Winnie was born in the family farmhouse on December 12, 1920 in Traill County, Hillsboro, ND to Selma Opheim Kopanger and Joseph C. Kopanger. The land was homesteaded by her grandfather Jens Kopanger from Kaupanger, Norway. Much of her life revolved around the farm and her family, and however far she traveled, she always traveled back home to North Dakota.
She graduated from Hillsboro High School, and then studied nursing at St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing in Fargo, North Dakota and received her RN diploma in 1942.
Winnie served in WWII and she received U.S. Army Air Nurse Corps basic training and diploma in March 1945, and a commission to Second Lieutenant prior to her basic training at Camp Carson, Colorado. She served as a general duty staff nurse for 9 months overseas in the Philippines and occupied Japan.
She attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN from 1947-1949, prior to receiving flight nurse’s training in the Air Force Nurse Corps in Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama in 1951. She received nurse flight wings for Air Evacuation. She served 14 months in general duty at Holloman AFB and Gunter AFB. She retired honorably as a First Lieutenant.
She attended the University of North Dakota and earned a composite major and minor Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Science. She loved learning, and also attended Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas and the University of Nevada in Reno, NV. She continued her education throughout her life, earning additional technical expertise as a Certified Pathologist and Certified Medical Technologist.
She was a popular nurse, requested by patients and doctors alike, but she did not wish to oversee others. She turned down an offer to become Supervisor at the Hillsboro Community Hospital in 1956. During her career, she nursed privately and publicly at the Washoe County General Hospital and Medical Center in Reno, NV; Mercy Hospital in Roseburg, OR; St. John’s Hospital in Fargo, ND; in the St. Michael’s Hospital, University of ND Dispensary, and Deaconess Hospital, at Grand Forks, ND; Community Hospitals in Hillsboro, ND and Mayville, ND, St. Francis Hospital and Stormont Vail Hospital both Topeka, KS; and St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno, Nevada. Her work history shows her desire to be near her home of Hillsboro, her three sisters’ families in Reno, NV, and Topeka, KS, and take advantage of new training opportunities in her field.
Winnie loved to snow ski, so much that she had her own set of skis and took them with her everywhere. Her nieces remember her first car was a turquoise Nash Rambler, but once she switched to T-Birds, she was hooked and never bought another make of car. She always drove herself, making trips between Hillsboro and Topeka, KS and Hillsboro and Reno, NV well into her eighties before ill-health finally forced her to give up the keys.
She loved cats, and even when she moved off the family farm to a small apartment in Hillsboro, she brought “Muffin” from Reno with her. Muffin became her companion cat.
Winnie is preceded in death by her parents, her sisters Muriel Orvetta Mast (Clyde), Juletta McGwin (Max), and Naomi Dagmar High (William), her nephew Daniel Joseph Kopanger High, and her niece Darcy McGwin Duhon of Reno, NV. She is survived by her nephew Marshall Mast (Sarah) of Las Vegas, NV; her niece through marriage, Deborah Johnson High (nephew Dan deceased); Nieces Sammy High Tolbert Peck (Ed) of Topeka, KS; Julie High Thompson (Stan) of Topeka, KS; Shelly McGwin Stowell (Shelly deceased in 2021) (Jim deceased) of Reno, NV; and many grand nieces and nephews.
Her graveside memorial service will be at Riverside Cemetery, Hillsboro, ND, when COVID travel restrictions are lifted and the family is able to travel to ND. Winnie’s remains have already been placed in the Kopanger family plot.
Donations may be made to:
n Hospice of the Red River Valley, 1701 38th St. S Ste 101,Fargo, ND 58103-4499.
n Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (Due to the several folks who gave of their time and hearts to help our Aunt Winnie), 204 E Caledonia Ave., Hillsboro, ND 58045.
n Homeward Animal Shelter, 1201 28th Avenue North, Fargo, ND 58102.