Camille R. Whiterabbit, age 88, lost her battle with cancer on November 1, 2013. She was born on January 2, 1925, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Harry and Rosa Maisells. Camille is survived by her brothers, Hoke and Forrest Maisells. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Mitchell, her parents, sister, Romona, brother Henaga, son Ronald and granddaughter Rene. She is survived by her daughter Elaine (Robert) Etherington, son Forrest (Kathy) Whiterabbit, daughter Sharyn Whiterabbit, and niece Marlene (Harvey) Helgemo. In addition, they raised Byron, Dwight, and Charlene Steele. Grandchildren are Sharyn Steele, Forrest Whiterabbit, Jr., Joanne Whiterabbit, Chad (Nicole) Whiterabbit, Wendy Helgemo, and Heidi (Glenn) Tucker. Great grandchildren are Ronald and Jae Helene Whiterabbit, Morgan Whiterabbit and Adalina and Dalia Tucker.
Mitchell was a Navy chaplain and had been invited to speak at a church in Lancaster. Camille’s parents encouraged their children to hear him speak and to invite him home for dinner. Needless to say, Camille and Mitchell were immediately smitten with each other. They married in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on February 15, 1944. They moved to Chicago where Mitchell attended McCormick Theological Seminary. They returned to Lancaster where Mitchell completed his seminary education. While there, Rev. Benjamin Stucki extended a call to Mitchell to be pastor to the Winnebago Indian Mission near Black River Falls, Wisconsin. He accepted the call and their adventure began.
The train dropped them off in western Wisconsin and no one was there to greet them. Camille had been eager to impress her in-laws so she had dressed “to the nines” and wore her best high heels. Little did she know that they would have to walk for miles until Mitchell’s brother Calvin arrived in his Model T and took them to meet Mitchell’s family.
Camille remembered that when she arrived at the Indian Mission, she fell in love with the surroundings, the people, and her new role as the wife of the pastor. She believed that Mitchell brought her to “paradise”. Mitchell remained the pastor for twenty years. The church was the hub of the community for all ages including Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Youth Fellowship, and Women’s Guild. Mitchell and Camille established the second hand clothing store from church donations, the Trading Post to provide income for local artisans, and the sewing factory to provide jobs in the community. She served as the health officer for the Indian Mission from 1950 to 1960. They opened their home to many foster children throughout the Mission years. She loved to play the organ for church services. She loved the Christmas season and handpicked gifts for all the children in the Mission community. Camille agreed that this was the best time of her life.
Camille was an animal lover and would say that, “Dogs and old men loved her”. She had family pets all throughout her years, including Lassie, Trinkets, several Cora Lee rabbits, Joyce, the basset hound, Teddy, the shih tzu, Kia, another shih tzu, who survives her and Great Grand Dogs, Yuma and Willy.
For many years, she was an avid gardener and canned much of the produce that she served to her family and frequent visitors. She was an excellent baker, especially her homemade rolls and cookies. She was a gourmet cook and loved to prepare everyone’s favorite dishes. Great granddaughter Jae Helene voted her “best cook hands down”.
In 1970, Mitchell became the Executive Director of the American Indian Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Camille began a new career as program aid for the University of Minnesota Extension Office in St. Paul where she provided nutrition education to American Indians. In 1974, in Washington, DC, she was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the United States Department of Agriculture and recognized for her outstanding work by the President of the United States Gerald Ford.
In 1980, the family moved to Denver, Colorado, to support her granddaughter Sharyn’s competitive ice skating. Camille and Mitchell created, produced, and sold skating bears all over the world and held a U.S. patent to the skating bears. Camille also cooked at the Colorado Ice Arena for world class figure skaters and Olympic Gold Medal champions. On the days that Camille made Indian frybread, coaches allowed their skaters only one frybread – much to their disappointment.
Camille came from a long line of talented painters, artists and beaders and was very creative. In addition to skating bears, she was well known for her Ho-Chunk traditional dolls, beaded turtles, and painted animal skulls. She incorporated her loom beadwork onto leather products such as purses and checkbooks. Every December she was a popular vendor at the All Nations Indian Art Market in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she sold her creations.
Camille spent her final years in North Hudson, Wisconsin, living with her daughter Sharyn and always welcomed her family home for holidays and vacations. Her loving family surrounded her during her final days when she passed over to join her deceased loved ones, including her beloved Mitchell, on All Saints Day.
Cremation services provided by Bakken-Young Funeral & Cremation Services of Hudson.