Louise Unkrich

Louise Unkrich, 99, of Swedesburg, IA, died Monday, March 25, 2024, at the Sunrise Terrace Care Center in Winfield, IA.

Louise Elaine Tolander, was born August 11, 1924, in Washington, IA. She was the daughter of Harold Leslie Eugene and Prudence Irene (Abrahamson) Tolander. Her mother died when Louise was ten and her dad remarried Ruth Peterson. She attended Olds High School in Olds, IA, where she excelled in basketball and softball, graduating in 1943.

Louise intertwined her faith and talents throughout her life. She went to the American Institute Technical School in Des Moines, where she studied drafting and aircraft design. Being wartime, Louise answered the call to serve by working at the Glenn L. Martin Bomber Plant in Omaha, NE.  A genuine “Rosie the Riveter,” she worked on the first B-29 Superfortress, riveting and bucking the ailerons.  In her spare time, she played softball for the bomber plant team, the Bomberettes.

On October 15, 1944, at the Swedesburg Lutheran Church, Louise was united in marriage to Ensign Clarence Canby Unkrich, her high school sweetheart.  Clarence was soon sent to the Pacific front in the Navy during WWII, but their love was anchored in shared dreams and commitment.

Following Clarence’s return, Louise worked alongside him on the family farm. They raised livestock and grew crops. Louise enjoyed being active outside, accomplishing any tasks needed for the farm operation. She was proud of her great-grandfather’s farm being recognized as a Heritage Farm, with over 150 years in the family.

Louise’s faith in her Savior, Jesus Christ, was the cornerstone of her life. She passionately followed Him and strived for her life to reflect His.  Louise was a very active member of the Swedesburg Evangelical Lutheran Church. She was one of the first three women elected to the church council. She held various leadership roles in the church women’s group and committees plus sang in the church choir for 70 years. For 30 years, Louise served as the Smorgasbord Chair, an annual Swedish dinner event.

Louise and Clarence established the annual Midsummer Fest to celebrate the summer solstice in the Swedish tradition of singing and dancing around the May Pole. This festival led to the formation of the Swedish Heritage Society in 1986.  These founders established the Swedish American Museum, with Louise as its sole director for 33 years. Her tireless efforts earned her a Merit Award from the Swedish Council of America in 2007. She was passionate about family genealogy, local history, and Swedish traditions.

Louise and Clarence loved to travel, including camping and cruises. They visited all fifty states as well as Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Africa. Louise visited Sweden ten times and traced the location of all eight great-grandparents who immigrated to the United States in the 1860’s. They wintered in Alamo Palms, TX, where Louise remained active in several groups at the retirement village. Louise continued to winter in Alamo Palms after Clarence’s passing, where she enjoyed her second family of friends.

Louise was a 97-year member of the American Legion Auxiliary where for 40 years, she co-chaired its former Pancake House at Midwest Old Threshers. She was a member of Chapter L of TTT for 77 years and a 15-year member of the Wayne Township Election Board.  Louise and her daughters were active members of the American Rosie the Riveter Association.   She was the Iowa Director of the organization, including organizing the 2019 National ARRA convention in Iowa.  Louise was recognized for all her contributions by being named Iowan of the Day at the Iowa State Fair in 2011. On December 7, 2022, Louise was a VIP at the 81st Pearl Harbor Memorial Day in Honolulu, HI.

When Louise had free time, she loved to bake, especially Swedish cinnamon rolls, rye bread, and Swedish pancakes. Her culinary magic allowed delicious treats to appear, multiply, and then quickly disappear. Louise also enjoyed gardening, stamp collecting, photography, and woodworking. What didn’t she do?!

Louise was the steadfast pillar of her family who selflessly served her country and community and honored the Lord above all else.  Psalms 23:5, “My cup overflows with blessings,” summarizes the inspiring life she lived – a riveting legacy! Louise riveted not only metal but also the bonds of love, resilience, and unwavering dedication. This legacy, like the rivets she set, remains etched in the hearts of those who love her, a true testament to the impact of our Rosie, Louise.

Those thankful for sharing in Louise’s life include her three beloved children – Trish (Warren) Woepking of Riverside, IA, Stan Unkrich (Valerie) of Winfield, IA, and Julia (Keith Granle) Unkrich of Aurora, CO; siblings – Bill (Marjorie) Tolander of Mt. Pleasant, IA, Joan Dawson of Estherville, IA, and Wayne (Nancy) Tolander of Burlington, IA; brother-in-law Merle Unkrich of Winfield, IA.

Grandma Lou adored her six grandchildren – James Woepking, Dr. Joanna (Jess) Settles, and Jason (Danielle) Woepking, Brendan (Brandelle) Unkrich, Angela (Alfonso) Ribeiro, and Tyson (Dr. Gabby) Unkrich. Louise’s pure joy was her 18 great-grandchildren, and she was anticipating the birth of her first great-great-grandchild.

Her husband Clarence, father Harold, mother Prudence, stepmother Ruth, and sister Donna Rae Zuk preceded Louise in death.

A funeral service for Louise will be held at 11:00 AM on FRIDAY, APRIL 12th, 2024, at the Swedesburg Evangelical Lutheran Church. Visitation will be held from 9 AM to 10:30 AM at the church prior to the funeral service. Burial will be in the Swedesburg Lutheran Cemetery. A luncheon will follow the service at the Swedesburg Parish Hall.

Those considering an expression of sympathy may direct memorials to Swedesburg Evangelical Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 88, Swedesburg, IA 52652 or the Swedish American Museum, P.O. Box 74, Swedesburg, IA 52652.

The Kimzey Funeral Home, 213 North Main Street, Mount Pleasant, is caring for Louise and her family.

Online condolences may be directed to www.kimzeyfh.com.