Minnehaha Academy Blog

Catherine "Kate" (Lovaas) Stulken '37

Posted by Nick Tofteland on May 20, 2020

1937CatherineLovaas copyKate attended Minnehaha Academy her senior year and graduated in 1937. She was born in May of 1919, and will turn 101 years old this month!  This makes her the oldest living Minnehaha Academy Alum and former faculty member, to our knowledge. She typed out all of her answers for this profile with one finger on an iPad.  She doesn’t like to speak on the phone anymore, because she does not hear well.  She said, “If you really need to call me, speak slowly and distinctly. I’m an old lady, you know!” 

Early Years

Catherine Lovaas was born in Madagascar, where her parents were missionaries of the Norwegian Lutheran Church, and spent 12 years there with her mom, dad, older sister Evelyn and two younger sisters, Dorothy and Connie.  She grew up speaking both English and Norwegian, and remembers children’s games, the Lord’s Prayer, and an Easter hymn in Malagasy, the local language.  They returned home in 1931, the day Kate turned 12 years old. They lived in mission housing in St. Paul for three years and Kate became fast friends with a classmate at Murray Junior High, Charlotte Anderson. When her father accepted a call to two small churches in Prairie Farm, Wisconsin, Kate went to school in Wisconsin for two years. Meanwhile, her good friend Charlotte was attending MA and wanted her to come for her senior year. “This was the depression, money was tight, but I begged and cried and promised to work. That was fall of 1936.”

MA in the 1930s

Kate went to MA her senior year, living with a dentist and his family and working for her room and board.  Every day she rode the streetcar down Lake Street to MA.  “It was a good year. I was only five years from Madagascar and the kids had lots of questions. It was a regular high school, but we had chapel every day.” Kate was quite busy as a student - serving on the yearbook and newspaper staffs and involved in many other activities. She remembers her teachers well, especially Lydia Mytling and Dorothy Johnson, who always wore a purple knitted dress.  “Gals weren’t allowed to wear pants in school back then.” She was in the same class with Harry Mixer and Frank Hollinbeck, both of whom had a long relationship with the school as well.

Life Beyond MA

Catherine Lovaas Stulken copyAfter graduating from Augsburg college in 1941 and teaching for a year, she returned to Minneapolis and taught at MA for one year—1942-43, a challenging war year.   She taught biology, general science, German, and was the publications director.  She was known by her maiden name—Miss Lovaas—and continued to be addressed by that name even after she married Don on Christmas Eve of 1942.  She left MA at the close of that school year.

After teaching at MA, she and Don worked some temporary jobs, and then moved to Cresco, Iowa, where Don had accepted a teaching position. Their son Don, Jr. ‘Butch’ was born on D Day, June 4th, 1944. Then they went to Chicago, where Don enrolled at Northern Illinois School of Optometry, and Kate went home to live with her parents and teach at Prairie Farm High School. Then, she and Butch moved to Chicago and the family lived there until Don graduated from Northern Illinois College of Optometry.  “Those were long years, but we made it through.”  Kate had a job teaching botany for a correspondence school, which she could do from home. 

In 1948 they moved to Viroqua, Wisconsin, where Don started his practice as an optometrist.  “We were there 30 years!” Kate taught most of these years in Westby, WI, seven miles away. They made many friends and had good years. Kristi Anne was born in 1957 and Randall Kent in 1961.

Don retired in 1978, and Kate in 1980. They moved to a mobile home in Woodruff , WI. Don died in 1984, and Kate stayed until 1994 when she moved to Waunakee, WI. While living up north she took several big trips, one to Europe with her sister, and one back to Madagascar where she visited some of her old homes, including the house in which she was born.

Kate is now living in Madison, WI in an assisted living facility.  “It was fun to go back and remember those days.”

Topics: Alumni Stories

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