February 9, 1938 - November 6, 2020
Vinette Rose (Byg) Skow passed away on November 6, 2020, in Hodgen, Okla. after a valiant struggle with pancreatic cancer. She was 82.
Vinette Rose was born on February 9, 1938, in Sioux Falls, S.D. She attended a one-room schoolhouse, Johnson District 54, for grades 1–8, and said she learned each grade’s material eight times. Vinette graduated as valedictorian from Lyons High School in 1956 and graduated in three years with a Home Economics degree from South Dakota State College in Brookings. Vinette was a farm girl, and as a youth, she was awarded the top cattle-judging honors in South Dakota, which took her to the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa. From an early age, Vinette took on the bulk of the work involved in raising her four younger siblings, who were to be the first of many children she would care for in her lifetime. There were her own five children, of course, whom she raised over the span of more than 30 years while living from one corner of the United States to the other, and there were many others, too. Exchange students came from Japan, Colombia, Spain, and India to live in her home in Des Moines. So did boys who played hockey for local teams. She helped one boy learn to read after school, and he lived with the family for a year or two. She was a leader for the Saylor Township 4-H Club and often held meetings in her basement. And in the 1980s, she was a nighttime dorm mother at Drake University, where she gently guided the young adults by asking about their lives and then listening. She always shrugged off her maternal efforts and said she used “benevolent neglect.”
Vinette married Duane M. Skow on August 8, 1959, under a 49-star American flag. Duane took a job as a USDA Statistician, which moved their young family five times in the first sixteen years to Washington, DC; Palmer, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Sacramento, Cali.; and finally Des Moines, Iowa. Vinette made friends wherever she lived, but her friends from Alaska, “the Last Frontier,” were lifelong. She recalled being pregnant with her third child when they moved 4200 miles from Washington, DC, to Palmer and living out of two suitcases for several months while their household goods slowly made it to Alaska, which had become a state five years before their arrival. In 2009, Vinette and Duane celebrated 50 years of marriage, a few months before Duane’s death.
Vinette loved to sing. She sang in her high school and college choirs and was the first alto soloist for the Messiah at South Dakota State College. As an adult, she sang with Sweet Adelines groups in Texas and California. A highlight for Vinette was in 1969 when she helped to create a community choir in the Palmer, Alaska area, comprised of many church choirs that had been invited to participate in Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, directed by Robert Shaw; this required her driving 75 miles on gravel roads to Anchorage to practice.
Vinette greatly valued her capacity to think independently and to live life as she saw fit, and her family and many others were all the better for it. She read the Christian Science Monitor, Rolling Stone, W Magazine, and the Village Voice, and she watched C-SPAN to get her news unfiltered. She was a fiscally conservative Republican with socially liberal bents. In the early 1980s, dinner-table discussion would include the pros of legalizing marijuana for taxation and regulation purposes. She believed that love shouldn’t be limited to certain people, she believed in the importance of the rural voice as allowed by the Electoral College, and she loved that Sarah Palin was from Alaska. She donated her time as a census taker, a Republican Party representative (always trying to keep the moderate views on the platform), and a Saydel School Board Member (serving for eight years after perceiving that civil liberties were being threatened). To raise extra money to send her many children to private liberal-arts colleges, she drove a rural mail route for years and raised chickens. She attended the opera whenever she could, often traveling the world to do so and staying in hostels or at the Y because they were inexpensive. Because they were most often in downtown locations, she had the opportunity to visit with many interesting people along the way. One summer, she convinced Duane to take a post as a campground host at a national park in Sitka, Alaska, so she could attend a summer’s worth of chamber music at the Sitka Music Festival. Her daughters remember, too, that she often made their boyfriends wash dishes and peel potatoes. This was her litmus test, and it was far from the only way in which she was a font of wisdom for her family. As a Home Economics teacher, she knew when food had gone bad. She was always ready for a “Can I eat this?” And the answer was usually “Yes. Here’s how….” Home Economics helped her create a rich family life consisting of raising 100 chickens each spring; teaching life skills using the 4-H platform; and sewing prom dresses, bridesmaids’ dresses, and all the curtains for the many homes she lived in. She was the family shaman, delivering countless home remedies and healing energy treatments by rubbing her hands together and removing the pain and then rubbing them again to bring in healing energy. She was a great Mom.
On 12-12-2012, at noon, she married John L. Dykes, Sr. She found joy in their homes in South Dakota, Colorado, and Oklahoma, and in learning from him about horses, mules, camping, and the southern congeniality he brought to daily living. Vinette and John were both proud of “Rockin V,” a brand that John registered for her. Her favorite piece of jewelry has the “Rockin V” logo on it. She was happy to have found love again in her later years. Indeed, she would say, as the wise owl from Bambi put it, she was “twitter-pated.” She enjoyed retirement in Hot Springs, S.D, and built another group of friends that revolved around church, playing bridge, and walking and swimming on the rocks at Evans Plunge.
Vinette was preceded in death by her parents, Cecil Leonard Byg and Violet (Miller) Noller, her sister Doris Byg, and her first husband, Duane. She is survived by her husband and most loving caregiver, John L. Dykes, Sr., and her children and their families: son, Dana Duane Skow of West Fargo, N.D., and his wife, Nancy, and granddaughters, Emily (Brad Potter), Allison (Justin Pelkowski), and Laura; son John Wesley Skow of Hong Kong, China, and his wife, Tracy Edmonson, and grandsons Peter, Tyler, and Andrew; daughter, Lynette Skow Rasmussen of Johnston, Iowa, and her husband, Kurt, and grandchildren Sanna, Karl, and Maren; daughter, Darlene Skow Johnson of Monument, Colorado, and her partner, Randy Estes, and grandchildren Parker and Zoe; and daughter, Valerie Christine Skow of Des Moines, Iowa, and her husband, Nick Halstead, and grandchildren Daniel and Victoria. She is also survived by her sisters, Carol Joan Heifner (Rev. Dennis) and Celia Benson (LeRoy); her brother, Barton Byg (Jan Whitaker), and many loving extended family members.
Condolences can be mailed to Darlene Johnson, 3175 Mt. Herman Rd., Monument, Colo. 80132.
Contributions may be made to the South Dakota State University Extension Service 4-H, Luther Memorial Church in Des Moines, Iowa, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hot Springs, S.D., or Amnesty International.