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Celebrating a milestone; Laura Schmidt turns 100 years old

Laura Schmidt celebrates a milestone this week as she turns 100 years old.

Her daughters, Cinda (Dean) Rippentrop of Lennox and Carolyn (Doug) Hofer of Pierre, are hosting an open house to celebrate the occasion on Sat., Dec. 11 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Lennox Senior Center.

Many in the area might remember Laura from her years in education.

Laura spent 45 years of her life as a teacher, both in country schools and in the Worthing Elementary in the Lennox School District, retiring in 1988, and later continuing to substitute teach.

Laura was awarded the Teacher of the Year award by the Lennox School District during the 1986/87 school year. And in 1988 Governor George S. Mickleson proclaimed May 1, 1988 as “Laura Schmidt Day” for her contributions to education in South Dakota.

Governor Mickelson wrote, “Whereas, Laura’s teaching philosophy guided her to teach each one of her students as an individual, using love, patience and the desire to build self-esteem as her tools…”

Laura remembers fondly her days teaching, she started when she was only 17 years old, after graduating Worthing High School and attending Springfield Normal to earn her teaching degree. Later she earned a Bachelors Degree from Sioux Falls College.

“You were supposed to be 18 to teach rural schools,” said her daughter Carolyn, “but since her birthday was coming up in December and there was a shortage of teachers due to WWII, they allowed her to start at 17.”

Laura taught at Schoffelman School in Lincoln County as well as many others.

“Schoffelman School was across from Hilly’s Station on 17. I made $55 a month,” she recalls.

At that time, all eight grades were taught at once and she was happy they had a cook stove. She said it was really nice at Nelson School on Highway 44 because they got electricity and a stove, so they were able to serve hot meals for the students at noon.

“The girls would bake the hot dishes they brought and the boys would wash the dishes,” she said.

One fond memory she has of teaching at Worthing Elementary was the Young Citizens League she started for the students. She thought it was important to teach them how to become good citizens.

The biggest change she said she witnessed in her life was electricity.

“It made life so much more convenient,” Laura said.

She still recalls using a pail to dip water, using a cook stove to keep warm, a reservoir to wash dishes, and having no indoor bathroom.

Her life wasn’t only about teaching though, Laura (Poppinga) married George Schmidt on June 15, 1942. George passed away on March 12, 2000. They lived their entire married life on their farm northwest of Worthing. For the last ten years with George, the couple spent their winters in Texas. Laura spent her married life helping George with the chores on the farm and raising their two girls, along with teaching.

“It was fun,” Laura said, “I would milk cows when I was done teaching. We sold Grade A milk. Sometimes I would help with milking before school, at 4:30 a.m.”

Caring for her two girls, Cinda and Carolyn, also filled her past with happy memories.

Her advice for those of us hoping to achieve the 100 year mark?

“Work hard and get an education,” she said, circling back to her strength in teaching.

Undoubtedly, she touched many lives as a teacher over the span of more than four decades. Passing on her work ethic, pride in community and kindness.

The public is invited to attend her birthday open house on Dec. 11 or cards may be sent to her at 7400 South Louise Ave., #138, Sioux Falls, SD 57108.


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