Wilma Pierson

Wilma Jean Pierson was

born December 5, 1928 in

Fargo, ND to Anna and

Haakon Kvenild, Norwegi-an immigrants. It may

have been a cold, wintry

day in the Red River Val-

ley, but Wilma was born

with a warm heart that

she shared with all she

met for the next 87 years.

Wilma had many loves

including her family, her

Lutheran faith, her friends

and her books. She was

proud of her Norwegian

roots and still spoke Old

Norsk. The world was

small for our Mom be-

cause she could and did

engage people wherever

she went. She opened her

door and welcomed all to

her table.

Her father died when

she was three. After her

mother remarried to Alf

Petersen they moved to

Everett, Washington

where there was a large

Norwegian population.

She found her way back

to the Red River Valley to

attend Concordia College

in Moorhead, MN. Her

nickname at Concordia

was “Professor” as she

was an academic through

and through. She was an

avid reader and loved


She graduated from

Concordia College and

went on to earn a Master’s

in social work at the

University of Chicago.

She became a spiritual

director later in life, earn-

ing a second Master’s de-

gree at Creighton Univer-

sity at the age of 70. She

lived in the dorms for

several summers while

completing her Master’s

coursework. She believed

Education was a gift to be


Wilma met her future

husband while she was in

grad school in Chicago.

She married R. Warren

Pierson in 1954. They

lived in Bismarck, Long

Beach, CA, Ethiopia, Afri-

ca, Seattle, and finally set-

tled in Minot, ND. She

served as a social worker

for Lutheran Social Ser-

vices as well as the office

manager of her husband’s

medical practice. They

had five children and

eight grandchildren.

Wilma was born and

died with wanderlust,

asking to go to Washing-

ton, D.C. to visit her son

and his family just three

weeks before her death.

She traveled the world,

most recently on an

Alaskan cruise and a tour

of Norway. In 1963 she

and her young family

packed their bags to move

to Ethiopia, where her

husband was called to be

a medical missionary.

They spent four years in a

remote area where she

lived with electricity only

while the sun was up,

dealt with roaming wild

animals, made meals with

creativity because the gro-

cery store was hours

away, and learned Amhar-

ic and Tigrinian to speak

with the locals. But the

biggest African adventure

was delivering her son

Steve while her daughters

waited patiently outside

to meet the newest

member of the family.

Upon their return they

settled in Seattle while

Warren completed a surgi-

cal residency. Again, she

created security in their

home centered around

faith and love. They then

moved to Minot, ND,

where she spent the next

41 years. In 2011, when

the Souris River flood

consumed her home, she

moved to the welcoming

community of Riverview

Place in Fargo where she

developed many new

friends. She began and

ended her life in the Red

River Valley.

Wilma served on na-

tional Boards over the

years at Concordia and

The American Lutheran

Church Women, and local

school and civic organiza-tional Boards making life-

long friends in each

group. She was very in-

volved in her Lutheran

churches everywhere she

lived. One pastor

described her as “the

strongest Lutheran” he

knew. She was a founding

member of the Minot

Commission on the Status

of Women as well as an

active Board member of

the Domestic Violence

Crisis Center.

Wilma was known for

her wise counsel, quick

wit, loving heart, humble

nature, advocacy for so-

cial justice, strength, and

faith-based actions, serv-

ing as a mentor and role

model for many. To her

children, in addition to

the above qualities, she

was loved and appreciat-

ed for her wisdom, friend-

ship, guidance,

non-judgmental listening

ear, and other maternal

qualities too long to list.

She is preceded in

death by her husband,

Warren, son, David,

grandson Jesse Gabriel

Pierson and siblings Syl-

via Nichols, Arnold

Kvenild, and Harold

Kvenild. She is survived

by daughters, Rosemary,

Sue (Clay) Ellingson, and

Karoline, and son Steve

(Caroline), and her

grandchildren Maria and

Glen Ellingson, Anna

Marie Finck, Stephen

Neis, and Isabel, Jillian

Wilma, and Abigail Alder


A memorial service will

be held on Thursday,

April 21 at 10:30AM

Riverview Place in Fargo.

In lieu of flowers,

memorials preferred to

Lutheran World Relief,

Concordia College- Moor-

head, or donor’s choice.