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Obituary for Doris E. Michelson


Doris Michelson, age 103, of West Salem, died peacefully on April 2, 2020, at Mulder Health Care Facility with her son, Jim, by her side. Doris Elizabeth (Rognlien) Michelson was born on January 23, 1917, in Madison, Wisconsin to Ethel (Kitch) Rognlien and Otto Anton Rognlien. Doris was nine when her mother died, leaving her father with six children, infant to eleven. The children were separated and lived with various relatives and sometimes their father; Doris once stated that only twice were all six of them together after she was nine. Because of the numerous family moves, Doris attended three different high schools and graduated from Barron High School in 1935. After working for two years, she attended Eau Claire Normal School (UW-EC) and earned a three-year teaching degree in 1940. She taught second grade in West Salem from 1940 until 1943; her starting salary was $100 per month. She met her future husband, Clifford, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in West Salem and they were married December 28, 1942. They spent their entire married life on a farm in Larson Coulee that has been in the family since 1879 and where Clifford had lived since age three. Together they raised five children, spending many special times together on the farm. They took time for a yearly summer vacation to a lake or other destination funded by the strawberry crop the family raised. Ten grandchildren were an extra blessing. Doris was a loving and caring farm wife and community member. She was a 4-H leader when her children were members of the Brookside 4-H Club, a member of the Brookside Homemakers, and an active member of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. She was a charter member of the West Salem Historical Society; she and her husband were charter members of Romerikslaget, a Norwegian ancestry group. She served 23 years on the La Crosse County Library Board and was also active in the La Crosse Area Retired Educators. Doris had returned to teaching in 1969 and retired in 1981. She was a special education teacher in the Bangor School District and attended summer school at both UW La Crosse and UW-Eau Claire to receive her Bachelor of Science degree. She and her husband enjoyed several trips together overseas and within the United States and Canada. A special trip was to Norway in 1993 for a celebration of 300 years of the Rognlien family farm. After Clifford’s death in 2000, Doris continued to remain active in the community. She completed her autobiography at 95 and it was self-published with the help of family. Another highlight in later years was a visit from Swedish foreign exchange student Pia (Norlin) Lindblad and her husband Ulf; Pia had lived with the family for the 1963-64 school year and Doris enjoyed their visit at the age of 99. Nine great-grandchildren added new joys to her long life. Doris continued to enjoy living on the farm until moving to Mulder Health Care Facility in January 2016; a fall left her with a broken arm. With the help of son, Jim, she was able to continue to attend many community events and activities. Concerts, high school sporting events, and regular church attendance were highlights for her as well as visits to the farm and visits from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Doris was always appreciative of all anyone did for her and was eager to express that. She celebrated her 103rd birthday in January with 28 of 31 family members present. Doris was an optimist throughout her life, spreading love and joy to all who knew and loved her. Doris was preceded in death by her husband, parents, step-mother Thelia (Scalise) Rognlien, siblings and their spouses Arthur (Bette), Donald (Ann), Stanley (Arlene), Alice (Stanton) Davis, and Betty Rognlien; in-laws Anker (Betty/June) Michelson and Mildred Michelson (Sigvard) Tweeten, and seven nephews. She is survived by her children, James, West Salem, Elizabeth (Bill) Rusch, Sheboygan, Robert (Julie), Eau Claire, Mary (George) Baumgartner, River Falls, and Steven (Kathy), Kendall. She is further survived by ten grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, Brian Rusch, Kristofer (Amy Horst) Rusch, Anders and Arlo, James Rusch, Oliver Funk-Rusch, Katherine Rusch, Lisa Michelson (Lee) Ledford, Alem and Adem Kovac, Mikkel Michelson, Molly Baumgartner (Joe) Coughlin, Eli, Ezra, and Noah, Jay (Paige) Baumgartner, Poppy; Anna Michelson, and Laura Michelson. She is also survived by several nieces, nephews, and two special friends, Leif and Mabel. Due to the current virus threat, a funeral and burial were conducted for immediate family on April 8. A full memorial service will be planned for a future date. The family would like to thank the attending staff at Mulder Health Care Facility. Memorials may be directed to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of West Salem or to an organization of your choice. The Jandt-Fredrickson Funeral Homes and Crematory, Jostad Chapel, West Salem, is assisting the family with arrangements.