Noreen Rust


A memorial service for Noreen Rust, 96, formerly of Estherville, will be held at 3 p.m., Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Henry-Olson Funeral Chapel in Estherville. Interment will be at East Side Memorial Cemetery, Estherville. Visitation will be held from 1-3 p.m., Saturday, June 3 at the funeral chapel.

Noreen Rust died peacefully in her sleep during the night of Saturday, January 21 to Sunday, January 22, 2023. She died in her room at Briarwood Health Care Center in Iowa City after a day during which she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren, songs, storytelling, and fond remembrances. Noreen lived in Estherville, Iowa, from 1953 to March of 2020, when she moved to Longhouse-Northshire in Spencer, Iowa. She moved to Iowa City in November of 2022.

Noreen was born on November 24, 1926, at Dallas, WI, to Henry Wahl and Thilda Arneson Wahl and baptized as Leona Noreen Wahl at Dallas Lutheran Church. She stuck with the Lutheran Church for her whole life, but she only stuck with the first name Leona a brief time. When she was just 5 years old, she persuaded her Daddy to bring her to the Barron County courthouse and officially change her name from Leona Noreen to Noreen Leona – displaying a quiet determination that was one of her hallmarks.

Noreen shared her family’s small dairy farm, an idyllic trout stream and a swimming hole, with one older brother – Hillman Noel – and three sisters – Gilberta Elaine, Shirley Ann, and Peggy Jean. Her parents, brother, and sisters all preceded her in death.

After graduating from Barron (WI) High School in 1944, Noreen worked as a bookkeeper for Barron Motor Supply Company until she met Bennet Rust.

Noreen and Bennet were married in March 1946 in Almena, Wisconsin, and lived in Dallas, Rio, Poskin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bennet and Noreen farmed (“farmed rocks” according to Bennet) by Lake Poskin until Bennet got a job as a federal meat inspector in Milwaukee, where Noreen worked at a Sears store. When they moved from Milwaukee to Estherville, they built a house where they lived together until Bennet died in 2010.

A half-century after the move, Noreen came out of retirement to serve a thirteen-year stint as a bookkeeper at Motor Supply Company in Estherville.

When Bennet died, Noreen stayed in the home and continued to enjoy walking outside, working in her yard and garden, tending many indoor plants, and keeping a spotless house. When her health would not allow her to continue her outdoor activities, her neighbors (often Walt and Lois Jensen) stepped in to help. She also continued her routine of getting her hair done every Friday by Karen Phillips at Hair Biz, and her house cleaned by Marcia Klingbeil and Sally Bohmer, who also made sure she was doing okay.

During her sixty-seven years in Estherville, Noreen was a faithful member of Immanuel Lutheran Church. She taught Sunday School and Saturday School (Confirmation) for several years and her Saturday morning three-hour class included more than thirty kids – some of whom were not especially happy to be there. She again demonstrated her quiet and unflappable determination. She and Bennet were active in choir and in church groups – where she often got tapped to be secretary/treasurer – and in PTA. In her later years she rode to church every Sunday with Doris Klingbeil.

She and Bennet encouraged their children in musical activities, and she taught herself to play the piano. In her 80’s, she learned how to use a computer and became active on Facebook. She was an avid reader and checked several books out of the library every week.

Her great gift to all of us was her ability to stay connected and to help others stay connected. If you were an uncle, aunt, cousin, niece, nephew, child, or grandchild, she wrote letters, sent cards, called, sent emails, and visited. She would often bring us up to date about what was happening in the lives of far-flung (and some near flung) relatives we were not in touch with. If you had a birthday, you got a card. She upped her connectivity a notch when the opportunity arose for her to provide day care to grandsons Cory and Nathan for several years.

Noreen is survived by three children: David (Joy Smith), of Iowa City, Michael (Kimberly Hrbek) of Turtle Lake, WI,  and Kathleen (Jim Benz) of Spirit Lake, IA, and Mesa, AZ; by nine grandchildren: Aaron Rust and his wife Nadia Zaks of Berkeley, CA; Caleb Smith and his partner Devin Zeek of Iowa City; Cory Mehan and his husband Daniel Lynch of Minneapolis, MN; Nathan Johnson and his wife Jennifer of Mesa, AZ; Toby Rust and his wife Arus of Glendale, CA; Addie Rust and her partner Joe Warner of St. Croix Falls, WI; Joshua Rust of New Richmond, WI; Ryan Benz and his wife Alexandra of Lake Bluff, IL; and Adam Benz and his husband Jorge of Belmopan, Belize. Noreen is also survived by thirteen great-grandchildren.

Noreen’s family sends a special thank you to all the staff at Longhouse-Northshire. Words alone cannot express how grateful we are knowing you took excellent care of her before, during and after the pandemic.