Sonya Jean Anderson, age 90, died Friday, April 21, 2023, at Bethel Lutheran Home in Madison, where she was their most tenured resident of 49 years. Funeral services will be 10:30 AM, Wednesday, April 26, 2023, at the Ellsworth Funeral Home in Madison. Burial will follow at Graceland Cemetery. Visitation with the family present will be 5-6 PM, Tuesday, at Ellsworth Funeral Home.
Sonya was born on March 28, 1933, in Madison to Clifford and Marian Anderson. She was born with cerebral palsy and never walked or talked, but she found plenty of other ways to express herself clearly. Her parents were encouraged to have her institutionalized at Redfield State Hospital, but they refused. Sonya was raised at home by her family where she was included in all the activities of a busy household. A wheelchair ramp was added to accommodate her wheelchair, which was standard furniture in the house, and no one gave it a second thought. She became her siblings’ biggest cheerleader throughout their school years. Although she never attended formal school, her grandmother taught her how to read and type and she regularly read the newspaper cover to cover with particular attention to the sports page.
She was an avid lifelong fan of both the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings and rarely missed a game on either TV or radio. One of the highlights of her life was attending a Viking game in person at the Metrodome. She loved local outings to church, concerts, movies, sporting events or anywhere there were people. She traveled with family in the car (no wheelchair vans in those days!) to visit relatives in Minnesota and Centerville, and even flew to visit her brother’s family in California.
When her parents could no longer care for her at home, she moved to Bethel Home in 1974 where she started a whole new life filled with friends and social activities. That same year she became one of the first four founding members of ECCO (now Valiant Living) where she proudly participated in occupational tasks for many years. At Bethel she never missed an opportunity to join an in-house program or a field trip to a community event. Her family continued to include her in gatherings at the lake and she particularly enjoyed shopping trips to Sioux Falls and trips to her sister’s art studio where she helped glaze pottery. Anyone who met her was drawn to her infectious laugh and her prankster sense of humor.
Sonya lived life to the fullest. Her physical disabilities never diminished her enthusiasm. Her positive outlook was a testimony to her upbringing and her parents’ encouragement to use her gifts and look for the good in life. Her entire family is better for having her in it and molding our sense of kindness and inclusion, patience, determination, and purpose. She was one of a kind and will be missed by many.
Sonya is survived by her sister, Karen Anderson of Madison and 8 nieces and nephews: Mary Hansen, Michelle Berkebile, Denise Lewis, Megan McMurchie, Chad Hilde, Shannon Moseman, Michael C. Anderson and James McMurchie.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Cliff and Marian Anderson; brother Michael T. Anderson; sister Linda Hilde and niece Maren Hilde.
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