Luree Wacek

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Luree Wacek was born to John and Rosa (Forst) Wacek in Murdo (S.D.),  June 26, 1922.

Her parents had come to Mellette County, S.D., in 1912 when the land was opened for homesteading.

Her father, John, had registered for the land drawing and was among the 3,000 whose names were drawn to “prove up on” land in Mellette County. He built a one-room house eight miles north of the town of White River, S.D.

In 1913, Luree’s sister, Rosa Marie, was born and her brother, Bernard, in 1915. Luree was born in 1922 and was baptized Gertrude Luree in the Catholic church, but she always went by Luree.

She attended a one-room school through the eighth grade, drinking from the same tin measuring cup that she had brought to the school the first day of the first grade. It was still one of her prized possessions. Interestingly, her sister, Rosa, was her fourth grade teacher.

Luree was about 10 years old when her father died, leaving them to take care of the farm through some very hard times in the 1930s. When Luree began high school in White River in 1937 they left the farm and moved into town.

After graduating from high school, Luree attended one year of college at Spearfish, S.D., and then began teaching in a rural school. She then earned a state teacher’s certificate that qualified her to teach in a town school. She taught, along with her sister Rosa, in Mission, S.D., for seven years.

Luree went back to Black Hills State College in Spearfish and got her bachelor’s degree and later a master’s from the University of Wyoming for school administration. She served as the last county superintendent of schools for Mellette County and then as the elementary school principal in the mid-’70s in Hill City, S.D.

After retirement she and Rosa spent time doing things that they liked best, some of which included traveling, sewing, collecting antiques and refinishing old furniture.

Luree lived to garden and took pride in the assortment of flowers and rose bushes in the large shaded yard around the house she and her mother had moved into when she was a sophomore in high school. On occasion, when talking about her tree-covered “garden-like” yard, she would reminisce about when they moved into the house there was nothing around the house but bare ground.

Growing up during difficult times, Luree became a strong, persevering woman who treasured special items, special occasions, special people and special places. Her appreciation for learning and growing in knowledge kept her interested in world affairs and politics. It also kept her humble, and she was thankful for all of her blessings.

Her strong faith in God kept her going, even when it grew very hard to continue on. Luree’s compassion for God’s creatures was evident, and she never gave up trying to take care of the many cats and kittens that would come into her life. She even authored a book titled “Blackie,” memorializing one of her many cat-related adventures.

Luree was a gifted writer, and over the years she maintained contact with many of her friends and classmates. She had kept those people updated on White River’s progress while, at the same time,  her book entitled “Back Then-Early Days in Mellette County,” continues to keep the younger generations updated on what life was like when our area was being settled. Luree did not want these “times” and circumstances to be forgotten.

Luree died May 11, 2017, at the Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. She was 94.

She was preceded in death by her parents; sister, Rosa Wacek; brother, Bernard Wacek; and sister- in-law, Maryetta Wacek.   

Luree is survived by a nephew, John Wacek; and good friends Karen O’Bryan, Francis “Speed” Krogman.

Mass of Christian Burial was May 18 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in White River. Burial followed at White River Cemetery.

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