Ilona Maria (Mills) Banovetz, 88, dies

Ilona Maria (Mills) Banovetz, 88, died Monday, February 23, 2015. She was born in Ely, MN, on Oct. 4, 1927, and was a gregarious Finn who appreciated respites of solitude. With her boisterous laugh, gift to gab, and sincerity she taught others to laugh often, stoke their intelligence, and reflect with depth.

As an adolescent, Ilona held great pride in her family’s business, Mills Clothing. She was devoted to her family, studies, swimming and cheerleading. She received her bachelor’s degree in zoology from St. Olaf College, and attended Mount Holyoke College for graduate studies.

Following her education, Ilona returned to northeast Minnesota with her husband, Matthew Banovetz, and raised four children. She adored her children and grandchildren, engaging them in lots of horseplay; she motivated them to explore new roads and to realize the best of themselves. She loved gathering friends and family in her home, and was a kind, thoughtful friend to many. Birch Lake, Ely, Babbitt, Silver Bay and her childhood cabin on Burntside were precious to her. Ilona was a voracious reader, gardener, lover of classical music, lap swimmer and enthusiastic conversationalist who never shied away from sharing her opinions.

Ilona is survived by her son, Peter (Susan) of Vadnais Heights; daughters: Terry Banovetz-Gerst (Gary Gerst) of Maple Grove and Sue (Rod) Grozdanich of Liberty Lake, WA; grandchildren: Lisa Karney (Kevin Hurry), Erin (Jason) Lake, Nick (Liz) Banovetz, Andy and Tyler Gerst, Matt and Sara Grozdanich; and great-grandchildren: Xavier Lowell, Elise and Jackson Lake.

Ilona is preceded in death by her husband, Matthew Banovetz; son William; parents, William and Hilma (Rautio) Mills; and siblings, William and Walma.

A memorial service will be held April 11, 2015, at 11 a.m. at Thomson Dougherty Funeral Home, 2535 Park Ave., Minneapolis. Ilona’s ashes will be buried this summer in a private ceremony at the Ely cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to the Babbitt Public Library, 71 South Drive, Babbitt, MN 55706.