Bernita Jane (Graber) Preheim was born on May 20, 1928, to Joseph J. and Marie Albrecht Graber. She was baptized Dec. 3, 1944 and became a member of the Salem Zion Mennonite Church of rural Freeman, S.D. She graduated from Freeman Academy in 1946 and continued her education by attending Freeman Junior College where she received her teaching certificate. After graduating she taught at a number of different schools for several years.
She had been teaching in the Salem and Parker public schools when she married Neal Preheim on Aug. 20, 1959 and quit her teaching career to become a farm wife.
She and Neal had two sons, Marty and Barry. Her life involved taking care of her family and helping run the day-to-day operations of the farm. She spent countless hours on tractors and was always willing to help in any way that she could from helping pull weeds in bean fields to climbing into a grain bin to help shovel. Her garden and flower bed were two of her favorite hobbies and when visitors came to the farm she often offered a tour of both. Even in her 80’s and her health was failing, she would ask almost daily if there was anything she could do to help out.
Bernita still had time to volunteer at the Salem Mennonite Church, where she became a member after her marriage. She also volunteered at the Et Cetera Shoppe until her health made it too difficult. She also worked for the women’s auxiliary at Freeman Academy and usually started baking her pumpkin rolls in early January so she would have what she felt was an adequate amount for Schmeckfest, which usually meant a freezer that was almost full.
Bernita’s health started declining in her early 80s and in 2012 was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She remained on the farm through September 2017 with her son, Barry, as her care giver. At that point she suffered a broken hip and moved to the Oakview Terrace memory care unit. It is there that she passed away on Feb. 9, 2019 from complications for a heart attack she suffered two weeks earlier.
Bernita is survived by her two sons, Marty and Barry; sister Leora Ortman, and brother Johnny Graber. She was proceeded in death by her husband Neal; sister, Elta Lehmann, and brother Hilbert Graber.
A time of celebration was held at the Salem Mennonite Church Thursday, Feb. 14 with Pastor Nick Detweiler-Stoddard officiating. Special music was provided by Lyle Preheim and Barb Yoder, with Heather Haggerty as organist. Interment was in the Salem Mennonite Church Cemetery; pallbearers were Donavon Lehmann, Kerwin Graber, Joey Graber and Zachary Graber.