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Community loses ‘an amazing woman’: Tanya Sazama passes away

Tanya Sazama teared up with gratitude for the community's outpouring of support for her and her family at the 'Time Race for Tanya' benefit in Perham in January. Submitted photo1 / 2
Tanya and her husband, Rick, with their four children: Hunter, 20, Rhagen, 4, Cassidee, 2, and Mason, 12. Submitted photo2 / 2

The community lost a beloved member on Saturday, with the passing of Tanya Sazama.

About 14 months after receiving a devastating diagnosis of terminal cancer, and just three months after residents of Perham, Richville and the surrounding area rallied around her at the ‘Time Race for Tanya’ benefit, the young mother of four is gone.

Tanya died May 13 at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, N.D., at the age of 39, according to a death notice submitted to the Perham Focus.

Tanya had many family members, friends and other connections in the area, having grown up in Richville and graduated from Perham High School. She was also known as the friendly face at the Wagon Wheel store in Richville, which she owned and operated for 15 years. Her husband, Rick, took over management of the store after she fell ill. The couple has four children: Hunter, age 20, Mason, 12, Rhagen, 4, and Cassidee, 2. Tanya also leaves behind her parents Larry Kawlewski and Barb Torgerson, 10 siblings, and numerous extended family members.

Multiple comments posted on the Facebook pages of some of Tanya’s close relatives expressed condolences, sending “prayers and hugs” to the family.

“Tanya was truly an amazing woman,” wrote one person.

Another said, “Our thoughts are with you,” and another wrote, “May you have the strength to get through the days and weeks ahead.”

Anyone who attended the ‘Time Race for Tanya’ benefit in January saw for themselves how much Tanya was loved. Supporters crowded every corner of The Cactus in Perham for the event, raising thousands of dollars to help cover medical costs for the Sazama family. Family members called the turnout and generosity of the community “amazing.”

Though she never smoked, rarely drank, had no strong family history of cancer and ate a healthy diet, Tanya learned last March that she had stage IV lung cancer, a very rare type that tends to occur in younger nonsmokers.

The prognosis was never good, with a five-year survival rate of only 4 percent, but Tanya and her family remained optimistic as they sought out alternative treatments and therapies.

Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m., with parish prayers at 7 p.m., on Thursday, May 18, at St. Lawrence Catholic Church near Perham, according to the death notice. Visitation will continue from 10-11 a.m., followed by a funeral mass at 11 a.m., on Friday, May 19, at the church. Burial will be in the church cemetery. Arrangements are being made through Schoeneberger Funeral Home in Perham.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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