Thief River Falls – Ivette DeVerne Garrett (Torkelson)
May 28, 1946–September 22, 2022
Ivette DeVerne Torkelson was born May 28, 1946 in Thief River Falls, the eighth of nine children of Melvin and Helen (Wiken) Torkelson. Raised on a farm in Smiley Township, Ivette attended country school with her siblings. The only one in her class, Ivette often remarked how useful it was to hear the older kids recite their lessons. Ivette was restless, always on the move, always scraped up with skinned knees, and always ready for the next adventure. She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1964 and then attended the Thief River Falls Area Vocational School where she studied business. After working as a secretary for a year in Minneapolis, Ivette returned to school and enrolled in the inaugural class at the Minnesota State Junior College now known as Northland Community and Technical College. When receiving their Distinguished Graduate award in May 2018, Ivette said in her acceptance speech that Northland expanded her horizons and she proved that quite quickly when, after graduation, she enrolled at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
Ivette often told the story of her initial trip. Her parents gave her what money they could – which was very little – and Ivette paid for her share of the gas money to ride up the AlCan highway and to the door of the Registrar’s Office in Fairbanks. Without enough for even the first semester’s tuition payment, she still managed to enroll and work her way through each and every semester – paying as she went. She took a variety of jobs, one of which was playing her guitar and singing folk songs in a place where, much to her chagrin, her “favorite fur” was stolen. Her family well remembers the cassette tapes she would send back home.
In Fairbanks, Ivette met the love of her life, Bob Garrett. When they both graduated, Bob became an officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force. They were married in 1972 at St. Pauli Church in rural Thief River Falls and then lived on a variety of air bases in the U.S. Their daughter, Kirsten Lindsay Garrett, was born in September 1976, only six weeks before Bob was killed in a tragic aircraft accident near Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. As a young widow, Ivette poured herself into raising Kirsten on her own, eventually purchasing a lovely home in South St. Paul, where they lived while Kirsten grew into a young adult on her way to West Point and beyond.
Ivette used her time wisely and received an MBA from the College of St. Thomas and a Juris Doctorate from the William Mitchell College of Law. She was doggedly curious and passionately concerned for others, and this eventually led her to a career as an attorney with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, where she practiced employment law and traveled throughout the U.S., largely in support of accidents and disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
When she retired, she generously helped raise her granddaughters while Kirsten was stationed across Europe and the United States, until Kirsten and her husband, Rob, settled in Arlington, Virginia. She loved being with the girls and was so proud of everything they had done and were becoming.
Ivette returned to her hometown in 2015 where she purchased and renovated a lovely home and enjoyed unparalleled river views from Birch Lane Drive. An avid gardener throughout her life, she now weeded long-overgrown beds, planted dozens of flowers, and grew a surfeit of tomatoes and cucumbers that she shared with her neighbors. She often remarked that a summertime supper of cucumbers and tomatoes was, indeed, one of her favorites. She joined a variety of organizations in Thief River Falls, but was most committed to volunteering for several hours each week at Challenger Elementary School until the COVID pandemic and her advancing lung disease made it too difficult for her to continue. Even then, she continued to receive school papers that she helped to grade, graciously delivered to her front door.
Ivette was always active, always ready to laugh, and always ready to help, but she will be most missed and remembered as a steadfast, caring, and loyal mother, Mormor, sister, aunt, and friend. Left to mourn her passing and celebrate her life are her daughter, Kirsten Walker and son-in-law Rob Walker of Arlington, Virginia; granddaughters, Mathea, Sofia and Annika; brothers, Wallace and Marvin Torkelson of Thief River Falls; sisters, Wahna Smith and Faye Auchenpaugh of Thief River Falls and Pamela (Kevin) Kittridge of Maplewood; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Melvin and Helen Torkelson; husband, Robert Evan Garrett; brothers, Francis Marion Torkelson and Willis Torkelson; and sister, Geraldine Guerard.
A service and celebration of Ivette’s life is planned for Thanksgiving week in Thief River Falls. In lieu of flowers or cards, please consider a donation to her beloved St. Pauli Church or planting a peony in her memory.