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  • Chaska Historical Society

Volunteer Spotlight - Laurel Means

A Singer of folk songs, Author of 17 books, gifted Professor at universities throughout the world, gourmet Cook, (ask her about her favorites from Singapore and Malaysia) and Historian are just a few of the words that describe Laurel Means.

Laurel grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and learned many of the folksongs that had their origins in the 17th and 18th century. While singing, she often accompanied herself playing the dulcimer. Sitting in the History Center during the interview for this article, she sang the opening verse to “Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens.” Her interest in writing was developed at the Star Progress newspaper, located in Berryville, Arkansas, where she wrote articles and did research. She studied at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Brussels, Belgium and at Oxford University in England. She developed a keen interest in archives of history, particularly of France, Germany, and the Latin language. Throughout her life she has translated numerous articles, diaries, and family histories to English. She earned her doctorate degree from the University of Toronto with a specialty in archives of early English, French, German and Latin.

After moving to Minnesota, she was a professor at Gustavus Adolphus and an adjunct professor at Crown College. When asked about her teaching career, she said “I loved the interaction with my students, presenting new ideas and concepts and observing the intellectual changes.” She most enjoyed preparing lectures using slides, PowerPoint and materials to keep students engaged in the learning process. In addition to her teaching, she developed a series of nine historical pioneer stories set in Minnesota and the Dakotas. (Available though AMAZON books). Additionally, she has written and edited numerous books and articles on medieval English prose.

Moving to Chaska in 1997, she has continued her research and editing at both Carver County and Chaska Historical Societies. Paraphrasing a quote from Thomas Aquinas, she said her work has stood on the shoulders of giants - volunteers and staff of the History Center that have always been available to search for the needle in the haystack with her.

In response to the question “What makes a good editor?” she offered three key aspects of editing:

• mechanical correctness – grammar and sentence structure

• readability – friendly, not formal

• correct facts - obtained through newspapers, official records and church programs

Chaska History Center has been very fortunate to have an editor with her knowledge and experience for the upcoming Chaska history book covering the years 1950-2000. Working closely with Lisa Oberski and others, she continues to provide editing for our new book. Her upcoming move to Kentucky to join her daughter and family will limit talking in person with Laurel, but she will continue her help remotely with an anticipated publication in 2022. She has already been in touch with the Lexington, Kentucky History Center to continue her involvement in history. We will miss you, Laurel!

By Sarah Carlson for the Chaska Historical Society


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