- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - For the past 46 years, two women who never knew each other - Katherina Post Buss and Laura Ingalls Wilder - have helped Jeanne Lorenzen with her life’s work.

Evidence of the women is everywhere in Lorenzen’s third-grade classroom at Trinity Lutheran School: A lunch pail in the cupboard, a doll with hoop skirts sitting on a fireplace mantel, a “spooner” in the drawer, the rocking chair and the antique sled, the old-fashioned desks and a trundle bed with a straw tick mattress.

The antiques - collected by Lorenzen over the past four decades - were a part of both women’s lives, which spanned the same 90 years: 1867 to 1957.

One of them is Laura Ingalls Wilder, who started her life in the now-famous log cabin in the “Big Woods” of Wisconsin, taught school at 15, married Almanzo Wilder and wrote the classic children’s book series.

The other is Katherina Post Buss, who was born two years earlier than Wilder and worked as a housekeeper for a widower and his two children in Illinois, later married her employer then traveled to Nebraska in a covered wagon and settled on a farmstead near Beatrice.

Years later, Lorenzen - Buss’s great granddaughter - grew up just a few miles from that farmstead, where she milked cows, fed chickens, watched her grandfather run a horse plow, devoured the “Little House” books and came to love the world in which those two women lived.

And when she walked into her first classroom in 1968, she took her favorite childhood books with her to the small Lutheran school in Papillion.

The “Little House” books were her favorites, and she figured it would appeal to the girls. She planned to read a second book geared toward the boys. Turns out, Wilder’s books appealed to them, too. So she stuck with those.

And she’s stuck with them since, reading a portion of Wilder’s books every day. She took that tradition with her to Trinity Lutheran School in 1971, and she’s expanded upon it every year - until now.

At the end of the school year, Lorenzen, 67, will retire, taking her books and her antiques home to spend more time with her husband, Richard. To garden and travel, to read and learn to play the harp.

She’ll also take a fierce devotion to her students.

Over the past 46 years - 43 of those in Room 202 at Trinity Lutheran - Lorenzen has taught 1,024 children. She knows exactly how many because she’s kept a list, making notes on the pages when she finds out what they’re doing, where they are now.

Often, they come back to visit her.

Alan Snodgrass, a veterinarian in West Point who was in Lorenzen’s first third-grade class at Trinity in 1971, contacted her when his own daughter was in third grade. Her teacher was wonderful, he said, and made him think of Lorenzen and Room 202, which he loved.

“We learned a lot in school but we did a lot of hands-on stuff,” he said. “I would have to say she was one of my favorite teachers.”

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