Roberta Joan Engesser, with endless gratitude for her “wonderful life” and a beacon of unwavering love and boundless generosity, left an indelible mark on the world in her 91 years. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on Tuesday, November 28th, in Spearfish, South Dakota, surrounded by the care of her family and the remarkable Edgewood and Hospice team. Her journey began in 1932 in Bowman, North Dakota, born to Florence and Oliver Siedschlaw. Growing up in a homesteading family, she developed a resilient spirit and a heart for service, evident in her early training as a midwife and her dedication to nursing.
Roberta’s life was a tapestry of love, woven through her marriage to Charles “Tiny” Engesser and their life on the ranches of North Dakota and Montana. Her home was not just a hub of familial warmth but a haven of kindness for anyone in need. Her and Tiny’s impromptu snowmobile caravans to dancing date nights, and their discreet acts of charity (anonymous gifting of beef to a family on hard times, an invitation to a birthday party to the child usually left out, the bag of gifts at the front door for the family who hadn’t enough to put food on the table let alone gifts under a tree,…) epitomized their commitment to community and joy.
Tragedy struck with Tiny’s untimely passing in a 1984 farm accident. With her characteristic strength, Roberta moved with her youngest children to Spearfish, infusing her new community with the same spirit of giving that had defined her life. Her volunteer work with organizations like Hospice, the Food Pantry, CASA, Good Shepherd Clinic, Alter Guild, and many more earned her a Mayoral distinction with a dedicated day in her honor as the “Spirit of Spearfish” award, a testament to her impactful presence. Though she did much for many in these organizations, it was the little things she did that many will remember her by. One such example is her love for sending personalized cards for every conceivable occasion to everyone she knew. This was a small but powerful expression of her never-ending thoughtfulness and spirit of giving.
Roberta’s legacy was not just in her public deeds but in the intimate moments shared with family and friends. There was nothing that made Roberta happier than seeing all 13 of her kids and their families back for Christmas. It was here at her annual Christmas gatherings, where her joyful declarations, “Cousins need to know their cousins, there is nothing like family,” were a highlight. Or the idea that you could never ever end a meal blessing without her robust and tearful, “…and thank God for family!” Not only did she love her family, but her family loved her and each other because of her example.
Reflecting on her family’s bond, Roberta often said, “A family that prays together stays together,” a sentiment that guided her life and, now, much of her family’s. In her final years, even as her volunteer commitments waned, her spirit did not. She remained a woman with such gratitude for all that God had given her, and thus a desire to give back. Per her children’s request and in her honor (and request to share the good stories of our family with generations to come), she helped to complete a biography of her and Tiny’s life in 2023, reflecting on a life well-lived, and often said, “I have had the best darn life, and I have the best family in the whole world. Whenever God is ready to take me, I’m ready to go meet Him, dance with Tiny, and be with our wonderful Tina and all my friends in Heaven.” God was finally ready to take her, and Heaven just added an incredible soul.
Roberta was the proud matriarch of a large and ever-growing family and an inspiration to many others whom will miss her beyond words. She is survived by her thirteen children and their spouses, Sherman Engesser, ShellyAnn Lokan, Renee & Rod Bisgaard, Carla Edwards, Alison & Ken Krumm, Gaye & Wayne Sander, Daniel & Sherri Engesser, Sandy Eisenbarth & Keith Hinger, Paula & David Carroll, Carol & Charles Ruggles, Neal & Punky Engesser, Jamie & Lora Engesser, Corey & Maha Engesser; 41 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great grandchildren, many wonderful spouses, a large extended family, and many others who had the privilege of knowing her.
The celebration of Roberta’s remarkable life will include a viewing, Rosary, and Vigil on Friday, December 1st from 4:30-6:30pm at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Spearfish, followed by an open microphone for friends and family to share stories, a tradition Roberta absolutely loved. The next morning will be the Funeral Mass at 10am also at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Following the mass there will be reception followed by a procession to Bowman, ND where she will be interred next to her husband, Charles “Tiny” Engesser, in St. Charles Catholic Cemetery. Attendees are invited to wear Red, her favorite color, in her honor. In remembrance of Roberta, we encourage random and deliberate acts of kindness and generosity in her spirit, continuing the legacy of a woman whose love knew no bounds.=
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