Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on March 29, 2011 at 11:44 AM by Global Reach

Emelda’s was first involved with 4-H as a member in Scott County where she was born in 1905.  Following her graduation from high school she began college only to have to discontinue her studies because of the depression.  For a number of years she taught country schools in Eastern Iowa at Clarence, Andrew and Reinhold.  It was her brother, who was on the Extension staff in Minnesota, that convinced her that she should go back to college and complete her degree so she could work in Extension.  

She graduated in Fine Arts from Iowa State College and became a Home Improvement Specialist in Iowa from 1949 until 1972. Early in her career, the Girls 4-H program in Iowa rotated a major project emphasis in Home Economics every third year – Home Improvement, Food & Nutrition and Clothing.  Emelda traveled 33 counties every year doing volunteer leader training in Home Improvement.  It was at these meetings that she taught Iowa women and 4-H’ers how to apply natural wood finishes of sealer and paste wax, how to cane chairs, how to mat pictures and how to make lap top pillows and chair cushions.  Emelda’s favorite projects were beautiful solid walnut pieces.  It wasn’t necessarily just the blue ribbon exhibits that she prized, it was often something that wasn’t perfect but had such an interesting story.

The elements and principals of art were critically important to Emelda, as was art appreciation.  4-H’ers studied many of the master paintings and even received small copies of the prints along with the history.  During Emelda’s career, the Iowa 4-H curriculum pieces in home improvement were among the best in the nation.

Emelda spent almost every day at the Iowa State fair visiting with those viewing the 4-H exhibits.  She was over 6 foot tall so she could easily be spotted with groups of people listening, as she taught the correct method to refinish or what was so very interesting about a project that she had learned from reading the stories.  She never stopped teaching.  One of her favorite things was to run her hand over a wood finish and comment on how smooth it was.  

One of the special 4-H activities she had was selecting a girl’s 4-H room to be a part of the state fair display.  4-H’ers could apply to have their rooms considered and Emelda would go to each of their homes for personal visits before one was chosen.  A room was actually re-painted or wallpapered to replicate the 4-H’ers room and the 4-H member would spend the entire fair with their room exhibit sharing the story with the public of how and why they decorated it.

Emelda also put together tours to Chicago for the most outstanding 4-H’ers in Home Improvement.  It was both an educational program and recognition program.

Emelda passed away in June 1998 at the age of 93.  The impact of her teaching continues to live on through the lives of many 4-H alumni.

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Categories: State Recognition

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