Editor’s Note: This continues a series of monthly articles celebrating pride in our town and its surroundings. If you have suggestions of people to be featured, contact The Elgin Review.
By Jane Schuchardt
Special to the Elgin Review
Q – Why live here?
A – “We look out for each other. If anything comes up, there is someone there to help.”
Lonnie Dinslage, who moved to Elgin in 2003 from the family farm northeast of town, definitely is part of that formula for a successful community. “I just love people,” she gushed only after convincing her this was her story.
Though she refused venturing a guess just how many people she considers friends, the list is long in Elgin and Arizona, where she generally winters near Casa Grande to escape Nebraska cold and ice. “I still communicate and see my college and high school friends.” Friends rank high in her three keys for a long and enriched life, though faith and family come first.
Being a devout Catholic is my “foundation for living right. Mass every Sunday starts my week correctly,” Dinslage said from her kitchen table surrounded by symbols of Christianity. As a member of St. Boniface in Elgin, her list of lifelong service is long. To name a few — Christian education (CCD) teacher, faith sharing group, delivering welcome packets to potential new members, Altar Society membership and endless food preparation, including assisting with the church’s annual Thanksgiving dinner and bazaar.
About food preparation, she’s known for her strawberry rhubarb jam, often given as a gift, and coffee cake. “My grandkids go straight to the kitchen to see if the cake pan is filled,” she related with a broad smile. She said she had a lot of practice cooking and baking for a table that grew to eight – husband, five children and hired farm hand. Now, while the Elgin Community Center does the meal preparation, Lonnie delivers meals to the homebound.
She’s always been fond of small town living, she said, recounting her days growing up on a farm near Wisner. There she attended country school, then Wisner High where her Class of 1955 has named her ‘lifetime president’ in honor of her work to maintain continuity of reunions for decades.
Dinslage became acquainted with Elgin mostly at age 16 when she helped care for a woman who had surgery. During high school, she took additional classes certifying her to teach country school. “Those eighth graders were only four years younger than me,” she quipped, recalling the intensity of the two-year assignment near Wisner. Next stop – Wayne State for two years where she earned a teaching endorsement, then taught Neligh elementary for two years, married Duane Dinslage February 24, 1962 and became a farm wife.
While she would never admit it, she definitely contributed to the solid foundation of the farm operation – raising broilers for the freezer, cleaning grain bins, hauling fertilizer tanks, too many to list. “My main position was the ‘go for’ person,” she said, always on the run for whatever was needed.
During those farm years, she was a charter member of the Elgin 12 Extension Club and earned a 50-year recognition. She was awarded the Ak-Sar-Ben Good Neighbor award and speaks fondly of neighborhood women who gathered often to walk, talk and celebrate birthdays.
She is quick to recount the “worst experience of her life” when husband Duane died unexpectantly in July of 2003. He had retired from farming a few years before, they bought a camper and started to see the country, finally settling on Arizona as their favorite winter camping spot. “I never expected to lose him,” she said fighting back tears.
Lonnie takes great pride in her “baker’s dozen” grandchildren and cherishes the annual get-togethers planned by her five children. Sometimes the destinations are faraway such as the Dominican Republic or closer places like Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City.
When convinced to share her age, 83, she is especially thankful for good health especially since her parents both died in their 60s. “I take care of myself” by eating properly and exercising, she said. She speaks of Silver Stretcher routines and, when the weather cooperates, walking at least six blocks each day.
Fun also is on her agenda to keep that clip in her step. This includes membership in Elgin’s Red-E-4-Fun Red Hatters Club, coffee groups, pitch and Michigan rummy card clubs and staying connected with family and all those friends.
“I’d encourage any young couple to move to Elgin,” she said with conviction. “We have two schools, churches, a wonderful grocery store, pharmacy, medical clinics, all the amenities.” Thank you, Lonnie Dinslage, for your many contributions making our community a great place to live, work, play and pray.
Lonnie Dinslage, Elgin, stands by her favorite photo she calls ‘the family tree’ showing off her 13 grandchildren.