Lorene Marion Kruse was born September 9, 1926 on the Kruse farm near Lidderdale, Iowa in Grant Township. She grew up on the family farm during the Great Depression. She attended a one-room school house and then Immanuel Lutheran School with her siblings in Lidderdale. She graduated from Carroll High School. She then attended and graduated from St. Anthony’s School of Nursing in Carroll in 1948, as did her sister, Doris, six years later.
She wed Robert E. Simpson on September 16, 1948. To this union eight children were born. Bob attended ISTC (UNI) on the GI Bill after serving in the US Navy during WWII. After graduation his first teaching job took the young family to Dunbar, Iowa. Robert taught several subjects, including science, biology, drivers ed and coached girls’ high school basketball. Jean and Jill were the young team mascots. The family also resided in Clemens, Wall Lake, New Hampton and Storm Lake. Lorene worked as a RN in each town. The family moved to Storm Lake when Bob accepted a position with the DOT as a safety consultant, serving in NW Iowa. This enabled Lorene to stay home with the children. A year and a half later Bob tragically passed away. Six children were still at home and Lorene returned to nursing, as a Buena Vista Public Health Nurse.
Lorene and Jim Conner, a widower, eventually became reacquainted, having grown up on farms near each other, as did Robert. They married July 27, 1974 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Storm Lake. Lorene and her three young children, Jeri, Jaye and Judy, joined Jim on the farm north of Jefferson. Combined with Jim’s children, they had ten children between them. To this union there were many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who loved spending time on the farm. Many family meals are fondly remembered. Lorene was an excellent cook and took in stride the large gatherings.
During her lifetime, Lorene found time for many activities and causes. She always had ties to the Lutheran Camp Okoboji – winning an essay contest to attend the first week when it opened and returning many years as a camp nurse, always with children or grandchildren who weren’t old enough to be campers. She also sewed for her young children and grandchildren. Lorene was active in Greene County Democrats, Trees Forever, Garden Club, Community Betterment and AFS. She served on the St. Anthony School of Nursing Color Guard, attending fellow graduates’ funerals, including sister, Doris. The farm family hosted an exchange student from Sweden, Anna Tegler. Lorene returned to nursing part-time at New Hope Village in Carroll after the children had left home. She also worked as a RN in Arizona when they stopped farming and Jim managed a combine crew.
Lorene loved to travel and visited many of the US States. She had visited her mother, Marie’s home state of Missouri since she was a young girl. Her extended family spoke German and young Lorene could understand the language by the time they left back for home in Carroll County. She traveled to Europe twice, once in the 70’s as a leader with her daughter, JoAn and the Storm Lake Girl Scout troop and later with Jim, in the 80’s to visit daughter, Judy a high school exchange student in Linkoping, Sweden. Jim was on the West Central Co-op board and they took several co-op related trips. They also visited Jaye in Okinawa, Hawaii while he was serving on a submarine in the US Navy.
Lorene loved composing poetry and was published many years up until last year in the annual Lyrical Iowa poetry book. She encouraged her children, grandchildren and others to write and submit poetry.
Lorene struggled at the end of her life with neuropathy. She was cared for in her home by her devoted son, Jaye as she had wanted. She continued to be mentally sharp, reading the Des Moines Register and completing the NY Times crossword daily (in ink!) until writing became difficult and her eyesight failed. She stayed current on political and world news. She enjoyed phone calls from family and friends, conversing with all on any topic.
She was preceded in death by her infant daughter, Kerry Lou; her first husband, Robert Simpson; her second husband, James Conner; her parents, Charles and Marie (Hahne) Kruse; her four older brothers: Lawrence, Raymond, Harold and Elmer Kruse; her younger sister, Doris Grade; two son-in-laws, Dave Griffiths of Des Moines and Robert Stevenson of Decorah; a niece; nephews and a sister-in-law.
Survivors include her children: Jean (Tom) Thompson of Postville, Jill (Richard) Lockey of Janesville, Joel Simpson of Charleston, Ill., JoAn Stevenson of Decorah, Jeri Griffiths of Des Moines, Jaye Conner of Jefferson, Judy (Mark) Obermeier of Edwardsville, Ill., Steve Conner of Concordia, Kan., Nancy O’Rourke of Carroll and Jeff (Robin) Conner of Panora; many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; nieces and nephews; two sisters-in-law, Norma (Harold) and Leta (Raymond) Kruse of Carroll and a brother-in-law, Lou Grade of Carroll.
Funeral services were held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 29 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Jefferson. Lorene was baptized, confirmed and married at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Lidderdale and was interred in the Immanuel Lutheran cemetery. Visitation with the family present to greet friends was from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday, May 28 at Slininger-Schroeder Funeral Home in Jefferson.
Online condolences may be left at www.sliningerschroeder.com.
Slininger-Schroeder Funeral Home, Jefferson 515-386-2171.