Rena Underhill

Rena E. (Orvis) Underhill, 86, of Motley, passed away September 30, 2019, at Good Shepherd Care Center in Sauk Rapids.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 11 a.m., Sat., November 16, 2019 at the Motley Free Methodist Church, with Pastor Jim Johnson officiating. A private family committal service will follow at the Motley Cemetery.

Rena was born in Wadena County to John W. Orvis and Lillie C. (Simms) Orvis on October 8, 1932. Her family moved to a farm north of Motley when she was 8-years-old. She was a graduate of Motley High School, Class of 1950. On June 7, 1954, she married Chester Underhill, Jr. She completed Staples Teacher Training and later earned her B.S. Degree in Elementary Education from St. Cloud State University. She also attained Teaching Certificates in both Kindergarten and Special Education. Her 40-year career as an educator began in the rural schools of Cass and Morrison Counties, to include Meadowbrook, Birch Hill, Rail Prairie and Harding. She then taught fourth grade in Pillager for 10 years and Kindergarten in Motley for 23 years. In 1976, Rena was nominated Motley Teacher of the Year. 

4-H was an integral part of Rena’s life. She began as a member of the Becker Busy Bees, served as Assistant County Agent for Carlton County, was the founding adult leader of the Busy Beavers Club, was a member of the Cass County Federation assisting with 4-H activities for both the Pine River and Pillager Fairs, was a delegate to Washington, D.C. Leader’s forum and was a long term member of the Motley Fair Board. She was a member of the United Methodist Church in Motley, teaching both Sunday School and Bible School, and served as Chairperson of the Education Commission. 

Rena’s dedication to children and learning continued even after retirement as she substitute-taught, gave private tutoring lessons, and volunteered on the MN Literacy Council, as well as caring for and mentoring grandchildren and later great-grandchildren. She always had a deep passion for animals, giving many strays a home, caring for pets of family and friends, and working with both children and animals at Camp Shamineau and Pine Shadows Kennel. Her greatest joy in life came from time spent with family and friends, being outdoors/in her garden and her many beloved pets. 

Rena is survived by three daughters, June Winter, Pillager, Lori (Don) Keating, Bellevue WA and Susan (Neil) Eckes, Big Lake; one brother, John W. (Jane) Orvis II, Hutchinson; six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. 

Rena is preceded in death by her husband, Chester Underhill, Jr., and her parents, John W. Orvis and Lillie C. (Simms) Orvis. 

The family of Rena wishes to extend our sincere thank you to the Good Shepherd Community in Sauk Rapids and the Shepherd of Grace Community in Becker where Rena resided for the last three years. 

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