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Dorothy Latchem Gronstal 1890-1962


Posted By: Merllene Andre Bendixen (email)
Date: 2/28/2014 at 23:27:48

Search Party Recovers Body of Mrs. Gronstal from River
By Hoyt Luithly
The body of Mrs. C.M. (Dorothy Latchem) Gronstal was recovered from the Des Moines River this morning at 6:52 after searching operations got under way at 5 o’clock. Mrs. Gronstal, who apparently took her own life because of despondency, was first missed late yesterday and her car was found near a county bridge about three miles west of Emmet County Consolidated School. A note found at her home indicated her intentions. Authorities believe the body had been in the river since Tuesday night.

Sheriff Barney Reynolds postponed dragging operations until this morning because of the dangers of searching at night in the strong current of the still flood-swollen river.

Assisting in the searching operations this morning were members of the city police and fire departments, city electric maintenance department, state conservation commission and the sheriff’s office.

In their investigation last night, authorities learned that Mrs. Gronstal’s car had been seen driving down a county road toward the bridge Tuesday evening. Mrs. Walter Feger had seen Mrs. Gonstral’s car drive past the Feger farm and mentioned it to her husband.

Her parked car was seen at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning by Al Neppl and seen by various other people during the day yesterday. Early yesterday morning, Al Wolterman, who lives just east of the bridge, decided there might be something amiss since the car was still parked near the bridge. He relayed this information to the city police department. At about the same time, members of the Methodist Church choir had become concerned when Mrs. Gronstal , the church organist, had not been present for choir rehearsal. She rarely ever was absent and they were unable to reach her at her home.

A check of the car gave no further information but a search of her home uncovered a note which led authorities to believe that she may have taken her life.

The note said: “I am tired – too tired to struggle on. All is well with my God. I really am not well physically any more and I don’t want to be a burden. One has to work too hard to have enough income to live on. Dorothy.”

The last entry in her diary was dated April 24 and left instructions on payments of bills she might have and said that any money owed her could be forgotten.

The body was located this morning about 200 yards south of the county bridge by three men who had started at Tom and Jerry bridge at about 5 o’clock and worked north in their dragging operations. The men are Merlin Wee of the Estherville Fire Department, Tom Thompson and Merrill Somer of the State Conservation Commission of Spirit Lake. The body had been caught on submerged limbs of an overhanging tree. Another boat manned by Don Meyer, Cliff Rauhauser and Dick Volz had been working the area closer to the bridge. Three men, Bill Port, Merton Mason and Mervin Sevatson, had kept watch at the Tom and Jerry bridge all night in case that the swift current might carry the body that far.

Friends of Mrs. Gronstal who had talked to her in the past few days said there had been nothing to indicate her despondency, that she was in poor health or having trouble getting along financially. She had talked to the Rev. William R. Noland, her pastor, Monday and said she was “getting along fine.” She had said that all the winter storms had made it impossible for some of her piano pupils to take their lessons this winter.

Mrs. Gronstal, 72, had lived in Estherville since 1922. She came here a Dorothy Latchem to teach English in Estherville High School and also later in junior college. She also taught music in junior college. She resigned from teaching in 1935 upon her marriage to C.W. [C.M.] Gronstal.

Mrs. Gronstal was born in Beatrice, Neb. on March 16, 1890. She spent her childhood in Washington, Iowa. She was graduated from the University of Iowa in 1922 with bachelor of art’s degree and in 1934 received a master of arts degree in English from SUI.

Since her retirement from teaching she has tutored in piano and pipe organ. She had studied both in Chicago between her graduation from high school in 1907 and graduation from the university. She tutored in both in her home town of Washington.

Mrs. Gronstal has been organist at First Methodist Church for 40 years and only last May was honored at a “Dorothy Gronstal Day” at a Sunday church service for her devotion as church organist. She also served as organist at Estherville Lutheran Church for Sunday evening services.

She was interested in poetry and had been thrilled when a poem of hers was published in the “Iowa Centennial Poetry Anthology” of 1946. She was a member of First Methodist, held a life membership in the First Methodist WSCS, had been a member for many years of the Estherville Library Board and the Woman’s Club, taking part in statewide Woman’s Club Creative Writing contests. She also had been a member of the American Organists Guild.

Mrs. Gronstal’s husband died in 1952. She is survived by a sister, Ms. Frank Hicks. Funeral arrangements are pending at Sandin-Fuhrman Funeral home the arrival of her sister. (Estherville Daily News, Estherville, IA, April 26, 1962)

Gronstal Rites Saturday
Lat rites for Mrs. C.M. (Dorothy) Gronstal are to be Saturday at 2 p.m. at First Methodist Church, the Rev. William R. Noland officiating. Burial is to be in the Lutheran cemetery north of Estherville. Friends may call at Sandin-Fuhrman Funeral Home until noon, Saturday at which time Mrs. Gronstal’s body will be taken to the church to lie in state until time of the services. The casket will not be opened following the service. Pallbearers will be Arnold Mouritsen, R.S. Knight, W.R. Sidles, Glenn Story, Walter Schildnecht and V.H. Sidles. (Estherville Daily News, Estherville, IA, April 27, 1962)

Ex-Student In Tribute to Mrs. Gronstal
(This is a tribute to Mrs. C.M. (Dorothy) Gronstal written by a former student of hers in Estherville High School.)

By Dorothy Story
Speaking for myself and, I’m sure, for the many former high school students of Mrs. Dorothy Gronstal, I’d like to pay tribute to her memory.

Mrs. Gronstal came to Estherville almost 40 years ago as Dorothy Latchem to undertake the difficult assignment of impressing a generation of high school juniors and seniors with the appreciation of classical literature. She may have felt that the results of her efforts were meager but we hope she realized that in many of us her teaching planted a seed of love for books that has grown with the years.

As the news of her tragic death spreads, former students, not only in Estherville, but in New York, on the west coast, in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Texas, Alaska, Hawaii or wherever they may be, will hear it with genuine shock and grief.

They will recall with nostalgia that high school English class in which they were introduced for the first time to Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and the other great writers of whom Miss Latchem was so fond. They will recall wrestling with Chaucer and many, after 30 years, will still be able to recite in the original old English the first 15 lines of the prologue to the Canterbury Tales.

For us, the southeast room on the first floor of what was the high school building and is now the south wing of Junior High school will always be “Miss Latchem’s room.” They may have moved the high school to a new location but they can’t move that room.

A new generation also has cause to be grateful to Mrs. Gronstal. After retiring as a public school teacher she continued to teach piano pupils. Hundreds of youngsters learned to play the piano and to appreciate good music as Mrs. Gronstal shared her musical talent with them.

At countless weddings, funerals and church services she served as organist.

As a community we were proud of Mrs. Gronstal when she won recognition as a poet. We hope there is some of her unpublished poetry in which her spirit and philosophy have been reflected,

Mrs. Gronstal continued her interest in literature by serving on the board of the public library and her contribution to Woman’s club and other groups was always valuable.

Did she think she wouldn’t be remembered? Did she think she wouldn’t be missed?

The moral seems to be, let’s remember to say “thank you” before it’s too late. (Estherville Daily News, Estherville, IA, April 26, 1962)


Emmet Obituaries maintained by LaVern Velau.
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