Elsie Esther Laitinen was born June 30, 1929 in Portland at Emanuel Hospital and grew up on a 43 acre farm in Toledo, Washington. They had Milking cows and "way too many chickens" according to Elsie. Her father raised chickens for Fort Lewis and Elsie grew to really dislike chickens. Her best friend growing up was Barbara who lived on the farm next to theirs. One of Elsie's favorite things to do was to read and loved visiting her Aunt Emma in Brush Prairie because she had so many lovely Finnish and English books. Night after night, Elsie would stay up late reading under the covers in her bed using only a flashlight to read.
Elsie's parent's were from Finland and they met after they came to the United States when they both attended Messiah Lutheran Church, which was started in 1902 and has always had a pastor who delivered sermons in Finnish. Elsie's father, Emil, left the farm in Finland with a brother and worked in a paper mill in this area. Her mother, Hilija ("Heelia") Kemppainen Laitinen was from Oulu, Finland where her father worked in their farm in the forest. Hilja came to the US with a Cousin and stayed in New York for 9 months in 1908 before coming west.
Elsie graduated from Toledo High School in a rather small class. Because of her prolific reading skills, Elsie became an expert at spelling and won several spelling bees. She attended Suomi College, now Finlandia University, in Michigan for 2 years.
She then earned her teaching degree from Lewis and Clark College in Portland. Her first teaching job was in Baker City where she taught 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade for three years. Most of her teaching career was with the Portland School District where she taught at Portsmouth and Elliot grade schools.
She met her husband Clifford in the young people's group at Messiah Lutheran Church and they were married on December 3rd, 1954. Cliff went to college to get his teaching degree serving first in Damascus and then in Gladstone School Districts. They first lived in, according to Elsie, "an old dilapidated apartment building" on Alberta Street and later moved to a house in Northeast Portland. Their move to Happy Valley was to ten acres where Cliff had a horse, some cows, and a pig that ate leftovers from school. Cliff and Elsie both taught elementary students during their stay at the Happy Valley farm. Their last home in Happy Valley was a new custom-built home and they enjoyed living there until moving into Somerset Retirement Living in 2009.
Elsie enjoyed many years serving her church by singing in the choirs at Messiah and St. Stephens Lutheran Churches. Many friendships came from these times. She also played the Finnish Kontola and performed regularly in a Kontola music group. Her two most favorite things besides reading were enjoying her other friend, Cally the calico cat and eating dark chocolate. Elsie and Cliff traveled to Finland many times through the years and communicated regularly with her relatives there. In her last days, Elsie continued to enjoy reading. She will be remembered as a humble servant who loved the Lord.
A Memorial Service will take place in St. Stephens Lutheran Church, 290 W. Glocester Street, Gladstone, Oregon, on Saturday, January 5, 2103, at 1pm. Elsie will be privately laid to rest in Skyline Memorial Gardens.