Vera Sonneck

Vera Sonneck

6/4/1941 — 6/20/2024

Nez Perce tribal member, Vera June Sonneck, formerly of Spalding, passed away on Thursday, June 20, 2024, peacefully, at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. She had just turned 83 years old.

She is a graduate of Lapwai High School, class of 1959. After graduation she enrolled in Haskell Business School and graduated from there in two years, 1962, with an Administrative Office Skills certificate. Once back home, she soon took advantage of the Relocation program and traveled by train to Los Angeles where she was quickly hired by the firm of RM Parsons Engineering. Her real career started with the Social Services Administration also in Los Angeles, Portland, Pullman and finally Lewiston, where she retired as a claims adjuster 25 years later, as part of President Reagan’s early retirement program at 63.

After moving back to Lapwai, she rejoined the Lapwai United Methodist Native American Ministry Church that was built by her family in the early part of the 1900s. Vera was a devout Christian and became a pillar of the church locally. She served in several roles, including as church chairman, treasurer and secretary, and representative to the regional church conferences held around Washington and Idaho. She was able to travel to India as a representative of the church and go on a personal pilgrimage to Israel during this period of her retirement. She made her home in Spalding for many years, where she lived with her husband, Kenny Sonneck, until his passing. She did not remarry.

After she returned to Lewiston and retired from her first career, she became an enthusiastic supporter of, and teacher with, the Nez Perce Tribe’s Language Program. She first became a member of the Circle of Elders in the 1990s, and later she began serving as an elder teacher of the Nez Perce Language in 1997. In Fall 2000, she began to teach classes at Lewis-Clark State College, including the first classes that were presented online by distance video to University of Idaho and Washington State University.

She became the director of the of the Nez Perce Tribe’s Cultural Resources Program in the early 2000s, serving for over a decade. She oversaw the expansion of the Tribe’s Language Program, development of the ethnography program, all the time remaining on the Circle of Elders and assisting with language instruction. She met with government officials and representatives of other tribes at countless meetings over the years, including the tribal elders and dignitaries that engaged the Tribe during the 2001-05 observance of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Vera received the LCSC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022 and was the Nez Perce Tribal Elder of the Year in 2023.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Allen Slickpoo, Caleb Slickpoo, Florene Rickman, George Allen and Orrin Allen and her husband, Kenny Sonneck.

Vera is survived by her stepchildren: Murray L. Sonneck, of Winchester, Melissa J. Seylor, of Wellpinit, Wash., and Mia Sonneck, of Spalding; great-grandchildren include: Sinmsci Sonneck, Snpaqcin Sonneck, Louis Cullooyah, Colby White Jr., Ali White, Alexis Swift, Avery Goodheart, Lavender Goodheart, Jaleia Sonneck, Jayda Sonneck and many close relatives that loved her.

The funeral will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 27, at the Pi-Nee-Waus Community Center, 504 Main St. S., Lapwai.


Service Information

Date & Time
Thursday, June 27, 10:00 AM
Pi Nee Waus Community Center
Corner of Main Street & Birch Avenue
Lapwai, Idaho 83540

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