Josephine “Josie” Terwey


“Well, it’s about time! Glad to get that out of the way.” That’s probably what Josephine Zehnle Terwey, age 105, said to herself as she passed from this life to the next on June 11, 2021.
Josie was born on June 5, 1916 in Reynolds Township, near Long Prairie, Minnesota. She went to country school by foot and St. Mary’s Grade School by horse and buggy. At Long Prairie High School she was a member of the Peppy Peppers Pep Squad. Graduating in 1933 during the Great Depression, she did what many young people do today – lived with her parents during two “gap years.” It was during this time that she won the title of “Miss Todd County” in a 1935 contest sponsored by the Commercial Club. She was awarded a chaperoned train/cruise trip to New Orleans, New York and Chicago, and thus began her lifelong love of travel.
Josie went on to attend the College of St. Benedict. She said that back then girls were supposed to marry the hired man from a neighboring farm, but being determined to go to college, she sewed a school uniform and got her brother to drive her to St. Ben’s. So off she went, graduating with a degree in Home Economics in 1939. The highlight of her college years was the opportunity to spend two summers in New York City’s Harlem District, volunteering at Friendship House, a charity closely associated with the Catholic Worker movement. Josie was always proud to have known Dorothy Day and read The Catholic Worker newspaper for the rest of her life.
After graduating from St. Ben’s, Josie moved to Philadelphia and became a Registered Dietician. She went on to work as a dietician at the U.S. Air Force Hospital at Mather Field in California during World War II. Josie married Leander “Lee” Terwey in Reno, Nevada in 1943. This was a war-time wedding, so the cleaning ladies at the church served as witnesses, and there was no money to spare for wedding photos. If you think Josie didn’t bring this up once in a while, you’d be wrong. Josie returned with Lee to Georgia where he was stationed, then spent a year in South Carolina until the war was over. Following Lee’s military service the young family moved to St. Cloud, eventually buying the farm of Josie’s parents, John and Anna Zehnle, near Long Prairie. Rather than hire help for the farm work, Josie and Lee had ten children. Josie claimed she wanted each and every one of them, but then laughed, so we are left to wonder.
After working as a homemaker for a number of years, Josie started a new career as a social worker for Todd County, specializing in services to the elderly. Following their retirements, Josie and Lee enjoyed gardening, playing cards, reading, doing crossword puzzles and traveling, especially to military reunions. They often entertained family and other guests. Josie was a fantastic cook! She enjoyed quilting with all of her quilting friends. She continued volunteering in the community, and many will remember her serving them hamburgers at the VFW until she was in her 90s. Those who knew Josie appreciated her generosity, fun-loving friendliness, and sense of humor. She was always ready to share a joke or express one of her many opinions.
Josie’s health declined over the past few years, which was a great frustration to her. She recently said that she didn’t think she’d get into heaven because she had said a few bad words. When told she should go to confession, she demurred, saying she planned to use the words a few more times! Hopefully the powers that be will grant her dispensation.
Josie was preceded in death by her parents John and Anna Zehnle, husband Leander Terwey, daughters Ann Orth and Louise Terwey, grandson Timothy Orth, and siblings Herman, Gertrude, Joseph, Lawrence, Arnold, Rita and Frances.
Survivors include her sister Elizabeth Pritchett and eight remaining children and their families: Joseph (Mary), William, Carl (Audrey), Paul (Linda), Roger (Edie), Martha Benton, Susan (Nick Pederson), George and son-in-law Donald Orth, 23 grandchildren and 38 great grandchildren.
Josie was a lifelong member of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, Long Prairie. Mass of Christian Burial will be held there on Saturday, June 26, 2021, with rosary at 9:30, visitation beginning at 9:45, followed by Mass at 11:00 a.m. Mass will be live streamed. The link to the Facebook page can be found on the Parish website: Donations can be made to Catholic Charities (specify the Dorothy Day Center) at 1200 2nd Avenue East, Minneapolis, MN 55403.