Elnora Greene Thuirer

Honored by:Marcia Rosenbusch and Florence Thuirer Harmon
Brick location:G:20  map

Elnora Greene Thuirer was the third of six children born to Albert Greene and Elizabeth Stanfield, pioneers who homesteaded on a site that became known as Greenville, Clay County, Iowa. Elnora's first home was a two-room frame house that seemed like a mansion to the family who had, until then, lived in several different sod houses on their homestead. Her family had moved by ox-drawn cart to Clay County from Marshall County Iowa in 1869. Elnora's was a loving family that had many adventures, which she documented in an unpublished book treasured by the family, Quaker Pioneers.

Elnora taught one term of country school before her family moved from the homestead to nearby Spencer, where she attended high school for two years. After graduation, she traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana where she took a course in shorthand and typing at a private school. After returning to Spencer, she worked in a bank for five years.

On May 23, 1901, she married Clarence Thuirer, a music teacher who was co-owner of a music store in Spencer. Two years later they sold their interest in the store and moved to the family farm eight miles northwest of Spencer. Here they raised five children – Leland, Merrill, Florence, Marjorie, and Dale. They lost a baby boy, Ralph, at the age of fourteen months.

Typical of farm wives, Elnora cooked for the family and hired hands, cared for the children, and planted and harvested a large garden in summer, preserving the produce to supplement the winter diet. She also raised chickens and sold and bartered the eggs for goods the family needed. Elnora handled all of the farm bookkeeping and supervised improvements to the house throughout the years, including the addition of screened porches, an indoor bathroom, electricity, a telephone, central heating, and running water.

Her children remember Elnora as a very patient person. Her patience was regularly tested by a mother-in-law of a feisty nature who lived with her and her husband and children for many years. Elnora loved to whistle while she worked, but her mother-in-law did not like to listen to whistling. Elnora creatively resolved the situation by whistling without sound, yet still able to enjoy the pleasure of the song.

Elnora was very proud of the beautiful music her husband and children created each Sunday afternoon in the parlor. The instruments they played included the piano, violin, and saxophone. Her husband had taught music for a number of years before taking up farming and raising their family. Afterwards, he taught music to the children at home.

Elnora was very devoted throughout her life. She did not talk about the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, rather she lived them on a daily basis and expected her children to do the same. She was raised a Quaker, but at her marriage she joined her husband's church, the Methodist church. She regularly attended Sunday services and other church functions together with her husband and family. In addition, she was very active in the Methodist women's group and taught a high school girls' Sunday school class for years. Elnora was a 4-H leader through Clay County Extension services for many years and also served on the Clay County Fair Board.

The activity Elnora is most remembered for by her descendants is her writing. She wrote plays that were performed locally and wrote poems for friends and for each grandchild on his or her birth, as well as writing the family history. Another love of Elnora's was travel. When she was growing up, she visited relatives in Kansas regularly and looked forward to local trips to Lake Okoboji on the Fourth of July. In the 1920s, she visited a brother and wife in Whittier California, and in the late 1930s, she visited her daughter Florence and husband, who had homesteaded in the hills near the Oregon coast. She regularly visited her children and grandchildren in Iowa, South Dakota, Colorado, and Oregon.

After each of her trips, Elnora filled a scrapbook with written descriptions of the sights and events and with mementos including postcards, newspaper clippings, and photographs. She also prepared scrapbooks with magazine pictures of nature and with poems written by her and others. Her grandchildren treasure these "snapshots" of Elnora's life. Still today some of her grandchildren and even great-grandchildren keep up her tradition of preparing scrapbooks of their trips.

An education was very important to Elnora, who had wanted very much to be a school teacher. Because of a childhood illness that prevented her from attending school for a prolonged period when she was young, she was never able to pursue the career of her choice, teaching. She was especially pleased, therefore, to have had the opportunity to teach one term of country school before she had finished high school.

She expected her own children to do their very best in school.  She wanted her daughters to attend college, as well as her sons, and was very proud of the fact that all of her children had the opportunity to attend. All studied at Iowa State College and four of the five, including her daughters, graduated from Iowa State.

The following piece, written by Elnora and presented at a church mother-daughter banquet, provides insight into her way of thinking:

What it Means to Me to Be the Mother of a College Student

To me, motherhood is the challenge of living as nearly as possible up to the ideal which the sons and daughters themselves have set for us. We try to be the kind of mothers they believe us to be.

Being the mother of sons and daughters in college is the fulfillment of a dream of many years. Ever since our boys and girls fist went to school at the little white school house in the country, we, their father and mother, have looked forward to seeing them in high school and on through college.

Being the mother of two college girls and having the good fortune to have retained their confidence through all the years, one of the greatest pleasures of each brief vacation which they spend at home, are the two evenings which I devote, one to each daughter, for  a confidential, heart-to-heart talk. This, together with their frequent letters, has kept me closely in touch with college life and means much to me.

I know the most vital and steady influence of their college life has been their interest and participation in church and Sunday School, YWCA, Kappa Phi, and Epworth League. For this I am very thankful.

Elnora’s life spanned the time from sod houses and horse and buggy to that of air travel and television. Throughout her life she was forward-looking in her thinking and open to new ideas. She communicated well with her children who remember that they “could talk about anything with Mama.” The values she learned from her parents and held to be dear, and which she taught her children through example, have great impact today on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

When she was young, Elnora had wished fervently to be a teacher. Indeed, she became one of the greatest teachers of all, whose influence continues to the present day.

Honored by:
Leland Thuirer (son)
Merrill Thuirer (son)
Florence Thuirer Harmon (daughter)
Marjorie Thuirer Bower (daughter)
Dale Thuirer (son)

 Submitted on 4/4/95