell, born on January 1, 1935, in Colfax, Wisconsin, passed away peacefully on October 23, 2023. She was the beloved daughter of Mabel Elene Jensen-Boothe and Edward Lewis Boothe. Wilma's early years were marked by the challenges growing up in humble circumstances in Ellsworth, Wisconsin. She found solace in the company of her sister Elene and her mother, Mabel, friends and music.
Wilma formed lifelong friendships, none more cherished than her bond with Beulah Falkofske-Jensen, a friendship that spanned over seven decades. They enjoyed their retirement together in Sun City, Arizona, alongside their “Ellsworth Girls” companions, including Pat Stafford-Forsthye, Betty Steiner-Trollen, and Marilyn Murphy-Albright.
Wilma's mischievous spirit was evident from a young age, as she and Beulah got into their first bit of mischief following the marching band in first grade. She was a talented French Hornist, a skilled basketball player, and served as the editor of her school's annual staff. Her yearbook aptly described her as "Cheerful and smiling, while mischief she’s beguiling."
Wilma possessed exceptional musical talent and poetic wit. Despite family financial constraints, she pursued her love for the French horn, traveling by bus from Ellsworth, Wisconsin to Minneapolis, Minnesota, every Saturday for lessons. Her dedication earned her a full music scholarship to St. Olaf College and eventually led her to a nursing career at Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, where she formed lifelong friendships.
In 1958, Wilma married Vertis Johnson, but their happiness was short-lived as Vertis was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. Tragically, he passed away in 1960 when their son, Nathan, was just two years old. Wilma, determined to move forward, pursued a career in public health.
A chance meeting arranged by Marjorie Hague Tobola led Wilma to Roger Pell in 1962. They married on October 18, 1963, and welcomed two daughters, Rachel and Mary, into their lives. Wilma transformed their farm into a recreational oasis, fostering community spirit with a swimming pool that welcomed neighbors and friends. She took up bicycling at the age of 50 and became an active advocate for local trails in Jackson, Minnesota, alongside Lynn Anderson and Joann Asa.
Wilma had a wry, dry wit and a broad perspective on life. She made everyone feel safe and loved, especially children, who were drawn to her warmth and appreciation for their uniqueness. As a school nurse, she provided comfort and care to countless students, treating ailments and offering encouragement with grace.
Wilma was ahead of her time in embracing technology and had a natural ability to make others laugh. Her infectious smile and zest for life brightened every room she entered. Her 26-year career as the Jackson School Nurse left an indelible mark on the students and staff, who remember her as kind, compassionate, fun and poetic.
After retiring at the age of 63, Wilma and Roger enjoyed years of travel and snow-birding before settling in Suncity, Arizona. She was preceded in death by Roger in January 2016 and later moved to Royal Oaks in February 2020. Despite facing health challenges, Wilma continued to radiate peace, joy and compassion.
Wilma passed away surrounded by her loving family. Her spirit will live on, reminding us of the transformative power of joy, peace, and compassion. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "To know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded."
In her memory, let us continue to spread love, forgiveness, and recognition of the shared humanity that binds us all.
Wilma’s surviving family includes her children, Nathan (Karla) Johnson, Rachel (John) Muir and Mary Pell. Grandchildren, Zach (Becky) Johnson and Mitch (Jake) Johnson. Great Grandchildren, Onyx Johnson, Rhiannon Johnson and Isla Johnson.
Wilma’s Memorial Service in Sun City will be held on November 2, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. in the Royal Oaks Chapel.
"I shall pass through this world only once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." - Stephen Grellet, Quaker Missionary, 1773-1855
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you." - I Thessalonians 5:16-18