Christine Elizabeth Thayer Auker, 93, died Sunday morning, Jan. 22, 2012, at the Rapid City Regional Hospital Auxiliary Hospice House.
Christine Elizabeth Sears was delivered by her grandmother, Amanda Fredericka Teede Sanders, on July 27, 1918, near Irwin, Cherry County, Neb.
She was the third child of William Sears, Jr. and Anna Elizabeth Sanders Sears, and was welcomed by a sister, Florine, and a brother, Gene. Grandmother Amanda was a local Sandhills midwife who delivered many of her own grandchildren, as well as a neighbor boy, Harvey Thayer, who later married Christine.
Her mother became ill and died when Christine was 3 months old. Her grandparents took the children home and raised them. Christine told about a time when her father came and wanted to take the children to live with him. She remembered crying and hiding behind her grandmother’s apron. The children had such a crying fit that they stayed with the grandparents.
They were raised doing what country kids do. They milked cows, gathered eggs, gardened, help cook and clean, put up hay, took care of the livestock, and walked or rode their horses to the country school. They were blessed to have a host of loving aunties, uncles and cousins to grow up among. Christine loved music at an early age. She was fascinated with the piano and learned to play. She also sang in the Church of God choir and participated in youth group while attending Gordon High School, where she graduated with the class of 1937.
On Thursday, March 3, 1938, Christine Sears and Harvey Thayer were united in marriage by a Methodist minister in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Harvey had been working at the Ford factory in Flint, Mich., for two years. The couple made their first home in Northville, Mich., until the Ford plant closed down due to World War II. They moved back to Clinton, Neb., and lived with Harvey’s folks, Pearl and Alvin, about a year before renting land some 25 miles south of Merriman, Neb., on the Trogen place. They later moved to the Downing place southeast of Gordon, and daughter Paula was born May 22, 1944, in Gordon. The family then moved to Wood Lake, Neb., and daughter Linda was born in Gordon on Oct. 5, 1945. They lived at Wood Lake until Harvey’s father, Alvin Thayer, died in a tractor accident, after which the family moved to the Thayer ranch on the Niobrara River.
In 1948, Ben and Amanda Sanders sold the 160-acre farmland that joined the Thayer ranch to Harvey and Christine, who made their home there until the decision was made to send the girls to school in Merriman, Neb. They purchased the Lloyd Jones house in Merriman, where Harvey worked for Lessert Hardware delivering propane and installing television sets. In the 1960s they purchased the franchise to the Standard Filling Station in Merriman, while continuing to ranch on the family land.
Christine wasn’t one to stay home alone. She enjoyed being a member of the Rebekah Lodge and Extension Club, and participating in 4-H, square dancing and bowling. She purchased a new Lowery organ and took music lessons. She took a job as a telephone operator. When a position as a postal clerk became available, she was hired and worked in the Merriman Post Office. In 1968, the family moved to Kyle, S.D., where Christine worked in the Kyle Post Office, and after a move to Manderson, S.D., she was named Postmaster of the Manderson Post Office on Dec. 17, 1978. Collecting first-issue stamps became an interesting hobby. Christine retired from the postal service May 1, 1984, after 24 years of service.
Christine and Harvey celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary March 3, 1988. They retired from ranching in Manderson, S.D., after moving to Gordon, Neb., in 1994. Harvey died Dec. 23, 1994, after a battle with cancer.
On Sept. 2, 1995, Christine married an old friend, Jim Auker, who had recently lost his wife of more than 50 years. They lived in Kent, Wash., for about 13 years. After Jim’s death on Sept. 18, 2008, Christine felt it was time to come back to her family. She moved to Rapid City, S.D., and lived at the Somerset Court Retirement & Assisted Living Community until moving to Fairmont Grand Regional Senior Care in 2011.
Christine is survived by her daughters, Paula (Danny) Geersen of Martin, S.D., and Linda (Robert) Soderlin of Newell, S.D.; eight grandchildren, Calvin (Karen) Geersen of Martin, Marvin (Karla) Geersen of Rapid City, Holly Geersen of Aurora, Colo., Christy (Louis) Norris of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, Brent (Christine) Soderlin of Littleton, Colo., Felicia (Quinton) Vavra of Gillette, Wyo., Ryan (Barbara) Soderlin of Rapid City, and Stacia Soderlin of Sioux City, Iowa; 14 great-grandchildren, Cody Geersen, Amanda Geersen, Brittany Geersen, Cassidy Geersen, Darcy Geersen, Stephanie Wisner, Chrystel Fiaseu, Kyle Wells, Nicole Vavra, Katelynd Vavra, Jacob Soderlin, Jason Soderlin, Caroline Soderlin and Clara Soderlin; and four great-great grandchildren, Aden Wisner, Roman Fiaseu, Alexis Fiaseu and Dawson Cerkan.
She was preceded in death by her mother, Anna Elizabeth Sanders Sears; her father, William Sears of Payette, Idaho; her sister, Florine (Wally) Cole of Englewood, Colo.; her brother, Gene Sears, of Payette, Idaho; three half brothers, Billy Sears, Jess Sears and Rox Sears; and two nieces, Sharon Sears and Diane Sears.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at Chamberlain-Pier Funeral Home in Gordon. Burial will be at the Gordon Cemetery.
An online guestbook is available at www.chamberlainchapel.com.