The Board of the LIWLRA is made up of LIW supporters across the United States. Each and every one is a volunteer and all offer something unique to contribute.
Board members terms are three years, and members may serve two consecutive terms. Board members rotate off the Board after their specified term(s) expire. Thus, from time to time we have Board openings. If you or someone you know has a dedication to Laura’s legacy and the desire to contribute in a formal manner to LIWLRA, please let us know by completing a nomination form! (Our nomination form and expectations of board members can be found here.)
Currently, our Board consists of four officers and seven additional members, all volunteers:
President: Laura McLemore (Volunteer Coordinator for LauraPalooza 2017)
Vice President: Barb Mayes Boustead (Conference Co-Chair for LauraPalooza 2017)
Secretary: Judy Green (Silent Auction Chair for LauraPalooza 2017)
Treasurer: Karen Pearce (Conference Co-Chair for LauraPalooza 2017)
Membership Chair: Connie Ryle Neumann (Mansfield Trip Coordinator for LauraPalooza 2017)
Merchandise Chair and Web Admin: Melanie Stringer
Social Media Chair: Sarah Manley
Newsletter Editor: Laurie Suiter (Registration Chair for LauraPalooza 2017)
Member at Large: Patty Collins (Vending Coordinator for LauraPalooza 2017)
Member at Large: Lynn Urban (Advertising Coordinatior for LauraPalooza 2017)
Member at Large: Lauri Goforth
Current Board Members
Barb Mayes Boustead‘s [2014-present] is a meteorologist and climate program leader at the National Weather Service in Omaha, Nebraska, with a career that has also taken her through its headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and through the office in Davenport, Iowa. A Michigan native, Barbara obtained undergraduate degrees from Central Michigan University in 2000, with majors in meteorology, geography, and English, and minors in mathematics and history, followed by an M.S. in meteorology from The Pennsylvania State University (2002) and a Ph.D. in Climate Assessment and Impacts from the University of Nebraska (2014). Her professional interests include climate, historical weather events, severe and extreme weather, and improving communication of weather and climate concepts. Barbara is married to another meteorologist, Josh, with a beloved son, Jaxon. Barbara researches the weather and climate events from all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, posting on both her blog and on Facebook (“Wilder Weather”).
Patty Collins [2016-present] was introduced to the world of Little House by her older sister. An avid reader, Kelly often sent her six-year-old sister across the street to the local library to pick up her favorite books. Unable to read, little Patty selected Little House titles from the cover descriptions. Each visit, she filled her toy shopping cart with Kelly’s requested titles and always a copy of These Happy Golden Years, requested or not. At home, Patty pored over Garth Williams illustrations and longed for the day when the words would make pictures for her, too. Although Patty enjoyed the Little House books off and on through the years, it wasn’t until her high school and college teachers requested that she stop doing research projects and papers on Wilder that she realized this was more than a recreational interest.
Today, Patty lives in her own little house in Great Bend, Kansas with her two cats, Maggie and Nadia. After 20 years as a school teacher/children’s librarian, Patty recently joined the Central Kansas Library System as a library consultant, specializing in youth services. Patty serves on various library and book committees in addition to presenting workshops for librarians. Several times each year, she dons her calico and bonnet and shares the Little House legacy with Kansas children.
So how did a copy of THGY end up among Patty’s library books every week? Ever the hopeless romantic, young Patty thought a young lady in love wore a stunning pink dress, stood beneath a tree holding hands with a dashing beau in a brown suit. To this day, THGY is still her favorite book and finds its way jumping off her bookshelf each winter.
Lauri Goforth [2017- present] has been interested in Little House and Laura Ingalls since she saw a film strip in the second grade. She apologizes to everyone else at Liberty Elementary who never had a chance to read the books because she always had them checked out. After that, Lauri made sure that family vacations stopped at home sites whenever possible.
Outside of Laura-World, Lauri lives near Cincinnati, and is an accountant for a non-profit social service agency. She is very involved at her church and has served as a youth volunteer and treasurer. She graduated from Miami University. She served as social chair for the local alumni chapter and planned the event for the university’s bicentennial in 2009. In the fall, you can find her at the RedHawk’s 50 yard line enjoying a football game.
Judy Green [2014-present] is a former teacher and retired Library Associate from the Medina County District Library, in Medina, Ohio. While working there, she developed a program titled Laura Ingalls Wilder, the story behind the stories. Since 1989, she has been bringing the Little House stories to life for schools and libraries. The program has also been well received by Historical societies, Girl Scout troops, Homeschoolers, Mother-Daughter events, and Senior residences.
