Josephine Ann Phifer

Josephine Ann Phifer (Samsa) (Novakovich) “Little Gramma,” 91, went home to Jesus on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. She had dementia and passed away from COVID-19 at WaterView Woods in Eveleth.

She was born in Elcor, Minn., on May 30, 1929, to Joseph and Mary (Bombich) Samsa. She married Anthony (Tony) Novakovich and they had six children. They divorced, but later became friends again. Josephine was a very loving mom and grandma. She always put the needs of her children first. She enjoyed the times she had with her grandchildren and they enjoyed their time with grandma. She was a very inventive person and always thought of interesting things to do with her grandchildren.

In her earlier years she worked as a nurse's aide, a telephone operator and a maid.

She later worked at Arrowhead Shirt Factory. She was a very hard worker and was talented in many things, including playing harmonica, accordion and the organ!

Josephine gave to many charities. She loved growing flowers and enjoyed gardening and being outdoors. She liked watching birds. Josephine was an excellent cook. She always made potica for holidays. She liked to play games like Yahtzee, Scrabble, cards and crossword puzzles.

Josephine is survived by her six children: Nancy (Eddie) Kurtenback of Hoyt Lakes, Mike Novakovich of Chisholm, Karen Landa of Aurora, Joe Novakovich of Gilbert, Tom Smith of Chisholm and Steve Novakovich of Minneapolis; grandchildren: Joy Malaska of Iowa, Kara (Karwin) Marks of Eveleth, Josh Smith of Grand Rapids, Joe (Kate) Daubman, Chuck Kurtenbach of Niangua, Mo., and Brenda Hopewell of Niangua, Mo.; her niece, Dawn Gordon of Detroit Lakes, Minn.; great-grandchildren: David, Morgan, Payton, Cameron, Chasy, Amanda, Sheena and Shawnae; great-great-grandchildren, Hanna and Riley.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Joe and Mary; infant sister; brother, Frank; sister, Mary; husbands, Tony Novakovich and Bob Phifer; grandsons, David, Michael and Jesse.

Josephine will be missed beyond words.

No services are planned.

Burial will be at a later date in the Gilbert Cemetery.

Arrangements are with Range Funeral Home in Virginia. To sign the online guest book or send condolences visit

To plant a tree in memory of Josephine Phifer as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

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