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Judith Thoreson

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June 18, 1935 - October 11, 2023


Memorial Services for Judith Murtagh Thoreson, 88, of Okoboji, formerly of Algona, will be held at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Algona at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. A reception with the family present will be held following the service in the Church Fellowship Hall.

A Celebration of Judy’s Life will be held in June of 2024 at Okoboji.    

Judith “Judy” Thoreson passed away peacefully on Oct.  11 due to complications from a recent knee surgery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be directed to Friends of Lakeside Lab and the Algona Community School Foundation. or

Judy was preceded in death by her husband Richard M. Thoreson and her parents Eugene and Veda Murtagh. Judy is survived by her four children: Rebecca Thoreson, David Thoreson, his wife Kirsty, Wendy Phillips, her husband Dan and Michael Thoreson and his wife Rachel. Judy is also survived by eight grandchildren: Destinie and Nicholas Phomsouvanh, Jayce and Carter Thoreson, Connor Phillips, Brooke, Andrew and Christopher Moen. Judy was also a proud great-grandparent to Blake, Quinn and Cameron Moen.

Judy was born on June 18, 1935, in Algona to parents Eugene and Veda Murtagh. While she grew up and enjoyed her schooling in Algona, Judy relished her summers spent at her parent’s cottage on West Lake Okoboji.

After graduating from Algona High School, Judy attended the University of Iowa, graduating with a degree in political science in 1957. While at Iowa, she was a member of the Delta Gamma Sorority and marched with the Scottish Highlanders, who toured Europe and played the Ed Sullivan Show. Judy met her husband, Richard “Dick” Thoreson at Okoboji and the couple married while at the University of Iowa in 1957. Lt. Col. Richard Thoreson had a long career as a Marine Corps officer and pilot. The couple lived near military bases in Pensacola, Fla., and Santa Ana, Calif. before moving back to Algona to raise their children.

While Judy did not have a formal working career, she was a full-time mother of four, and a life-long professional volunteer serving the state of Iowa and the communities in which her family lived. Judy loved politics and worked on the first political campaign of now Senator Chuck Grassley and served the late Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray in numerous capacities. Judy was also the first female board member of the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union. In Algona, Judy was the president of the Algona School Board and started the first recycling program in Kossuth County. She supported the arts and culture in Algona through the generous work of the Haggard-Twogood Trust. Judy was very active in many boards and causes in the Iowa Great Lakes. She was a committed conservationist and served as President of the Okoboji Protective Association and Friends of the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. Judy also worked diligently on the campaign to Save Arnolds Park Amusement Park. Protecting the waters and the family traditions in the Iowa Great Lakes were her lifelong passions.

Traditional sports were not Judy’s thing, however, she was introduced to sailing by her father, who was an active sailor and racer at the Okoboji Yacht Club. Judy took to the sport and became a quick study. She became a champion sailor and enjoyed competing against all the men in the C Boat class as one of the few female skippers of this male dominated fleet. Judy loved the OYC and served the organization in many capacities including becoming the first female Commodore of the club in 1997. After her sailing career ended, she became a well-respected judge and ran the Saturday crew on the water for countless years with her many friends.

Later in life, Judy spent her winters in Green Valley, Ariz. where she was very active in her Good Shepherd United Church of Christ and volunteered for the Friends of Madera Canyon, where she introduced visitors to the environment of the Sonoran Desert.

Unfortunately for Judy, she lost her husband, Richard, just after he retired in the year 2000, but as with all things in her life, she recommitted herself to her community and her many friendships and never missed a chance to socialize with friends. Judy loved music, especially the sounds of jazz and big band. She never missed a Big Band night at the Pearson Lakes Art Center with her “groupies” and was a lifelong friend of the legendary jazz performer, Marilyn Maye.

Judy was a trailblazer, leader, and role model to countless people in life. However, it was in her capacity as a friend, mother, and grandmother that she found her greatest joy. Family gatherings made her so happy and “the more the merrier” was always her motto. Judy enjoyed attending all the grandkids’ many events and encouraged them all to excel at whatever was their passion. All the grandchildren affectionately called her “Grandma JuJu.” She was an Iowa Hawkeye fan to the bitter end and loved going to Iowa City for games with family and friends.

Judy Thoreson lived every day to the fullest for all her 88 years. Her generosity to her community, family and friends was a constant living example of the goodness one can do in the short time we all have on this earth. She leaves the world a better place for her life lived.

Arrangements are being handled by Oakcrest Funeral Services of Algona. Condolences may be left at







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