Judy is a person with passions. Besides learning about all aspects of the LH stories and their author, Judy is passionate about travel, Cleveland Indians Baseball, her two pet cats, thrifting, and her two grandchildren. Judy and her very patient husband, Ed, have just relocated from the Cleveland, area to Toledo, Ohio just to be nearer their daughter and her family. They are in the midst of renovating a 91 year old home in Ottawa Hills. They also have a son who is fun to visit because he lives on the beach in Long Beach, California.
Sarah Manley [2017- present] has been a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan ever since she got the yellow paperback “Little House” boxed series, straight from the Sears catalog as a Christmas present from her grandparents in 3rd grade. A mother-daughter roadtrip to Walnut Grove – complete with a flooded Plum Creek and a follow up trip to DeSmet the next summer, only fueled her interest in all things Laura.
Sarah even married her “Manley” who grew up in Arlington, SD (just 20 miles east of DeSmet)! A trip to go puttering around Kingsbury County (lakes, towns, antique stores, and poor gravel roads) became a favorite activity every time she went to her in-laws’ home in South Dakota. A recent home remodel means she FINALLY has a place to display all of her “Little House” books, including her Sewell copy of Little House on the Prairie stamped from the Kingsbury County Library in DeSmet.
Now with a brother who lives 5 miles from Burr Oak, and family members in Rapid City, she has hit all of the upper Midwest homesites several times and is looking forward to her first adventure “down south” to get to Kansas and Missouri. She has been a member since 2010, was the “conference tweeter” at LauraPalooza 2015 and looks forward to a great LauraPalooza 2017.
Laura McLemore [2013-present] was destined to a lifelong love of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her mother first heard Little House in the Big Woods when her second grade teacher read the book aloud in 1947. She named her second daughter after the beloved author. In turn, Laura began reading the Little House books as a second grader, which started her on the path as a life-long lover of all things Little House.
Laura has been an educator for over 30 years. As a college professor, she developed a unique way to introduce future teachers to the fun of integrating Language Arts and Social Studies. Laura presented her first-person reenactment of LIW for the first time to a room full of prospective elementary teachers in 1993. Since that time she has shared the life of LIW with more than 1,000 children in Arkansas and Kansas, in teacher workshops, church programs, and appears annually at Apple Festival in Topeka, Kansas.
Laura lives in Maize, Kansas, located near Wichita. Dr. Laura, as she is called by her students, is a wife, mother and grandma to two lovable grandboys. She is currently a fifth-grade teacher in Wichita Public Schools.
Connie Ryle Neumann [2009-present] served for 32 years as a teacher and children’s librarian in public schools and libraries in Texas, Germany, and Colorado.
Now retired, she participates in local history in Longmont, Colorado and gives “On the Trail of Laura Ingalls Wilder” programs for schools, libraries, and civic groups, sharing the author’s real life that inspired the “Little House” books.
As a child and later a beginning teacher, Connie learned first-hand about life in the “old days” while listening to her Texas grandmother’s stories as a farm woman, quilter, and former teacher in one-room country schools. Connie connected these family stories to the “Little House” books that she read as a girl and was re-reading as a 3rd Grade teacher. From there she pursued a lifelong interest in American pioneer history and Women of the West, collecting textiles and antiques that specifically relate to the “Little House” books.
Since 1989 Connie has traveled to all of the Ingalls-Wilder homesites and related research archives to dig deeper into the real history behind the writing. She enjoys sharing her photographs, studies, antiques, and adventures with all ages of Little House readers. She also has documented many of the Colorado connections that Laura, Almanzo, and Rose had with the state. Her early Internet research as a librarian in the 1990s connected her with many of the same “Laura fans” that still are writing today online, becoming lifelong Laura friends and jump-starting LIWLRA.
Born and raised in Wichita Falls, Texas, Connie graduated from Baylor University, BS Ed., and University of North Texas, MLS. She is married to an “Okie” who also enjoys history and exploring new places.
Karen Pearce’s [2014-present] love of all things Laura began as a child watching reruns of the television show in the 1980s. This led to a love of the books a few years later, and a deep interest in the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. While always a fan, Karen’s interest and excitement for LIW skyrocketed in 2011 when she discovered the Beyond Little House website, the LIWRA and a community of other LIW enthusiasts. During the summer of 2012, Karen visited several of the homesites in addition to attending Laurapalooza 2012.
A professional musician, Karen earned her bachelor’s degree in music education and clarinet performance from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and her master’s in clarinet performance from Indiana University in Bloomington. She is active as a performer and maintains a large studio of clarinet students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Karen also plays the hammered dulcimer recreationally, which adds another dimension to her love of all things rustic and pioneer.
