Viola Refsal - Morris Nilsen Funeral Chapel

July 12, 1917 - February 22, 2014

Viola Vivian (Mitchell) Refsal, age 96, youngest daughter of Martha Mischke and Alexander Mitchell, was born July 12, 1917, on the family farm in Rosehill Township, Cottonwood County, MN. Viola attended District 51 school for eight years. A Westbrook High School graduate with the Class of 1935, Viola attended Mankato State Teacher’s College, and received her four year degree in Elementary Education in 1939.

Viola’s first two years of teaching (1939-1941) were grades one and two at Hendricks Public School. She next moved to a kindergarten position at North Saint Paul Public School until 1943. After teaching kindergarten a year in Winona, Viola secured a Civil Service position with the United States Army Signal Corps at Arlington, Virginia, where she worked until September 1945. Viola returned to teaching with a kindergarten position in Saint Paul in 1945.

Viola married Alton M. Refsal on December 28, 1948. Viola and Alton lived in Saint Paul, and Viola continued teaching until son Kent was born. They built a new home and moved to Richfield in 1955, where son Todd later joined the family. The Refsal Family joined Oak Grove Lutheran Church in Richfield and Viola served as a Sunday School and Bible School teacher. After graduate work, Viola returned to teach kindergarten at Northgate Public School in Bloomington, Minnesota in 1968. She retired from teaching in 1982.

In October of 2000, Viola and Alton moved to Woodlake Village in Richfield, where they enjoyed their new life together until Alton passed away January 25, 2002. Viola moved to Mainstreet Village of Richfield in September 2010, and resided in an independent apartment until her death on February 22, 2014. She was preceded in death by her husband Alton Refsal, parents, sisters Clara and Elsie Mitchell, Alice Lindstrom, Flossie Gertner, and brother Chester Mitchell.

Viola is survived by her sons, Kent (Judy Marteniuk) of Laingsburg, Michigan; Todd of Edina, MN; grandsons Andrew and Michael of Michigan; brother Maurice Mitchell of Westbrook, MN; nieces and nephews.


  1. Nancy Gertner says:

    Aunt Viola was a loving and generous woman who will be fondly remembered and deeply missed. In her last week, she was actively sending birthday and condolence cards. On her last day, she invited us to Sunday dinner, as she had so many times before.

  2. Molly Nowell Krenz says:

    To the Refsal Family,
    I wanted to share me condolences with you on the loss of Mrs. Viola Refsal. She was my Kindergarten Teacher at Northgate Elementary School in Bloomington, MN in 1973. I was a painfully shy child and she understood that I could not be rushed and needed time to warm up to new situations and new people. She was kind, caring, and compassionate. I remember her sweet, soft voice and her kind smile as she would convince me to try new things and to be a “brave soldier” each and every day of kindergarten. I remember how she would play the piano for us as we sang our kindergarten songs with gusto and pride. She even was able to convince me to sing a solo in front of the class and parents while I stood close to her while she played the piano. She encouraged me with her smile the entire time. I still have the photo of that big day. No one else could have talked me into something like that. No one other than Mrs. Refsal. I think it was about Christmas time that kindergarten year that I first thought that I might want to be a teacher. She seemed to be having so much fun. Many years later, I too attended Mankato State University, received my Elementary Education and Early Childhood degrees with a concentration in Kindergarten (because of Mrs. Refsal). After teaching pre-school, 1st grade, and kindergarten for a few years, I attended the University of Minnesota and attained my Masters. I truly believe that if I did not have Mrs. Refsal as my kindergarten teacher at Northgate Elementary School, I would not be teaching in Edina, MN today. She taught me that it is O.K. to try new things, and most of the time they work out just fine. Farwell Mrs. Refsal, know you will be remembered with fond memories!

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