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1941 Mary F. Tillberg 2024

Mary F. Tillberg

December 12, 1941 — April 14, 2024


   Mary (Larson) Tillberg died peacefully surrounded by family at Sun Center in Mayville, ND on April 14, 2024.

   Mary Frances Larson was born December 12, 1941 to Berthold “O.B.” and Frances (Dahlsten) Larson in San Antonio, TX. After WWII ended and her father returned from serving in England, her family settled in McPherson, Kansas. She attended McPherson public schools and was an active member of Trinity Lutheran Church and Luther League. Through her family and church, she developed her love of music and serving others.

   While in high school, she attended a Luther League Convention in Chicago, IL, and met her future husband. Despite an early mix-up with brothers’ names, Mary and Eldon continued dating through high school and college.

   After graduating from McPherson High School in 1959, she attended Bethany College in Lindsborg KS for two years and then went to Immanuel Hospital School of Nursing in Omaha, NE to become a Registered Nurse. During this time, she became engaged to Eldon.  Having promised her parents that Mary would finish nurse’s training before getting married, Eldon and Mary were married on August 29, 1964, at Trinity Lutheran Church in McPherson KS, 30 days after she graduated from Immanuel. She studied for her nursing boards on their honeymoon to Lake Ida and Lake Itasca, MN. A year later, she finished her Bachelor of Science from Bethany College.

   Eldon and Mary first made their home near Hedville, Kansas. Into this union were born two children, Bruce Eldon and Julie Marie. In 1967, they moved southwest of Smolan and raised their children there. They felt welcomed into the Smolan/Salemsborg/Falun community and forged deep roots in that community. In 2004, they fulfilled a longtime dream and built a home with beautiful views to the East and West on a hill in a pasture they owned north of Smolan.

   Mary worked at Asbury Hospital in Salina before having children. When Bruce and Julie were in elementary school, she returned to Asbury Hospital which became Salina Regional Health Center. Throughout Mary’s career, caring for patients gave her a sense of fulfillment.

   Mary enjoyed serving Salemsborg Lutheran Church through WELCA women’s groups, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Evangelism and Outreach Committee, choir, and handbell choir. She enjoyed singing hymns, anthems, and other songs and passed that love on to her children. She encouraged them to learn musical instruments in school. Mary and Eldon never missed any of the numerous grade school operettas, musicals, band, orchestra, and vocal concerts from grade school through high school. Following in her father’s footsteps, she sang in the Bethany Oratorio Society Messiah Festival when in college and then again in later years. She enjoyed gathering with friends and family for birthdays and other occasions, and regularly played Mexican Train Dominoes with a group of life-long friends.

Even though Mary and Eldon did not pressure their children for grandchildren, they were thrilled when first, John Luke, and then, Lilie, were born. They made the trek up north to see their grandchildren as often as they could, and in these last months, enjoyed seeing them much more frequently and attending school functions.

   Mary is survived by her husband of 59 years, Eldon, Mayville, ND; a son, Bruce (Jerry Hicks), Westlake, OH; a daughter, Julie (John Pederson), Mayville, ND; two grandchildren, John Luke and Lilie “Pluto” Pederson, Mayville, ND; a brother, David (Elsa) Larson, Lincoln, NE; brothers-in-law, Arnold (Ann) Tillberg, Howard Richards, Vernon (Jeri) Tillberg, and Gordon (Gloria) Tillberg; sisters-in-law Vivian (Darrell) McCulley and Rhonda Tillberg; honorary grandchildren, Cara Camac, Jessica Rawson, and Clinton MacDonald; and numerous nieces and nephews, relatives and friends.

   Mary is preceded in death by her parents, Berthold and Frances Larson; parents-in-law, Lawrence and Rosalind Tillberg; sister-in-law, Elda Jean Richards; and brother-in-law, Leland Tillberg.


The family will be present at the Visitation on Sunday, April 21, 5 PM to 8 PM at Ryan Mortuary, Salina, KS.

The funeral service will be Monday, April 22, 2 PM at Salemsborg Lutheran Church, Smolan, KS with burial following at the Salemsborg Cemetery.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Salemsborg Lutheran Church or Lutheran World Relief.


North Dakota arrangements by Baker Funeral Home.

Kansas arrangements by Ryan Mortuary.


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Mary F. Tillberg, please visit our flower store.


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