Class of 1957 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017

Dear Classmate of ’57,

Our 60-year reunion is now a fond memory. Even though it rained on Friday and Saturday and the football game was delayed half way through, we had a memorable, heart-warming luncheon with many laughs, many guests (48, of which 34 were classmates) and many tales of the ­­­times when we were 60 years younger. Dr. Paula Carlson, President of Luther College, greeted us and we were serenaded by Beautiful Mess, a student cappella group. Our senior class president, Mick Lee, was again our MC, and he waxed eloquent telling what Luther had meant to him. He also passed around a list of “conversation starters” that kept the room humming with storytellers recounting those distant memories and even senior pranks. Alas, no one ‘fessed up’ to who, at the end of our senior year, lifted a car up the steps into the C.K. Preus gymnasium, where we had chapel. 

Our ’57 Reunion Booklet was the source of much information. Thank you to all who wrote for that.  The old teacher in me made me want to write a short quiz on the contents, so you all would be sure to read it. We’ll skip the quiz. By all accounts, we had an amazing class.

The Reunion Booklet is online: Here is the link!

At the class agent meeting I found out that our class of ’57 ranks third in the percent of participation in contributing to ALL FUNDS. That’s something to celebrate. Congratulations and thanks to all of you. Statistics about our class: 163 are still living; 81 (49.69%) participated in giving.  

Thanks, too, to the Reunion Committee who contacted classmates: Ines (Ellefson) Anderson, Rik Engebretson, Dave Guetzke, Janice (Anderson) Horn, Marilyn (Lokensgard) Martinson, Hilda Mary (Raatikka) Schoon, and Mick Lee.

Another couple of things I found out at the class agent meeting: there were 2,500 Luther grads and friends registered to attend Homecoming this year and there were 65 events planned. Our luncheon was just one of the 65 weekend events. We were royally welcomed.

A new program that was launched in July is the Alumni Ambassador Program, whereby you as alums can refer a high school student to Luther College, and every student you refer will receive a $1,000 scholarship (in your name) each year, for four years, if they enroll at Luther. You will have a direct financial impact on a student’s Luther experience with this $4,000 scholarship. 

Our classmate Jerry Tvedt has been writing books. At least three of them can be purchased from the Luther book store. I am reading one of the books now, Just a Thought or Two… and highly recommend it. It is “Observations of the 21st Century from a 20th Century Man.” Jerry worked for many years as a television producer-director and twice won the National Association of Television Program Executives Award for the best locally produced performing arts program in the United States. We are proud of our class’s alums.

Donna (Ellefson) Fortney
1957 Class Agent
[email protected]

P.S. Tragic news: Today, October 19, our classmate Elene Hanson passed away after a car accident on September 26.  She was hit head-on by a driver going the wrong way. She and her good friend Phyllis Bentley had planned to come to our 60-year reunion until this happened. We mourn her passing.


Eli Crogan of Watertown, Wis., was honored as Luther’s 2017 Alumni Coach of the Year and returned to campus to speak at the Norse Awards Program on Feb. 19, 2017. Crogan coached basketball for 40 years before retiring at the end of the 2004 school year. He also had 20 years of coaching baseball. Most of Crogan's coaching career was at Watertown, where he coached basketball for 22 years. He also coached high school ball at Soldiers Grove, Fennimore and Wayland Academy, as well as some college basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Crogan was also a scout for the NBA's Houston Rockets from 1975-77.

Lowell Gangstad of Northwood, Iowa, is a retired schoolteacher and for the past 20 years has worked for the Hogan-Bremer funeral home, driving limousines, helping with services, and sometimes singing for the funerals. He has sung in the North Iowa Choral Society for the past dozen years or so and before that was a part of the Bob Davis Chorale at North Iowa Area Community College. He was featured in the Mason City Globe Gazette for directing the choir at First Lutheran Church in Northwood for the past 60 years.


James Casterton of Decorah, Iowa, died Jan. 11, 2017, at age 85. Born on a farm three miles north of Highlandville, he graduated from Decorah High School in 1949 and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1949-53, stationed in the Philippine Islands. Jim graduated from Luther in 1957 and taught high school social studies in Waukon and Decorah. He married Shirley Ann Thompson June 25, 1961, at Ridgeway Lutheran Church. After graduating from Drake University, where he received a master’s degree, Jim served as high school principal in Wellsburg. From 1964-76, he served the Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock School District, first as high school principal, next as superintendent of schools. In 1976 Jim began working as an assistant administrator for the Area V Education Agency in Fort Dodge, and from 1978 until his retirement in 1993, he served as superintendent of schools for the Mabel-Canton School District in Mabel, Minn. He also served as superintendent of the Harmony (Minn.) Area School District from 1989-92. A hard worker who filled many additional roles—as farmer, waiter, truck driver, gas station attendant, singer, school bus driver, director of the Decorah Kilties, airman, and realtor—Jim had a “can do” attitude and unassuming nature. He positively influenced hundreds of young people and was especially sensitive to students who needed a pat on the back or words of encouragement. Jim was a member of the Waterloo Ridge Lutheran Church, American Legion Post 299 of Mabel, and VFW Post 1977 of Decorah. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; four children: James (Patti) Casterton ’85, Stephanie (Jim) Rollins, John Casterton ’93, and Joel (Lori) Casterton; eight grandchildren, including Noah Casterton ’17; brother, Bernard (Martha) Casterton; sister, Belva Fadness; brother-in-law, Leonard Olson; sister-in-law, Sherry (Don) McDowell; and many nephews, nieces, neighbors, and friends. Jim was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, James and Lawrence (Ethel) Casterton; sisters, Edna (Alvin) Swenson, Palma (Orville) Wermager, Myrtle (Melvin) Noecker, and June Olson; and brother-in-law, Harold Fadness.

Marilyn (Olson) Rem of San Diego died Sept. 27, 2016, at age 84. Born in Holmen, Wis., she attended Luther for a year. Marilyn was proud of her Norwegian heritage and very active in the Sons of Norway and House of Norway at Balboa Park for nearly 40 years. Known for being a great role model and an inspiration to others, she had a deep love for animals, especially dogs, and enjoyed traveling. Marilyn is survived by her husband of 62 years, John Rem ’59; two sons, Jonathon (Marsha) and Mike; daughter, Diana “Deede” (Frank Rapallo); two grandsons; three brothers, Charles (Carol), Johnny (Mary), and Larry (Mary); sister, Ruth (Brandt Werner); aunt; and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews.