School 18


Laura Claasen

May 14, 2018

Laura Marie Roschke Claasen returned to the arms of the Lord on her 92nd birthday, May 14th, 2018; reborn into eternity from her home in Arcata, surrounded by the love of her large family.

Laura Marie was born to Martin John and Laura Martha Magdalena Ross Roschke on May 14th, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri. She attended elementary school at Bethlehem Lutheran School, where her father was a teacher and principal (later, a proofreader at Concordia Publishing House). Laura’s early life was that of a St. Louis “city girl,” filled with train rides and street cars, daily milk deliveries, trips to the nearby Hostess “Day Old Counter” for cut-rate Twinkies, tales of Augie Busch, and hot midwestern evenings spent out on the front stair stoop along with the neighbors lining Palm Street. There were adventures to galleries and concerts, symphonies, ballets, and movies, and many trips to the St. Louis Zoo, where she especially enjoyed riding the elephant, “Miss Jim.” There were also many pilgrimages to Union Station, where she and her father enjoyed watching the trains and chatting up the engineers – and having a hamburger at Fred Harvey’s, of course. Laura was also a member of the original “Knothole Gang” – school kids who received free admission to St. Louis Cardinals baseball games at Sportsman’s Park. Summers, Laura could be found visiting her country cousins in Perryville, Missouri, and pitching in with her Aunt Edna at the family-run Ross Hotel.

A dedicated student, Laura attended St. Louis’s Central High School where she graduated with honors and earned a full scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis. Laura majored in English Literature and minored in Archeology at Washington U. She graduated summa cum laude and was one of thirty-two Washington University grads elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She found archeology especially fascinating, and was invited by one of her archeology professors, Dr. Mylonas, to work at an excavation site in Mycenae, Greece.

Yet Laura forsook adventure for love, and on her 22nd birthday, just prior to graduating from college, she married Concordia Seminary student, Donald Kenneth Claasen, whom she had met on a street car in St. Louis about four years prior. Soon, Laura and Don were heading out west to the San Gabriel Valley, where Don served as pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Garfield, California, for five years, and the couple began their family. In 1953, Don was called to Arcata to help establish the town’s first Lutheran church (Our Redeemer’s), and the “Big House” on Park Avenue in Arcata became Laura’s home for the next 65 years; the place where Laura and Don raised their seven children, and headquarters for countless celebrations, holidays, meetings, meals, theological debates, athletic events, and all things Claasen.

Laura was smart, talented, and funny. She developed a love of music, art, and literature from a young age. Throughout her education, she wrote poems, plays, essays, stories, and articles, and continued writing throughout her life. She played piano throughout her life also, and never ceased creating art. One of her early paintings was chosen by Scholastic to tour the country as part of a National High School Art Exhibition. The painting was later purchased by actor Raymond Massey. Laura admired Massey for his movie role as Abraham Lincoln and wrote him a letter telling him so. The two remained “pen pals,” corresponding regularly, and Massey and his wife, Dorothy, sent Laura and the Roschke family annual Christmas gifts.

Laura was an avid reader and life-long learner, continuing to take classes through Humboldt State in French, calligraphy, stained glass, and creative writing. Laura was part of a group of talented women who did stitchery and created fiber art (self-named “Stitch n’ Bitch”). Her weavings and colorful textile creations grace the walls of many family members’ homes, and have been exhibited at fairs and art galleries. Laura’s beautiful soprano voice could be heard for many years in the Lutheran Church of Arcata choir.

Laura lived a life of service and grace. She served her church as Sunday School teacher, superintendent, event organizer, librarian, and, of course, her major role, “Pastor’s Wife.” She raised seven children, hosted hundreds of family events and meals, and blessed us all with her ready laughter, joyful service, and constant encouragement. Laura had a keen sense of humor, a fun sense of adventure, and an abiding appreciation for all things beautiful, insightful, and well done. She loved animals. Laura’s faith in God sustained her in all circumstances.

During her last years, Laura enjoyed the constant companionship and fellowship of her children and their spouses, who each brought a unique brand of love and cheer to Laura’s days through shared activities and outings. Laura especially loved being taken on long drives, during which she would comment on anything lovely or interesting, read the signs along the roadside, note the changing color of the skies, sing little snippets of songs, and say hello to the cows out in the fields.

“But they never answer back,” she would remark with a playful glint in her eyes.

Laura was preceded in death by her husband, Don, of almost 64 years, her parents, Martin and Laura, and brothers, Edward and Walter. She is survived by her children: Stephen (Jan), Mark, Christine (Bill Hoopes), Brian (Laurie), Timothy, Lisa (Tim Meinzen), and Jonathan (Heidi); grandchildren Thea, Nathan, Violet, James, Geoffrey, Joshua, Justin, Ryan, Katie, Samuel, Jesse, Sara, Andrew, Tobiah, Thomas, Sadie, and Eliot; and 17 great-grandchildren.

The family wishes to recognize with deep gratitude and appreciation Laura’s longtime caregiver, Kate Pontius, for her loving care and service to Laura and our family over these last few years, and also expresses its appreciation for the support of Hospice of Humboldt and especially Nurse Tiffany.

A celebration of life will be held at the Lutheran Church of Arcata on May 24th at 2 p.m.

To share memories or express condolences, please sign guest book.

© 2019 Sanders Funeral Home. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS