The woman Flandreau friends and neighbors called “Mama Lou” died Saturday, Dec. 26 at her home under hospice care. She was 106.
LouElla Gulbranson Janklow Nace was born in Moody County during a Feb. 11, 1914, blizzard, the second oldest of 10 children. Until her death, she lived in her own home along East Second Avenue, with the help of her children.
Trained as a nurse, Nace owned and was the administrator at Riverview Rehabilitation and Health Care Center for decades, buying the business in 1954 when it was called Fairview Nursing Home and had three residents. Over the years, she hired several Filipino employees to work at the center and helped them gain citizenship, after discovering their compassion and work ethic while she served as a nurse missionary overseas.
Accomplished in her own right as a businesswoman who grew her nursing home, Nace also is known at the mother of the popular Republican Gov. Bill Janklow, who died of brain cancer in 2012 at age 72. Nace’s son, Arthur, died a year later.
She is survived by Willa, JoAnn, Fredric and Lou, who she had with her husband Arthur Janklow, and son Lloyd, who she had with her husband Lloyd Nace, who died in 1973.
Nace’s story is one of hard work, a giving spirit and tenacity, as told by her and her family. She was an independent woman who relied on her faith in God, her daughters, JoAnn Lind and Lou Janklow, said in a story when she turned 106.
Nace grew up six miles north and six miles west of Flandreau and was baptized at Midway Lutheran Church. After high school, she enrolled in the Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in Chicago, graduating in 1936 as a registered nurse. At age 96, she put her RN license on inactive status, giving her the distinction of being the oldest actively practicing nurse in South Dakota at the time.
While in Chicago, she met and in 1936 married Arthur Janklow, a lawyer who would take the family to Germany where he was a prosecutor for the United States during the Nuremberg Trials. He died of a heart attack there in 1950, and his wife and children returned to Chicago, where she worked at two hospitals and provided private care in homes. She also taught Sunday School and sewed her children’s clothing, said Lind, who followed in her mother’s footsteps to be the administrator at Riverview.
In 1954, with her father’s health failing in South Dakota, LouElla returned home to Flandreau. She bought the Fairview Nursing Home and worked all of the jobs at the facility, planted a garden and preserved food for the residents to eat in the winter.
She built the current Riverview facility in 1966 and incorporated her ideas for geriatric care, including the benefits of physical therapy and the practice of a five-meal-a-day plan for residents, based on the eating habits of farmers.
In 1975, she went to Africa on one of three trips she would make, to work in the back bushes as a missionary nurse. She was honored with South Dakota’s Jefferson Award for her volunteer efforts.
During her time as a missionary, she worked with nurses from the Philippines and noted how hard-working and caring they were. Some wished to come to the United States, and Mama Lou and her family helped file the legal paperwork needed to bring them here to work at the nursing home, starting with Annie Garcia, who was the first to arrive. The Filipino community has grown to more than 75 people still living in Flandreau, many who continue to work in health care.
Nace reminded her family daily how blessed her life had been, daughter Lou Janklow said in an earlier interview. “Her family feels fortunate to have shared in her remarkable 106-year journey through life.”