Flandreau’s ‘Mama Lou’ turns 106

LouElla Nace

She is the mother of a South Dakota governor, a former missionary nurse who has given opportunities to Filipino people now living in Flandreau and a local businesswoman.
LouElla (Gulbranson) Janklow Nace achieved one more milestone this week. She turned 106 on Tuesday, celebrating her day with family.
Nace was born to John and Olive Gulbranson in Moody County during a Feb. 11, 1914, blizzard, and was the second oldest of 10 children. She 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.
Today, Nace lives in her own home with the help of family. She enjoys family and friends with a special appreciation for her Filipino friends, who she also considers family, said her daughter, JoAnn Lind, who followed in her mother’s footsteps to be the administrator of Riverview Rehabilitation and Health Care Center. She has retired and the business is no longer owned by the family, but many of their friends still work there.
“Mama Lou,” as Nace is called, also gets her hair done weekly at a local beauty shop and goes out to eat lunch. Although she gets around in a wheelchair, she occasionally will go to services at Our Saviors Lutheran Church and enjoys visits from the pastor.
“She’s kind of remarkable for 106,” Lind said.
Nace’s story is one of hard work, a giving spirit and tenacity, as told by her and her family.
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.
The family included six children: Willa, William, Arthur, JoAnn, Fredric and Lou.
In 1954, with her father’s health failing in South Dakota, she returned home to Flandreau. She bought what was then the Fairview Nursing Home, which served three patients at that time. She worked all of the jobs at the facility, planted a garden and preserved food for the residents to eat in the winter.
Three years later, she married Lloyd Nace in 1957, and they had a son, Lloyd, who was born in 1958. Her second husband died in 1973.
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 later served in Somalia as a liaison between the government and the United Nations, served in Ethiopia and Uganda, and smuggled Bibles into Russia. She traveled in Europe, the Middle East, South America and the Far East. She was honored with South Dakota’s Jefferson Award for her volunteer efforts.
She did take time off to come home and support her son, Bill, in his campaign for attorney general and governor. He holds the record for the longest tenure as governor, with 16 years in office. He served as the 27th governor from 1979 to 1987 and as the 30th governor from 1995 to 2003.
He then served in the U.S. House of Representatives for one year. He died in 2012 at age 72, after a battle with brain cancer. The local community center is named after him.
A second son, Arthur, died a year after his brother. Nace has five living children.
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 bring them here to work in their 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.
“My mom always looked at what was good in life. Her faith was incredibly strong and still is. She always felt God is in control,” Lind said. When her mother had been given something, she felt she was meant to share it. “My mom’s just always been one to give, give, give.”
Daughter Lou Janklow, who worked as the activity director at the nursing home and assists her mother at home, said she is an independent woman who has always put God first, a mother who loves her family and country and the people she helped come to America. “She’s been a giver, never a taker,” Janklow said.
“She feels especially compassionate to the less fortunate,” she said. “She reminds us daily how blessed her life has been and continues to be, and her family feels fortunate to have shared in her remarkable 106-year journey through life.”

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