the newly opened path straight towards the snow plow. Elmer, my dad, separated himself from the group of working men and managed to stop the horse before I ran into the plow.

I spent almost 3 years in the Army Security Agency, mostly in Germany. I was in the Army when the Berlin Wall was being built and during the Cuban missile crisis. One night at work the word came in that President Kennedy had been assassinated. My fellow soldiers and I worked hard to see if it was part of a larger plot and we were about to face an invasion. With East Block troops only 40 miles away it was an important question to us. Soon soldiers started returning to base. Germans had stopped them, often with tears in their eyes, to tell them the news and offer condolences. Candles were lit in many German windows.

After the service, I spent one school year as a Rotary International Scholar at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. I graduated from Iowa State University, Luther College and the University of Iowa. On 9 Feb 1974 I married Cheryl Lee at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Des Moines, IA. Cheryl and I have 4 children: Amy, Ryan, Karin and Philip.

The family's newest enterprise is raising ostriches which was started in April of 1995 with the purchase of a breeding pair. Everyone enjoys our pet cats and dog. We like to go riding horses and working around the farm. A major family project the last few years has been upgrading our woods into hardwoods that will support many types of wildlife. Amy is currently studying at Drake University in Des Moines after graduating from South Winneshiek as class valedictorian in 1994. Ryan and Karin are attending South Winneshiek school and Philip attends special classes in Decorah. Cheryl teaches math to future elementary teachers at Luther College.

Part II - Cheryl (Lee) Wangsness

In the summer of 1968 I made a trip to Decorah with my family as part of a college search. Walking across the campus, I felt a warm welcoming as if this were the place I should continue my education. Since that day, Decorah and Winneshiek Co. have become home to me.

I was born to Alfred C. Lee, Jr. and Ruby Joan Skeie in a Naval Base Hospital in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We moved several times after leaving Cuba to live in New Jersey, Virginia (where my sister Joan was born) and Kansas, before my dad’s retirement from the Navy in 1958. We moved then to Ames, IA where we lived in a tin Quonset duplex in Pammel Court on the Iowa State University campus. We were now very close to my grandparents who lived in and near Garden City, IA. It was fun staying on the farm, riding with Grandpa on his International tractor, “helping" Grandma make cookies, eating kringla and getting the trimmings from the lefsa she was buttering and sugaring. The cousins got together and played cards or “dress up” in old clothes put away for just such occasions.

Our family moved to Des Moines about 1960 to a house on Fleur Drive, just north of the airport. We could hear the planes flying overhead and once we sat on our front lawn as President Kennedy’s entourage drove by. Our move to a house east of the airport was our last move. I graduated from Lincoln High School there and then headed to Luther College in Decorah.

My cousin Mariam and I shared a dorm room a couple of years at Luther. We were in choir our freshman year and joined the Tau Delta Gamma Sorority when we were sophomores. Sometimes I would walk to Pulpit Rock or Dunning Springs and enjoy the peaceful quiet and beauty of the surroundings. My senior year at Luther I met Wayne Wangsness and we started dating. A few of our dates consisted of riding in the truck together as he hauled corn to the elevator or sitting quietly waiting to catch the bunch of wild dogs that had been attacking their sheep.

Wayne and I were married in Des Moines on 9 Feb 1974. Wayne’s neighbors, relatives and friends chartered a bus from Decorah to come to the wedding. I finished out the school year as a math teacher in Caledonia, MN.

I learned to be a country girl as the workings of the farm became more familiar and my tasks involved with the farm expanded to driving tractor, ordering fertilizer, keeping the books, etc.

We had Amy, our eldest child, following a 3 AM drive into Decorah in a blizzard. Rvan was born after Wayne came home from doing chores and got cleaned up to go to town. Karin was born when we were still planting corn. We had to turn around on our way to the hospital to cover the planter before it got wet with rain. My mother, who was staying with us, thought we were nuts! Philip was born 3 weeks earlier than his due date. Wayne came home from our computer business to “rush" me to the hospital. I told him he didn’t have to squeal the tires around the corner into the hospital but he thought it might be his last chance to do that.

We all attend Washington Prairie Lutheran Church, a congregation first pastored by Ulrik Vilhelm Koren, who also had a great part in the starting of Luther College in Decorah. I discovered an unusual tie to Decorah a few years back. My great-grandfather, Frank W. Lee, born 15 Jan 1856 in Boone Co., IL, bought a farm in Hardin Co., IA in 1875. He wrote a letter on 29 Dec 1876 from Decorah to his brother, Joseph Lee, who also bought 40 acres in Hardin Co. Frank was working in Decorah hauling marble, wheat and hogs for PE. Haugen in order to pay on his farm. He says that the marble shop was shut for one month in order to haul the wheat, which was $1.13 and $.95, and hogs which were $6-$7 per hundred. Frank hauled 1000 bushels from Pete’s farm 3.5 miles from town at 50 bushels per load. He said there were “worse” hills here than the one hill they had back home near Beloit, Wl. His team weighed about 2400 pounds and were 5 and 6 years old. They used a platform spring wagon for hauling marble that held 2500 lb. and drove as “nice as a buggy”. He returned home after completing the job. This story left me with a feeling of attachment to this area long before I came to Decorah.

I am a descendant of ancestors who came from Voss and Stavanger, Norway and eventually settled in the rich farming area near Garden City and Radcliffe, IA.


Partial OCR transcription, some sensitive personal information such as birth dates of people that maybe living is not included.

See the associated scan to compare with the published information.

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this page was last updated on Tuesday, 30 March 2021