In Memory of

LaVonne Winterboer

     Hattie LaVonne Winterboer, the daughter of Clayton and Esther (Falline) Cobb, was born May 18, 1925.  They lived on a farm southwest of Webb, Iowa for many years, moving to the Sioux Rapids area in 1941.  LaVonne attended Garfield-Webb school for eleven years, graduating from Sioux Rapids High School in 1942.  LaVonne worked three years in Spencer at the Clay County National Bank before her marriage.

     LaVonne married Herman Winterboer on December 19, 1948 in Sioux Rapids, IA. They lived on a farm north of Everly where she enjoyed being a housewife, mother, and farmer’s partner.

   She taught Sunday School, Bible School, and was a Youth Leader at First Reformed Church in rural Everly for many years.  She also served in various capacities in the Ladies Aid.  She then became a member of Hope Lutheran Church in Everly where she was active in Women of Hope.  Most recently, she was a member of Hope Reformed Church in Spencer.

   For many years, she was a member of the Clay County Cowbelles, Waterford Wonder Workers, and Farm Bureau Women of Clay County serving in several capacities including County Chairman.  She was also a girls’ 4-H leader for over ten years.  In later years, she enjoyed volunteering in the school reading program, R.S.V.P. and reading at St. Lukes.

   LaVonne was the longest living cancer survivor in Clay County having survived fifty-nine years.  She was an inspiration and advocate for others dealing with cancer. 

   She passed away at Spencer Hospital on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at the age of 92.  LaVonne was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Herman and a sister, Nellie.

     Left to cherish her memory are three sons and their wives: Clayton and Carol of Carroll, IA, Cedric and Marilyn of Spencer, IA and Charles and Jean of Adel, IA; six grandchildren: Allison (Jeremy) Howard, Matthew (Tammy) Winterboer, Chad (Amanda) Winterboer, Charity (Brian) Mueggenberg, Erin (Mike) Beckerink, Chris (Missy) Winterboer, fourteen great-grandchildren; other relatives and many friends.

LaVonne’s Cancer Story


On a Sunday evening in February, 1959, my husband and I and our three little boys (ages 6, 7, & 9) were sharing some goodnight hugs. We had a good Sunday attending Sunday school and worship at our little country church and had shared family time in our happy home. As my three sons gave me goodnight hugs, one of them bumped his head hard against my breast. I felt something unusual so I checked my breast and asked Herman to feel where I had felt the pain. Something wasn’t right. Herman agreed with me that it felt like a pea under the flesh at the edge of the nipple of my left breast. We both immediately gasped, “Could it be? No, it couldn’t!” We knew little about cancer at that time. We did agree though that we should go check with the doctor in the morning.

          The next morning as soon as chores were done and the three little boys were off to school, my husband and I went into Spencer to check things out with our good friend, Dr. Lyle Frink. After some examination, his advice to us was to have that little foreign substance removed and evaluated. He explained that it would probably be benign, but there was a chance it could be malignant. He felt we should know which it was as soon as possible for my emotional health.

          Therefore, he called the hospital and found I could be admitted the following evening and he could use the operating room on Wednesday morning to remove the little pea-sized mass and find out whether it was friend or foe! Knowing we wanted results as soon as possible, Dr. Frink allowed friends of ours to travel to Sioux City with the specimen to have it tested.

          Later in the afternoon Herman stopped in to see how I was doing and I sensed he was nervous about what the verdict might be. Later he and Dr. Frink came in together. Herman stood on one side of the bed holding my hand and Dr. Frink sat on the other side of the bed. As I looked at one and then the other, I knew what doctor was going to report. It was in their faces!

          Dr. Frink started out by telling me I could choose between Rochester, MN, or Iowa City for the next stage of my life. Yes, that little pea thing that had invaded my breast was malignant.

          After swallowing difficulty and a brief rinsing off of my face with tears in my eyes, I informed doctor that I didn’t want to go to Rochester or Iowa City but wanted the surgery right here in Spencer performed by him. He explained to me it would be a very radical surgery with glands and some muscle tissue under the arm pit and with many nerves being removed. He went on to say that he had never done this surgery, but had only observed it at Rochester. Only after I insisted that I had faith in his ability, he called Mayo Clinic and was encouraged by staff there that he could do it. The radical mastectomy was then scheduled for Friday morning.

          On Thursday Dr. Frink ordered an afternoon pass for me so I could go home and do a few things in preparation for a one to two week hospital recovery period. I also had an opportunity to tell my three little boys bye and assure them I would be back with them as soon as possible. That was the really hard part of the journey I was to take; however, I knew Herman and family would take good care of them. I needed them and they need me! But, now we needed to pray for a successful surgery. My assurance to myself was my beloved song, “God Will Take Care of You.”

          The surgery was over! Dr. Frink was exhausted! Herman was an emotional wreck! I hurt! Now we had to wait as all the removed tissue was sent to Iowa City to be thoroughly evaluated to determine if the cancer had already invaded deeper into my body. We didn’t have all the other alternative treatments for cancer back then that we have today.

          I spent ten painful days in the hospital shedding tears for my husband and sons in case the report came back with bad news…tears for missing my three little guys so much….tears for the pain…..emotional tears for my scarred body!

          The day before I was released from the hospital Dr. Frink came with the NEWS! Flash! What surgery had taken from me was cancer-free and I was now to concentrate on healing my body.

          During the recovery period in the hospital I met an angel. As I say there were tearful days and early in the course of that part of my journey someone peeked around the curtain around my bed. He gently said, “Why are you crying?” He introduced himself and I told him what all was troubling me. He comforted me and prayed for me and continued visiting every day I was there. He became my guardian angel! We kept in touch for several years, even after he and his family had moved to South Dakota. Even then I heard from his family at Christmas for several more years. He was Pastor Leo Miller from the Assembly of God Church. Yet, today I praise God for that special angel he sent me in time of special need.

          The return home to my three little boys was very emotional. Physically I was exhausted and after losing a lot of blood during surgery I was very low on iron and vitamin B. So we concentrated on building those up to normal levels for the next year. My emotional health was fragile, but my husband and three little boys healed those scars with their love and support. Friends supported with caring and praying. Sometimes I grumbled and complained, but always ended up thanking God for my life.

          Every year for five years Dr. Frink took chest x-rays to confirm that everything was still clear. Then we gradually had the chest x-rays and check-ups further apart until about 25 years and then Dr. Frink felt I was safe! He felt time had been of the essence. Remember you have heard it before and I remind you again – early detection is vitally important!

          I am amazed how much progress has been made in detection and treatment for cancer in the past fifty years. My big question is why do so many people get it? What really causes it? But we have hope if we remember, “God is Our Dwelling Place.” It is “Under His Wings” that we find refuge. God’s faithfulness is our constant shield. Security can be yours in God’s promise that He will be with us in trouble. When troubled, I find comfort in Psalm 91. It gives me an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder at God’s continual provisions for us.

          My heart aches for anyone here who has just discovered they have cancer or are fighting it now. Those who are survivors I hope you overcome! May you be able to celebrate as my family is now. Fifty years ago I wasn’t sure I would see this day, but here I am. My three little boys are men who now look after mama! I thank and praise God that I saw them graduate from school, college, get married, raise families and become empty nesters. God has blessed me with six grandchildren and their spouses. They have all graduated college, married and the blessings continue with twelve great grand children and another arriving this fall.

Warner Funeral Home

Spencer, Sutherland, Peterson, Everly

225 West 3rd Street • Spencer, IA 51301 • 712-262-3640 • Fax 712-262-1618