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NOTE: Lauraine passed away on January 18, 2012 - two days after her 96th birthday. All of us who attended SVHS during the time she served as our Librarian remember her fondly. Click here to read her obituary.
Among Friends and Neighbors
Lorraine Eakins; Teacher, Librarian, Wife, Mother, Grandmother
By Kaye Bird
Published in the April 23, 2011 Spring Valley Sun/Argus
SPRING VALLEY, WI - It doesn't take a lot of convincing for people to share their memories of Lauraine Eakins, and those shared memories tell the story of a woman who is much loved and respected by the people she has come in contact with over her long life.
Lauraine Eakins and former student, Terri Trealoff.
Photo by Kaye Bird
Bev Lueth, who was a young teacher when she first met Lauraine, uses these phrases to describe the Spring Valley High School librarian: "Very easy to work with, very good at what she did, and an excellent source of information." And that's not all she had to say.
"The original school was a high school and a junior high school. I was teaching seventh and eighth grade, and when I first came to the school, Lauraine was like a mentor for the new teachers. I was so impressed with her and so were a lot of other teachers," said Bev.
It was in the days before computers, so the library was the place to go when you needed books, materials or help with research. "The library was the greatest source of information. If students needed assistance, or if teachers needed materials, she was always there to help; she was excellent," added Bev.
Sylva Anderson who was in Lauraine's English class described her as a good teacher and remembers her as "Very quiet and unassuming." Later in Lauraine's life Sylva recalled, "We always called her Susie."
Both Sylva and Bev also remember that Lauraine loved to golf and to bowl. "She was a left-handed bowler," said Bev who was on a bowling league with Lauraine. "She had a fine sense of humor; we had lots of laughs together."
Lauraine was not only an English teacher and a librarian; she also took on some extra-curricular duties. "I directed some plays, maybe one or two," she said. At that moment, as if on cue, Harlan Falde knocked on Lauraine's door at the Spring Valley Health Care Center "Oh. You're busy," said her former student with a smile. "I'll come back."
"He was in one of my plays," said Lauraine. "The name of the play was 'Almost 18.' He was just that age, very shy; he fit the part perfectly."
But before Lauraine was a teacher, librarian and director of plays, she was known as Lauraine Isaacson, daughter of Gustav and Nettie Isaacson and one of eight children. "Two of them died at birth," said Lauraine who was the youngest. Today, she is the only remaining member of her family.
My dad was a road contractor; he used horses to help make roads," she recalled adding, "My dad was a Mason, and my mother belonged to the Eastern Star. They were members of the Congregational Church in Spring Valley, the same church I belong to."
Lauraine who was born on January 16, 1916 attended school in Spring Valley, both elementary and secondary. In 1938 she graduated from River Falls State Teaching College with a teaching degree in English and history. Her first job was at her alma mater in Spring Valley, Wisconsin. "I taught English; I had about 30 students in each class," she said.
In 1940 she married Christian Wulf. "He was from Germany," said Lauraine. "His life wasn't very good there. He came over as a young man and had an uncle in Montana, so he lived there for a while. Then he moved to the cities, and eventually he came to Spring Valley where he worked in the creamery."
The couple had two children. Terrence was born on December 21, 1941, and Carol was born on November 26, 1945. They lived in Spring Valley. On November 24, 1946, tragedy struck the Wulf family. Christian died of a heart attack leaving Lauraine with two small children, which she needed to support. "I taught in Elmwood for six years and then came back to Spring Valley High School," she said.
In the late 1950s, she met and married Rex Eakins who was living across the street from her. "He was divorced. After we were married, he moved in with us. Rex was the depot agent at the Spring Valley Train Station; he was the only one who worked there," said Lauraine.
In the meantime, Lauraine's children were growing up and graduating from high school. "Terrance went to Dunwoody," she said, "and Carol went to the cities. She got a job, but she soon found out how hard it was to make a living." Following in her mother's footsteps, Carol enrolled at UW/RF and graduated with a degree in elementary education. She also earned her library science degree and later taught in St. Paul.
In 1982, Lauraine retired; Rex also retired. The couple was enjoying a leisurely life, but in 1985 Rex suffered a serious stroke. "He was never able to come home again. He came to the Health Care Center and died 11 years later in 1996." Lauraine was once again a widow, and life was about to become even more difficult.
In 1998, her daughter Carol died. This wife and mother was only 53 years old. "When she died, they dedicated the library to her (in the school where she was teaching) because she had helped set it up," said Lauraine.
It was about this time that Lauraine decided she needed to leave the family home and live in a smaller apartment in Spring Valley. And then in 2001, the unthinkable happened. Her only remaining child, Terrance also died. She had now lost all her siblings, two husbands and two children, and yet speaking with Lauraine, one never senses bitterness or anger over what life has handed her. Instead, on her wall are treasured pictures of beautiful grandchildren and great grandchildren. She also has on display pictures drawn by these same children. They are prominently displayed in her room at SVHCC where she has lived since 2010.
Before coming to Spring Valley, Lauraine lived at Park Place in Woodville; it was a good fit for this 100 percent Norwegian woman living in a strong Norwegian community. "I lived there three years, but I knew I needed more help, so I came back to Spring Valley," she said.
On the most recent visit to interview Lauraine, she was engaged in conversation with a former student. The student's name is Terri Trealoff, owner of Spring Valley Floral. "I have delivered flowers to Lauraine from her family," said Terri, "and she was once my teacher." The two struck up a genuine and deep friendship which has resulted in holiday invitations to Terri's house and regular visits between the two women.
An avid reader with a sharp mind, this 95 year old retired librarian and English teacher is truly a delight. Thank you, Lauraine for sharing your story.