Toenjes was ‘second mom’ to many

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Friends of the 73-year-old Waterloo woman who died in a fatal crash in Columbia on Labor Day are remembering her as a member of their family. 

Diann Toenjes died Sept. 2 after the 2019 Ford Fiesta she was driving southbound on Route 3 went off the west side of the road and traveled on the grass shoulder for about 200 feet before hitting a concrete culvert. 

The car then became airborne, hit an embarkment and overturned. 

Toenjes was pronounced dead at the scene, while her 15-year-old granddaughter, who was a passenger in the car, was airlifted for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. 

Toenjes is survived by her children Dean (Renee) Urspruch and Holly (Travis) Kelling; stepchildren Lisa (Wesley) Lloyd and Michael (Karen) Toenjes; grandchildren Hunter, Drew, and Jorri Kelling and Logan and Grace Urspruch; step-grandchildren; sister Elaine (Roger) Toenjes; sister-in-law and brother-in-law Marilyn (Gary) Lively; nieces; nephews; cousins; and friends.

One of those friends said Toenjes was her “second mom of about 42 years.” 

“Diann was a very, very strong person,” Sarah Wuertz said. “She had a very strong backbone. She had no problems sharing her thoughts with you. She was kind of a spitfire.”

Gerald Nungesser, Wuertz’ father, said he and Toenjes had a relationship almost like siblings. 

“She was a good-hearted person,” Nungesser said.  “If she liked you, she’d do anything in the world for. She really thought the world of her grandkids.” 

Toenjes extended that same attitude to several other children, according to Wuertz. 

“She was an adopted or a step-mom to a lot of kids growing up,” she said. “She was quite the lady.” 

“I have no doubts in my mind that if, God forbid, something happened to my own mom, Diann would step up and take care of me,” Wuertz added. “That’s how close we all were We were almost like family.”

They were so close, in fact, that “mom Toenjes” took Wuertz to get her driver’s license because Wuertz’s mother was working at the time. 

Wuertz and Nungesser met Toenjes through the Waterloo VFW Auxillary, of which Toenjes was a member. 

She was also a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Waterloo and retired from the Internal Revenue Service. 

Toenjes grew up in Fults – which Nungesser said he used to tease her for – but she became “very well-known” in Waterloo, he said. 

All those who knew her knew she would speak her mind.

“She did say what she thought,” Nungesser said. “It’s the way she was. There’s nothing wrong with that, as far as I’m concerned.” 

Those close to her also got to see a fun side of Toenjes. 

Wuertz fondly recalled a trip she took with Toenjes to Tennessee to visit relatives. 

“The whole trip in general was amazing,” she remembered. “There was a lot of laughter, a lot of jokes, a lot of teasing, and Diann added a lot to that trip.” 

Given all that, Wuertz and Nungesser said Toenjes will be dearly missed. 

“A lot of people weren’t ready to let her go,” Wuertz said. “It was a shock. It was sudden. She was in good health.”

“She’s definitely going to be missed,” Nungesser agreed. 

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