Cover photo for Erna C. Lahr's Obituary
Erna C. Lahr Profile Photo
1926 Erna 2024

Erna C. Lahr

September 18, 1926 — March 3, 2024

Erna C. Lahr, 97, Bismarck, ND, went to her heavenly home on March 3, 2024. Cremation has taken place at her request. 

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 AM, Monday, April 22, 2024, at Faith Lutheran Church, 1402 E Ave C, Bismarck, followed by interment at Sunset Memorial Gardens. Please join the family for visitation at the church one hour before the service. For those who are unable to attend, the service livestream will be available on

Erna was born September 18, 1926 to Robert and K. Elizabeth (Zeller) Beoshanz in Elgin, ND. She was the first of three daughters and grew up speaking German. When she started first grade, her parents decided that only English would be spoken at home. She attended school at Heil Elementary and graduated from Elgin High School in 1944. She received her LPN degree at St. Alexius School of Nursing in Bismarck, ND. In 1945, she married John J. Martel. To this union they had four children. 

For 34 years Erna worked in the field of nursing at St. A's, Missouri Valley Clinic/Mid Dakota Clinic and in private practice. Before there were intensive care units, she worked at St. Alexius Hospital as a private duty nurse for patients requiring intensive care. After retiring from Mid Dakota Clinic, she married Dr. John T. Cartwright in 1988. Their marriage was brief with his death in 1989. With decades of nursing experience, she was a resource of medical information for her family long before the internet. She was a wealth of knowledge that extended well into her 97th year of life. She was often singing and laughing.  

Erna loved the North Dakota Heritage Center, volunteering there for over twenty years. It was there where she shared her love of North Dakota with visitors from every state and many countries. It was at the Heritage Center where she met fellow volunteer, Edward V. Lahr. Their love of North Dakota turned into love for each other. They were married in 1994. Their marriage was 16 years of fun and travel, surrounded by two loving families.

She was a fearless woman with a strong faith. She was an active member of Faith Lutheran Church, joining in the early 1950's when it was a tiny, white country church where the current church is located. She raised her family in the faith at the same church, while serving on various committees, as well as quilting and the Friendship Circle. She loved to sing, especially hymns. She was known to spontaneously sing Amazing Grace at gravesides or if any stressful situation warranted it.

When she became a grandmother, she learned how to knit, knitting sweaters, scarves, hats and afgans for everyone in the family. Over the years every one of her grand, great, and great-great-grandchildren received a knitted baby blanket. Even before Facebook, Erna had an uncanny ability to remember everyone's birthday, including all her nieces and nephews. In her sixties, she hiked with Becky (Bequia) to Sperry Chalet and Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park and crewed with Jennifer in a sailboat race at Lake Tschida. In her seventies, she went whitewater rafting with her children and parasailed with Ed in Jamaica. In her eighties, she learned how to navigate on a computer and participated with her family in the snow angel event at the Capitol grounds where we won the Guiness World Book of Records. Her passion as a young girl was reading and, in her nineties, her schedule finally allowed her to read to her heart's content. She especially loved reading stories about new settlers on the plains, having heard similar stories from her own grandparents. She was a great German cook and never used a recipe. 

Left to cherish her memory are her children: Betty Lou Dachtler, Bismarck, ND, Jennifer (Lonnie) Romsaas, Bismarck, ND, Rebecca "Bequia" (Alan Cooper) Martel, Missoula, MT, David (Jan) Martel, Port Angeles, WA; grandchildren: Dennette Zenker, Gwen (Ryan) Backman, Kirk (Carol) Romsaas, Jodi (Ryan) Wolf, all of Bismarck, and Erna (Steven   Smith) Flint, Virginia Beach, VA; great-grandchildren: Christopher (Paityn Fode) Amble and Brooklyn (Wyatt Wetzstein) Zenker, Mandan, ND, Reed Romsaas, Jaxton Romsaas-Salz, Denver Wolf, all of Bismarck, ND, Elizabeth Gunther, Virginia Beach, VA; great-great-grandchildren: Wyatt Steele, Jerilyn Zenker and Calvin Amble; the families of Ed Lahr, as well as many nieces, nephews and their families all of whom were very special to her. 

She was preceded in death by her parents, her husbands, infant brother, Harvey Robert, sisters, Opal Tibke and Agnes Kranich, and her lifelong friend, Irene Finck.

The family would like to thank the staff at Sunset Prospera, Mandan, for the care they gave Erna for almost six years. Many of the staff were like a second family to her, whom she loved dearly and who loved her in return. For that we are very appreciative. A special thank you goes to podiatrist Dr. Francisco (Chico) Tello for his unrelenting care of her feet. Mom would joke that she knew him when he was in diapers. There was much laughter reminiscing during their many appointments over the years. 

Memorials may be directed to Faith Lutheran Church, Bismarck, ND, the North Dakota Historical Foundation, or the charity of choice.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Erna C. Lahr, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Monday, April 22, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

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