Lorraine Marion Thorsen

Lorraine Marion Thorsen, known by many of her grandchildren as grandma rain, was born in Duluth Minnesota but lived much of her life in Reno Nevada with her husband Robert. She was employed for over 30 years at Harolds Club as a dealer but retired and moved to Winnemucca in 1996. There she lived with family until her death in 2004.

Birth and Early Life

Lorraine was born October 26, 1923 in Duluth Minnesota to immigrant parents, Lars Angel Thorsen and Olga Amanda Solem. Lorraine was the third of three children born in the USA and the first to be born in a hospital. She attended all of her schooling in Duluth where she often called ‘Larry’ by her friends.

Growning Up

In Duluth, she loved to ski, ice skate; so much so that she once broke her nose while ice skate racing. She had fond memories going to Barrs Lake Minnesota where the Thorsen family had a cabin (it was shared between Lars and his sister). Often the women would stay in the cabin all week and the on the weekend the men would join them. On the lake they would canoe, swim, hike and fish. Through it all, the family never actually owned a car. Even so, Lorraine herself, was too afraid to take driving test. However, she did had a friend in the drivers license bureau and had her print up a license without ever having to take the test.

Graduation and WWII

Lorraine graduated from Central High School in 1941. She met Robert S. Markham in high school while the two were classmates. The war started before graduation. She recalls standing along the halls of the school, singing the national anthem as all the 18 year old boys marched off to enlist. Later during the war, she remembers her mother sitting by the radio crying when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Even though Bob left to go overseas in 1944, the two still corresponded. During his absence after high school, Lorraine went to work at the Duluth stock exchange. There, she wrote stock figures up on the chalk board, becoming the first woman to do so in Minnesota.

I came all this vay from Minneapolis and almost missed your vedding!

Lorraine and Bob

When Bob came home in October/November of 1945, he proposed to Lorraine. For the wedding, Lorraine’s mother made her dress for her. Her sibling Lloyd was also married in the same time frame. The two were married in January, 1946 in Duluth in the middle of a big snow storm. It was such bad snow storm in fact that, Pete almost didn’t make it. Pete burst into the church during the middle of the ceremony and said: “I came all this vay from Minneapolis and almost missed your vedding” The couple spent their first night of their honeymoon in a hotel in Duluth that cost them $7. They spent the rest of their honeymoon in Marshal Minnesota on the farm. After they returned, they stayed in Duluth where Lorraine and Bob bought a small home on 1 acre of land for $3000. Bob went to work for the Kelly Howe Thompson hardware company, where his father-in-law Lars was his direct supervisor. Because Lars was so worried about nepotism, he was harder on Bob than other employees. Partly due to this difficult working environment, Bob and Lorraine and the two oldest children moved to Saint James Minnesota, and then later to New Ulm where their youngest child, Ward was born. The family moved to Sleepy Eye after New Ulm, where Bob was promised to be made partner after a few years. Their first house in Sleepy Eye was cold and had mice. They soon moved into an apartment above the local bakery. Lorraine found work as a waitress in the family cafe across the street. While there, she became active in the Lutheran church, teaching Sunday school and taking part in the women’s organization. After the apartment above the bakery, the family moved to a new house near the school (where they had two old ladies living with them upstairs).

Uff da

Life in Reno

The family sold practically everything and moved to Reno, NV in 1958 (Bob had ulcers from the stress of the job in Sleepy Eye). The family lived with Dee, in her basement, until they could find a house. This was hard on Lorraine, Bob was gone a lot for work, she was living with her mother-in-law, and had to try to keep 3 kids quiet while Dee slept. Possibly to cope, Lorraine took all three kids to the pool at the park everyday that summer from morning until night. Lorraine got a job as an elevator operator at Harolds Club. Later, she moved to change girl and then to roulette dealer, and finally to to 21 dealer. She had only planned on working a short time to help out with money but it lasted thirty years. Her drivers license in Minnesota expired while she was in Reno and she was too afraid to get another one. After that she would often only take taxi cabs everywhere.

Move to Winnemucca

A few years after Bob passed away she retired and moved to Winnemucca, Nevada in 1996. There she lived with her daughter’s family for 8 years. Lorraine passed away on January 17, 2004 at home in Winnemucca. Her memorial service was held in her honor on Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 11:00 am in Reno at the Mountain View Cemetery Meditation Chapel. Lorraine was 80 years old. At the time of her death, Lorraine had two children, six grandsons; three granddaughters; and fourteen great-grandchildren.