The daughter of Bertie and Viola Zenz, Erma was born at home on their dairy farm in Bloomington, Wis., on June 17, 1921. She worked on the farm until she met and married her love and life partner, Norman Miles Schwantes, on Jan. 31, 1951, in Bloomington.
The couple took a trip to Wyoming and other Western states on their honeymoon and really liked the country around Cody and Powell. However, they continued to work on farms in Wisconsin until deciding to move to the Heart Mountain area near Cody in 1955, where they purchased a farm of their own.
They raised alfalfa and malt barley as well as registered American Paint Horses, which were their passion. Both were avid horse people and participated in horse shows and events in Montana and Wyoming as well as national shows in Denver.
Together they raised four children: Greg (Vicky) Schwantes of Vernal, Utah; Diana (Richard) Cunningham of Portland, Ore.; Debbie Schwantes of Powell and Doug (Diann) Schwantes of Temecula, Calif. The girls followed their parents in the love of Paint horses while the boys liked their horses under the hood of spirited cars.
Always an outdoor girl at heart, Erma enjoyed training, riding and raising Paint horses. Farming, gardening, canning, quilting, porcelain painting and baking for her family were also things that made her life happy and complete. She had a great wit and sense of humor, which she enjoyed sharing with her family and friends.
She was a member of the Catholic Church, a lifetime member of the American Paint Horse Association and riding clubs in Wisconsin and Cody.
Her husband, Norman, died on Feb. 20, 1995, after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. Also preceding Erma in death were her parents, brother Russell Zenz and brothers-in-law Cletus Reuter and Cecil Cooley.
In addition to her four children and their spouses and significant others, Erma is survived by her sisters, Mary Jane Cooley of Prairie du Chien, Wis., Nelda Jean (Paul) Krogman of Bloomington, Wis., Darlene Reuter of Bagley Wis., and Donna Zenz, Denver; eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson. She will also be missed by several friends in Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 29, at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Cody, with interment at Riverside Cemetery in Cody.
The Blackburn Vernal Mortuary in Vernal, Utah, and Thompson Funeral home in Powell are in charge of the funeral arrangements. The family has requested that memorial donations be made in Erma’s name to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.