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Fern Tingwald

Nov. 19, 1923—Jan. 29, 2018

WAUPACA—Fern Tingwald, 94, formerly of Racine, Wis., died peacefully Jan. 29, 2018, at Crossroads Care Center in Waupaca with her children at her side.

Fern was born Nov. 19, 1923, in Lincoln, Neb., to Mike and Mary (Webster) Sill. She would marry Raymond Dowers at age 15 and have her first child, Mary Jane, in late September 1939 at a prairie farmhouse outside Sargent in west-central Nebraska. A few weeks later, she’d be a widow at 16. She fled a second husband before having a second daughter, Barbara, in 1941 at a time when divorce still was a risky move. Thurman Tingwald, a Navy veteran from Perry, Iowa, convinced her to marry again in 1948. They were wed at Atonement Lutheran Church in Racine, Wis., and she had two more children, Connie and Don, in Racine. The Tingwalds operated a successful diner, Pee Wee Lunch, for more than 20 years, first at 1141 Douglas Ave. — Slogan: ‘We can feed a million, 11 at a time’ — and then at a larger site at Main and State streets in downtown Racine. Fern later ran kitchens at some of the finer restaurants in that Lake Michigan city. Fern was known for making perfect prime rib — those who sent slices back to get ‘well done’ on the grill risked having her come out with knife in hand, because that was sacrilege. The couple also managed an exceptional Friday night fish fry, Tingwald’s Galley, for years at Harbor Lite Yacht Club that would be packed, primarily for its fried, hand-filleted and hand-breaded lake perch.

She helped care for her husband of 55 years as he was failing from cancer until 2004, then her brother, Joseph Sill, until he passed in 2008. She relocated to Felch Township, Michigan, in 2012 to live with her daughter, Mary Jane, on Six Mile Lake, enjoying the resident animals inside and outside. She went to the Crossroads Care Center of Crystal River in Waupaca, Wis., in summer 2014, but even as she became more stooped she still didn’t take any ... well, fill in the word of your choice. As Shakespeare put it well, ‘Though she be but little, she is fierce!’

Fern is survived by all four of her children, Mary Jane of Felch, Mich.; Barbara Cox of Crescent City, Fla.; Connie (Ed) Staal of Iola, Wis.; and Don (Carrie) Tingwald of Lac du Flambeau, Wis.; 14 grandchildren; 25 great-grandchildren; eight great-great grandchildren; one great-great-great-grandchild; and many nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Thurman; her parents; brothers Ernest Webster, Joseph Sill and Robert Sill; sisters Agnes Neal and Genevieve Kopplin; granddaughter Kelly Hughes; great-grandson David Linville; and great-granddaughter Amy Torres.

A memorial service will take place at 12 noon Saturday, April 21, 2018 at Mount Pleasant Lutheran Church, 1700 S. Green Bay Road in Mount Pleasant, where the Tingwalds were longtime members. Visitation will be held from 11 am until service time. She will be laid to rest next to her husband at West Lawn Memorial Park, 9000 Washington Ave., Racine.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Mount Pleasant Lutheran Church, Racine, WI.; Zion Lutheran Church, Felch MI.; or a charity of one’s choice.

Online condolences can be expressed at


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the life of: Fern Tingwald
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