Published in the Pine City Pioneer, page 11, February 24, 2005
Anna Helen Vach, 88, of Pine City, died on Feb. 3, 2005 at the Kanabec Hospital in Mora.
Anna was born to Thomas and Stella (Cjakowski) Nowak in Owen, WI, on Aug. 31, 1916. She attended school until the eighth grade, at which time family obligations forced her to stay home and care for her younger brothers and help on the farm.
She married Stephen Vach on June 26, 1936. They had two daughters, Mary Ann and Patricia Ann. In 1956, the family moved to Pine City.
For 17 years, Anna worked six and often seven days a week as the cook and housekeeper at the Mission of the Redemptorist Fathers, on the south shore of Pokegama Lake. Following this, she worked as a cook for the Pine City Public School for 14 years until she retired in 1981.
After her husbandâ€™s death in 1987, she continued living in their home at Pokegama Lake, where she kept up with the grounds and house maintenance by herself until the age of 80. In 1996, she moved to an apartment at the Pine City Estates. In 2004, failing health required a move to the Villa nursing home in Mora, where she quickly won the hearts of staff and volunteers.
Annaâ€™s great intellect and love of history resulted in the accomplishment of much scholarly work in her lifetime. A meticulous historian, Annaâ€™s collections and research have benefited the state, the county, the city and private individuals around the country.
She was director and historian for the Pine County Historical Society for many years and contributed greatly to the body of knowledge of history in the area. Through her diligent research, Anna provided proof to state historians that what was first believed to be Connors Fur Post was, in fact, the North West Company Fur Post. She also provided much of the information used to restore the site to its current state, now appearing as it did during the fur trade era.
She was often consulted by professors at the University of Minnesota to confirm their findings of historical sites in Pine County. The Vach Collection was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society and remains one of the major collections of early man in this area of the state.
Anna had an avid interest in exploring and recording forgotten bits of history, such as logging camps, steamboats and once plied the rivers and lakes in the area, long-abandoned cemeteries overgrown in the woods, old maps of the region and family and town life in the early part of the 20th century. She had a rare talent for writing about details that are normally overlooked.
In addition to the numerous awards of recognition she received for her work as a historian, she was name Senior Citizen of the Year by the Pine City Chamber of Commerce in 2000.
Annaâ€™s talents werenâ€™t limited to historical research. She was an excellent cook and loved to bake pastries and make jellies and jams, which she shared with her friends and family. One of her favorite things to do was to go berry picking. In her day she could shoot a deer, clean it, can the meat and make an excellent meal with it, not a set of skills many hunters possess.
She also loved to fish, and during one recent fishing trip, when she was 85, she fell and broke two ribs but refused to stop casting until pain finally forced her to quit the following day and head to the hospital.
Out of necessity, Anna knew how to stretch a dollar. Yet, she always had something to give away despite her meager income. Even during the last years of her life, as her health failed her and she was often in pain, she lived life to the fullest. She touched many lives with her generosity, sense of humor and down-to-earth demeanor, and those who knew her will miss her terribly.
Anna was preceded in death by her parents, Thomas and Stella (Cjakowski) Nowak, husband, Stephen Vach, brothers, Tony, Alex, Edward, three-year-old Kasmar, two infant brothers, son-in-law, Henry Pangerl, and brother-in-law Everett (Mick) Hill.
She is survived by daughters, Mary Ann Pangerl and Patricia Ann (Milan) Mix, sister, Bernice Hill, sisters-in-laws, Erma Vach and Lorraine Nowak, grandchildren, Rita and husband, David Grace, Greg and wife, Cathy Mix, Jeff and wife, Sarah Mix, and great grandchildren, Gina and husband, Chris, Vera, Colleen, Hailee and Austin, nieces and nephews and many, many friends.
Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 7, at Immaculate conception Catholic Church in Pine City. The Rev. Michael J. Lyons officiated.
Eulogies were given by Donna Strusinski and Rita Clasemann. Music was provided by Kathy Hagberg and Ed Pangerl.
Honorary casket bearers were Harold Reiser and Joe Neubauer.
Casket bearers were Joseph Pangerl, Allen Brost, Clarence Espeseth, Bill Strusinski, Bill Vach, Bobby Vach, Randy Nowak and roman Nowak.
Burial took place at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Pine City.