Berthetta "Byrt" Ness

Berthetta "Byrt" Ness


August 11, 1927 - November 11, 2021


Berthetta “Byrt” Ness, 94, of Mitchell, SD, died Thursday, November 11, 2021, at Avera Brady Health and Rehab in Mitchell due to Lewy Body Dementia, with family holding one hand and Jesus leading her by the other. Funeral services will be 10:30 AM Friday, December 3, at Bittner Funeral Chapel. Burial will be at Servicemen’s Memorial Cemetery in Mitchell. Visitation and open mic sharing will be from 5-7:00 PM Thursday, in the Bittner Funeral Chapel Community Room.

Berthetta Lela Fillmore was born August 11, 1927 at Atkinson, NE to Paul and Lela (Fullerton) Fillmore. Her birth mother passed away in July 1929, leaving 3 tiny children. Her father then moved the family to Mitchell, where he attended Dakota Wesleyan and was assistant men’s basketball coach. There he met and married Lois Walker, who became a sweet and wise adopted mother to Byrt and her two siblings. A new little brother completed the family in 1932.

Byrt attended Mitchell High School during World War II. She got her first job at age 15, wrapping butter at Armour’s. She broke eggs at Mitchell Produce after school and summers, so dried eggs could be sent overseas to feed the troops. After graduation in 1945, she took the Red Cross Water Safety Instructor course at Fort Dodge, IA and became a lifeguard at Lake Mitchell’s public beach – a position typically filled by males.

She attended Dakota Wesleyan for two years, where she also taught swimming. In March 1946, her Sophomore year, she met a blue-eyed Sailor, just home from Pearl Harbor. That summer she taught swimming, boating, and canoeing at YMCA Camp Tepeetonka on Big Stone Lake, MN, and accepted an engagement ring.

On December 1, 1946 she married Kenneth Ness at First United Methodist Church, Mitchell. The couple moved to a farm in Ravenna Township, Sanborn County, where they raised crops, livestock, and four children. Byrt’s grandkids cherish memories of blanket forts, tree houses, and nature walks to the ‘prayer rock.’

In 1969-70 Byrt finished her education at General Beatle/Dakota State College in Madison, graduating with a degree in Elementary/Special Ed. She taught for 19 years in the Hanson School District: SPED at Fulton Elementary until it closed in 1980, then Chapter I and Coordinator with 2 Aides at Farmer until she retired in May 1989. She loved helping children learn and never gave up on a student. She was consulted by the SD Dept of Education about methods to overcome learning challenges.

After 54 years on the farm Bert and Kenny moved to a townhouse in Mitchell, March 27, 2000. Byrt studied creative writing and began authoring children’s stories based on her life experiences, and those of family and friends. These were published weekly for 3 ½ years in The Daily Republic as Originals: Short Stories for Children. In 2007 she published the collection as a book. She was a featured author at the SD Festival of Books in Deadwood. Byrt was a spiritual mentor to prison inmates through Crossroads correspondence Bible studies.

Byrt gave her heart to Jesus at age 6; then made her choice forever to serve the Lord at age 12. She was a member of Mitchell Wesleyan Church, where she served in the library and on a mission trip to a homeless shelter in Chicago. She was a past member of Delta Kappa Gamma, the YMCA, and Mitchell Rec Center, where she enjoyed lap swim and Aquacise with dear friends for over 40 years. Forever a ‘fish,’ in her 80’s she entered swimming events at the Senior Olympics held in Mitchell and brought home 3 medals. Byrt loved playing games with young and old. She thrived on the laughter and spontaneous teasing that erupts during the heat of competition.

She is survived by four children: Bonnie (Dan) Kruse, Nampa, ID; John (Kathy Swinehart) Ness, Allegan, MI; Mark (Donna) Ness, Artesian; and Paula (Douglas) Northrup, Letcher; seven grandchildren: Michele Shields, Kimberley (Jake) Green, Kyle (Dina) Ness, Erika Jensen, Nolan (Kristi), and Cole Whitledge, and Leighton Northrup; 9 great-grandchildren; Two brothers: Laverne Fillmore, Mitchell, and Emery Fillmore, Laguna Hills, CA; one sister: Shirley Ness, Mitchell; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

She was preceded in death by her birth mother, father, and adoptive mother; her husband in Nov 2017; Two sisters-in-law: Bette Fillmore, Mitchell, and Connie Fillmore, Laguna Hills, CA; Three brothers- and sisters-in-law: Elmon (Irene) Ness, Nampa, ID, Mildred (Norman) Holmes, Mitchell, Evelyn (Melvin) Thomsen, Mitchell, and Maynard Ness, Mitchell; One daughter-in-law, Kathy Steffek, Ridgecrest, CA; one grandson, Kent Kruse, and one step-grandson, Josh Whitledge.



Thursday, December 2, 2021
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Bittner Funeral Chapel Community Room
805 W Havens Ave
Mitchell, SD 57301


Friday, December 3, 2021
10:30 AM
Bittner Funeral Chapel
805 W Havens Ave
Mitchell, SD 57301


Servicemen's Memorial Cemetery
Mitchell, SD

Posted by Marie Loon on December 11, 2021
Brought back so many wonderful memories,loved that lady, glad she is in heaven with Kenny
Posted by Jackie Christiansen(Jack) on December 4, 2021
Oh, my goodness. I just watched the memory video of Byrt. What a MAGNIFICENT TRIBUTE TO A MAGNIFICENT LADY
Posted by Pat Dicus on December 2, 2021
So sorry for your loss. Always enjoyed Byrt and Kenny. Dorothy has such good memories of years ago with them, as well as time at Prairie Crossings.
Posted by Mary Freeman on November 30, 2021
Paula & family, I had the wonderful pleasure of knowing your kind mother and seeing her early morning swimming. Cherish the memories.
Posted by Mark & Retha Engle on November 26, 2021
So sorry for your loss. Even in these difficult recent years we pray the pleasant memories of your mother's life will continue to flourish as you celebrate her life. Praying for you all .
Posted by Pat Adam on November 15, 2021
I was in an Aquacise class with Bert for some years. Always admired her for her swimming abilities in her later years. She was a remarkable lady and I was so glad I had the opportunity to know her. My sympathy & prayers to all her family.
Posted by Jenna Doorn on November 14, 2021
I had the pleasure of taking care of Bert and Kenny at Prarie Crossings. Sympathies to all of you.
Posted by Jackie Christiansen (Jack) on November 13, 2021
I loved working with Byrt and Kenny at Prairie Crossings. 2 peas in a pod. God comfort you in this time. Deepest Condolences
Posted by Sina & Doug Glover on November 13, 2021
Byrt is swimming again!!! She, my husband and I were in water aerobics together. Then many years later I had the honor of caring for her and Kenny. They touched our lives in many ways. I’m so thrilled that her and Kenny are back together again and healthy and happy. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all as you grieve her passing. I know you all have many wonderful and hilarious memories to fill the void her passing left. God bless.
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