Cover photo for Gwenn Vallery's Obituary
Gwenn Vallery Profile Photo
1929 Gwenn 2021

Gwenn Vallery

February 4, 1929 — December 18, 2021

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Gwenn Vallery, age 92 of Nisland, passed away Saturday, December 18, 2021 at the Monument Health Spearfish Hospital surrounded by family.

The funeral service will be held 10 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021 at the Christian Life Center in Belle Fourche. Visitation will take place 5 to 7 pm Tuesday at Leverington Funeral Home of the Northern Hills in Belle Fourche. Interment will be in Pine Slope Cemetery.

Gwenn’s funeral will be broadcast live online, on her obituary page located on the funeral home’s website:

Gwenivere (Gwenn) L. Earles Vallery was born on a blustery day, February 4, 1929 in Mitchell, SD to George and Frances (Wheeler) Earles. She joined a 13-month-old sister, Betty Alice and was later joined by siblings Arlene Faye, Vernon George, and Carol Lee.

She attended elementary school at Longfellow and Litchfield in Mitchell. Junior and senior high were also in Mitchell, graduating in 1947. She attended Dakota Wesleyan for one year. Gwenn then headed to western South Dakota to Black Hills State College for two summer school sessions before going to California to teach. She was 19. With a teacher’s certificate in her hand, she left her South Dakota home and took the train to a remote logging community in Northern California. For two years she taught all eight grades in a one-room school.

Gwenn returned to South Dakota and eventually received her B.S. (1972) & M.S. (1982) in Education from Black Hills State University.

She married the love of her life, R. Thornton Vallery, on September 3, 1950 in Mitchell, SD. They settled on the Vallery home place, near Nisland, and raised their family of three – Rick, Randy, and Rene’.

Gwenn took a 15-year hiatus to raise the couple’s children, and then when the youngest was five, she returned to her teaching career, which would span over 45 years. Much of that time was spent teaching in the elementary grades at various schools in the Newell School District. Upon her “retirement” she could still be found substitute teaching where needed and helping GED students achieve their dreams. After her husband’s death, the call of teaching returned, and in her late 70’s she spent one year teaching on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Then in her early 80’s she finished her teaching legacy at a two-room schoolhouse in Alzada, MT.

She was active in numerous organizations and served in many leadership roles. She especially enjoyed her work with Extension. Gwenn served 15 years as a 4-H leader for the Eager Beavers 4-H Club. She was a charter member of Tot-n-Twenty Extension Club and was a member for over 65 years. In 2017 she was awarded South Dakota State University’s Eminent Homemaker honor.

Gwenn enjoyed anything to do with travel making it to all 50 states; playing cards (she was very competitive) and gardening where she earned a Master Gardener certification. But teaching remained her true passion clear to the end. She often commented about a former student’s success and would say, “They were one of my kids.” She was deeply interested in and proud of, the children she taught through the years.

Survivors include her children, Rick (Carrel) Vallery, Ft. Pierre; Randy (Rhonda) Vallery, Nisland; and Rene’ (Terry) LaFrance, Hot Springs.  Grandchildren include Sonia (Jim) Morrison, Dunlap, IL; Travis (Kerri) Vallery, Pierre; Dallas (Tara) Vallery, Summerset; and Codi (Brian) Mills, Nisland. Great-grandchildren include Chase Vallery, Boone, NC; Reagan Vallery, Jacksonville, NC; Ryan Morrison, Grant Morrison, Dunlap, IL; and Kimber Mills, Nisland. Sister, Carol (Lloyd) Hendrix, Mitchell, sister-in-law, Marge Earles and numerous nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband, parents, parents-in-law (Philip and Helen Vallery) and two sisters, and one brother.

Memorials may be made to the Tot-n-Twenty Scholarship Fund and the Nisland/Arpan Volunteer Fire Department or a charity of your choosing.


Celebration of Life

10:00 A.M. – Wednesday – December 22, 2021

Christian Life Center

Belle Fourche, South Dakota



Pastor Paul Howard

Jean Helmer, Synod Authorized Minister


Special Music

“In the Garden”, “Wind Beneath My Wings”

Vonda Mahaffey, soloist

“Sentimental Journey”

Butch Samuelson, pianist


Honorary Casketbearers

Buck DeWeese          Kenny Hanson           Bart Hendrickson

Bryant Herman          Ed Kling                    Leon Minor

Scott Reder           Monte Richards        Tom Swan      Fred Wells


Active Casketbearers

Steven Dick    Justin Lawrence        Tyler Swan

T.J. Swan         Max Timm      Mike Wilbur



Pine Slope Cemetery

Belle Fourche, South Dakota


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Service Schedule

Past Services


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Mountain time)

Leverington Funeral Home of the Northern Hills

715 National St, Belle Fourche, SD 57717

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Starts at 10:00 am (Mountain time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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