It was a spring afternoon. The type of day that seemed to explode with possibilities and Loretta Kuse was excitedly telling my children about luna moths and pressing some freshly-hatched caterpillars onto my family to care for and raise.
As a general rule, crawling things do not appeal to me very much. I was never the kid who lined up to pet the wooly caterpillars on the playground. I would be more likely to yell and try to shake it off me than actually want to make sure one was well-fed.
Loretta was excited by the brood of creepy crawlies. Most probably because she saw the beauty of the luna moth’s wings inside the ugly body and far too many legs of the caterpillar. She recognized that no matter our current exterior there was something better waiting to unfurl its wings and fly away.
It was with sadness that I learned about Loretta’s passing over the weekend. It was the sadness that comes from knowing that there were so many stories left for her to tell and lessons to be shared.
Last summer our intern Akilah Dillon was adventuring around Taylor County attempting to learn as much as possible about the area’s people and places in the short time she was here. On the list of people I told Akilah that she needed to meet were Loretta and her sister, Hildegard.
For people calling with questions about some historical happening in the community, my first advice was to direct them to the Kuse sisters who between them possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the community.
It is from them that I learned about a bounty offered to children to collect tree nuts to be planted as part of the reforestation efforts. I also learned about their beloved father painting signs for businesses and of their passion for learning and sharing what they learned.
An afternoon spent touring their family farmstead was a trip through time with Loretta and Hildegard occasionally remembering the details a little differently and gently correcting each other along the way.
Loretta has an impressive resume. She was born on July 5, 1939. She attended Medford public schools and graduated from Medford High School in 1957. Loretta received her bachelor of science degree in education from UW-Stevens Point, followed by a master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees from University of Iowa-Iowa City and a master of divinity degree from Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. She was ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1987.
She was a grade school teacher, a mission preacher, she taught college classes and wrote curriculum materials for the Lutheran Church. With her sister, she authored books on a wide variety of topics.
Throughout it all she never stopped learning or teaching what she learned.
Loretta was no captain of industry or master politician. What power she had was to teach and share the wonder of God’s creation with those around her.
That is what drew me to that afternoon spent touring the Kuse Farm Museum and Nature Preserve and learning more about luna moths than I ever thought I would want to know.
My children have grown older since then and I am not sure if either remembers our questionably successful attempt at raising caterpillars as anything more than one of the many crazy things their dad got them into.
I thought about that spring day with the luna moths at the Kuse homestead this week when I learned that Loretta had passed over the weekend. I like to think that like the caterpillars she so loved, she no longer had a need for this mortal human form and is soaring in heaven flitting from cloud to cloud.
Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.