Written by her nephews, Frank and Jerry Reiff
Laurina was born November 23, 1912 to Mathias and Susan Reiff in Breda, Iowa. When she was born, she had five sisters and three brothers. Seven years later, her brother Urban was born. When Laurina was three years old, the family moved to Fairfax, Minnesota where Laurina grew up on a farm nearby and attended St Andrews school in Fairfax. In 1927 the family moved to New Ulm. Laurina graduated from high school there in 1931. Laurina did not like leaving the farm. She has commented many times over the years that living on a farm was “…a good life”.
By then Laurina’s sister Tillie had married and was living on a farm nearby. Laurina worked for them until 1935. In Laurina’s words from the family history (which she compiled and wrote): “I worked for Tillie and Hank until 1935 and then at various other farm places until I worked for Joseph Altman in St. George. He was an insurance man. I did housekeeping, office work, garden work there and also took care of his chickens. I learned to fly in New Ulm with Ray Lochner. The Second World War came so I borrowed money from Irene to learn aircraft building and went to California to work for Consolidated Aircraft Corp. A year later I joined the Army, went to Germany became a civilian over there, where I continued to work for about five more years. Going home, I got a degree from the University of Minnesota and did laboratory work mostly for the state of Minnesota until my retirement. And so here I am living in Eden Prairie with my four pet sheep”
Laurina was in the Army from June 1, 1943 to Dec. 26, 1946. Women members of the Army were then called WACs or Women’s Army Corps. There are chapters of the WAC veterans throughout the U.S. although many chapters (like Minnesota’s) have closed due to the deaths of the members. Laurina was very active with the Minnesota chapter of WAC veterans until the chapter closed. Laurina was likely one of the oldest WAC veterans in the U.S. Laurina was proud of her WAC service and still had her uniform in the small chest in her bedroom at Gladys’ Place.
Laurina very much enjoyed her time in post-war Germany and revisited Europe with her sister Tillie years later. Laurina referred to that time as the best she would ever have in life.
When Laurina returned from Germany circa 1953 at age 41, she started classes at the University of Minnesota. This was unusual for reasons of both age and gender. According to Wikipedia: “The basic assumption in the 1930s was that women should marry. There was also the perception that college educated women were less likely to marry, either because they “waited too long” or because the college experience which broadened their minds deluded them into believing “marriage should be between equals.”
By the time Laurina attended the U. of M. the social situation for women had not changed materially. Laurina was ahead of her time and was the only member of her immediate family to attend or graduate from college.
Laurina also traveled (alone) to Russia and China in the middle of the cold war. Russia and China were enemies of the United States in those days and travel to those countries was unusual for anyone, let alone a single female. It would be a bit like traveling to North Korea today.
Laurina settled in Eden Prairie on a lot with five acres before Eden Prairie became surrounded by the city. Eventually, after much pressure from developers she moved to Chanhassen — her last address before Gianna House. Laurina hated wasting anything and had her home in Eden Prairie moved to a new foundation and sold.
Laurina enjoyed painting and fine art and took classes in drawing. Many of her drawings are in her closet. She was an avid gardener and learned to make wine, which she shared with her neighbors, the Kinkles in Chanhassen. She also saved and invested intelligently throughout her life. This habit has served her well throughout her life.
After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, we chose Gladys’ Place as Laurina’s home. There, she enjoyed paging through her scrapbooks and looking at old photographs of her army days. Her spunk and tenacity shone through and inspired us.
Gianna Homes is honored to be a part of lives of all of the veterans who have lived out their last years with us.