By Mike Whittlesey
In September 2004, The Progress Review received a visit from a very special lady. While I had not yet had the pleasure of getting to know her, I knew her reputation as the “official” historian of La Porte City was well-deserved. I was also surprised (and pleased) that she had taken the time to seek me out to discuss an idea she wanted to pursue. As it turned out, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Lois Miszner wanted to write a column about the La Porte City FFA and Historical Ag Museum and, along the way, share some of her memories of La Porte City with our readers.
At that time, the City was in the early planning stages to commemorate La Porte City’s Sesquicentennial, which would take place during the 2005 Festival of Trails Celebration. Lois’ weekly column, entitled “Back When,” was a perfect fit. I immediately accepted her offer.
While volunteers to write a weekly columns are rare events on their own, one other fact about Lois’ offer still amazes me. On the day that Lois Miszner walked into my office with an offer I couldn’t refuse, she was 85 years old.
For the next eight years, Lois wrote faithfully for our readers, who had a voracious appetite for her stories. If Lois posed a question in her column about a person or a particular event, we would soon receive an answer from one or more of our readers, some of them coming from places far, far away.
So rich was Lois’ material, she kindly agreed to allow us to publish collections of her column in paperback book form. Her first book signing, held at her beloved museum, was quite an event. I’m not sure who was more surprised- the author taken aback by the many visitors who came from miles to see her, or the visitors themselves, who couldn’t believe she still remembered them after so many years had passed. Such was the love Lois had for the people, present and past, of La Porte City.
And her affection was returned in full. When Lois’ health left her unable to continue writing briefly in 2012, we received numerous calls and inquiries from concerned readers, offering best wishes for their beloved “Aunt Lo.”
Last week, our community took a break from storm cleanup efforts to remember the life of Lois Miszner, who passed away on June 28. As stories about the community’s response to the powerful storms became known, I couldn’t help but think how proud Lois would have been to witness the generosity of neighbors helping neighbors, and the groups of young people banding together to make quick work of the massive trees blown down that homeowners dared not budge on their own.
I’m fairly certain Lois would rather this column extol the virtues of the people who continue to offer their time, talent, and in some cases, heavy equipment, to help their friends and neighbors return to some sense of normal after a devastating storm. And as one who set the standard for volunteerism, devoting years of service to La Porte City Nursing & Rehab Center, the museum and numerous other causes, she would be correct.
So, in the words of Lois Miszner, “Nuff said!”
By Mike Whittlesey