Luree Wacek was born to John and Rosa (Forst) Wacek in the Murdo Hospital, June 26, 1922. She passed away peacefully in the Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD on May 11, 2017.
Her parents had come to Mellette County in 1912 when the land was opened for homesteading. Her father, John, had registered for the land drawing and was among the 3000 whose names were drawn to “prove up on” land in Mellette Co. He built a one room house 8 miles north of the town of White River. 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 thru the 8th grade; she said, drinking from the same tin measuring cup that she had brought to the school the first day of the first grade. It is still one of her prized possessions. Interestingly her sister, Rosa, was her fourth grade teacher.
Luree was about 10 when her father passed away, leaving them to take care of the farm through some very hard times in the 1930’s. 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, SD and then began teaching in a rural school. Next, by taking state exams, she got a State Teacher’s Certificate that qualified her to teach in a town school. She then taught, along with her sister Rosa, in Mission for 7 years.
Luree went back to Black Hills State College and got her Bachelor’s Degree and later a Masters 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-70’s in Hill City, SD.
After Retirement, she and Rosa spent time doing things that they liked best; some of which including traveling, sewing, collecting antiques and refinishing old furniture. Luree loved 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 as 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 the was nothing around the house but bare ground (and being in the drought-stricken 30’s it undoubtedly was BARE ground!) What a difference 80 years can make as it became one of the loveliest , tree-shaded yards in White River as long as she was able to maintain it.
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 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 loved them all! Even authoring a book title “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 by writing long letters to them. She has 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.