Laurena Hammes

September 21, 1925 ~ May 4, 2018 (age 92)

Laurena May Appleget Hammes lived 92 years, transitioning to her next adventure on May 4, 2018. She was born on September 21, 1925, to Ethel and William Appleget in Waseca, Minnesota, and was the fourth child in a family of six children: Richard, Wilmer, Charles, Laurena, Viola, and Myra, who is still living and residing in South English, Iowa with her husband, Richard Peiffer.

Laurena graduated from Sigourney High School at age 16, and shortly thereafter completed her state teacher certification but was too young to teach. So she enrolled at Iowa State Teacher’s College, at her Mother’s encouragement, and completed a one year Teaching Certificate in Rural Teaching. This was her Mother’s Alma Mater as well as her youngest daughter Laurel, making it a unique third generation of graduates from the same college.

After graduating from ISTC she taught grades 1-8 in a country school for a few years and at age 39 earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education from William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa. She continued to teach for 30 years specializing in 5th grade math, science and outdoor education.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Clear Creek, Iowa was the setting for Laurena’s marriage to Donald Edward Hammes on June 29, 1949. After a two week honeymoon the couple made their home in rural southeast Iowa where Donald farmed until his death on June 13, 2005. Laurena managed their home and raised four children: Alan, Carolyn, Peggy, and Laurel. She is survived by all of them except Carolyn who preceded her in death on August 8, 1978.

In 1962, Laurena was asked to join the Keokuk County Soil and Water Conservation Board and in 1971, became an Assistant Commissioner for the Keokuk County Soil and Water Conservation District. She was elected in the Fall of 1976, and became the District Commissioner January 2, 1977. She was the first woman appointed by the Governor as an Assistant Commissioner and the first woman elected as a District Commissioner in the State of Iowa. She served as Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson several times and was a member of the County and Multi-County RC&D Board.

Laurena coordinated the development of the State of Iowa Belva Deer Outdoor Classroom and the Annual County 6th Grade Overnight Tent Campout in 1978. The 6th Grade Campout continued under her direction for 26 years, allowing over 3000 students to be a part of an environmental education program learning how to help protect and preserve all of our natural resources.

Laurena was honored for several awards throughout her life. Following are listed just a few:
2002 District Environmental Education Award, District Outstanding Commissioner 1977, 1978, 1979, 1993. Region 9 Outstanding District Commissioner 1993. State of Iowa Outstanding District Commissioner 1993. District Outstanding Elementary Teacher 1971, 1979.
Region 9 Outstanding Elementary Teacher 1979. Elementary Teacher of the Year Award from the Iowa Department of Soil Conservation 1979.

Laurena lived a long and valued life. She loved to dance, was an avid photographer, enjoyed being a member of the Keokuk County Farm Bureau Women’s  Kitchen Band, regularly sang with Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church Choir, traveled to many countries all over the world with her children and grandchildren and loved to build and shoot off rockets much to the delight of her students, grandchildren, and any other interested participants.
There will be a Life Celebration for Laurena at Holm Funeral Home in Sigourney on Monday, May 7, 2018 from 4 -7pm with family, friends, students, and colleagues. Graveside Service will take place at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church Cemetery on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at 10:30 am.

Laurena requested that any memorials be donated to the Keokuk County Soil and Water Conservation District to be used solely for future Six Grade Camp-Outs.

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