Karen’s husband, Kevin, also a professional musician, often accompanies her to LIW-related events, and their orange tabby, Katie, is interested in researching the lives of Black Susan and Kitty Ingalls.
Melanie Stringer [2016-present] is a New England-based historian specializing in American Social History with a passion for museum advocacy and learning the nitty-gritty about life in the Gilded Age. She has a reputation for spending an inordinate amount of time exploring ancient burying grounds and wandering dirt roads identifying properties associated with Laura’s ancestors. Blending passions with professional experience, she is pursuing a Master of Arts in Museum Studies with a certification in Nonprofit Management.
Melanie’s interest in history sparked in early childhood as she learned to read using Laura’s books. Soon, she was imagining herself running through prairies she’d never seen and hounding a very patient librarian to help her understand the historical context of the author. From that time forward, she has conducted intensive study in Regional Literature, Westward Expansion, and Women’s History.
Owner of Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC, Melanie has undertaken more than a dozen extended research trips, logging some 70,000 miles in her trusty Jetta, Hansel, to relate these subjects to primary source documentation for her educational programs. Melanie has presented these interactive visits in the persona of the circa-1896 “Mrs. Wilder” to audiences of all ages at museums, libraries, and schools from New England to the Dakotas.
When closer to home, Melanie can be found digging into the Ingalls and Wilder families’ New England ancestry in preparation for her first book-length publication. And it is just possible that, tucked amid reproduction Victorian clothing and a sizeable antique schoolbook collection, she still has the blue-sprigged calico dress she wore as a 7-year-old playing “Mary and Laura” with her favorite cousin.
Laurie Suiter [2016-present], like many other board members, has been a lifelong fan of the Little House books. Her introduction to the REAL Laura took place at the turn of the 21st century when a made-for-TV-movie led her to seek moral support from other outraged fans. :o) She became fast friends with the founder of an ENTIRE WEBSITE (!!!) devoted to LIW and has since met many other friends as well, both online and in real life, all because of a shared love for a humble pioneer woman’s childhood recollections.
Laurie and her husband Bill (who shares Laura’s birthday of February 7th) reside in Georgia with their five ferociously furry felines. They are looking forward to attending their third LauraPalooza conference in 2017.
Lynn Urban [2016-present] was introduced to Laura through the TV show. She never read the Little House books as a child. When she discovered that the TV show was adapted from books, her curiosity took over. Through years of reading, research and travel, she has developed her “From Pepin to Mansfield and in Between” presentations. She has participated in Old World Wisconsin’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Day and has taught a two-week summer enrichment course based on the Little House books for 3rd-5th graders sponsored by UW Parkside in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
As an elementary teacher, she taught in Illinois and Wisconsin. For over 10 years, she volunteered at the Racine Heritage Museum’s 1888 School, first as a school mistress and then as a coordinator. Lynn lives in Racine, Wisconsin with her husband John. They have two adult children, Julie and David.
Past Board Members
Rebecca Brammer [2009-2015] inherited her love of “Little House” from her mother at an early age. Years of study and multiple visits to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homesites cemented her lifelong devotion. Since 1996 – the pioneer days of the internet – Rebecca’s website Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Girl has been a mainstay of the online Laura Ingalls Wilder world. “My hope is that Frontier Girl will continue to turn casual Little House readers into devoted fans who will visit and support the homesites, ensuring Laura’s legacy is preserved for future generations,” she says. Apart from her Wilder interest, Rebecca is a speech-language pathologist, an adoptive mother of three, and author of The Newcombe Creek Chronicles, a children’s series set in the era of the Great Depression.
Laura Chapman [2013-2014] was drawn to the Little House world at an elementary school book fair when she discovered a series about a girl named Laura written by a woman named Laura. Name vanity aside, she fell in love with the characters and stories.
In recent years, Laura fed her love for the series’ legacy through the blogosphere. On her blog, Change the Word, she regularly features her visits to LIW-related attractions and her attempts at recreating dishes from the books.
With a background in newspaper journalism and corporate communication, Laura is the communications coordinator at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, and a novelist.
Jonni Craven’s [2009-2014] devotion to Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder, which began in elementary school, has led to three other passions in life – music, reading, and traveling. When not visiting Little House sites around the country, she continues to work on a presentation to introduce children to the music in the Little House books. Jonni lives in beautiful Carmel, California and in her spare time, works as the assistant to the President of the Tor House Foundation, helping preserve the history of California poet Robinson Jeffers, and serves on the board of directors of the Carmel Heritage Society. Click here to read Jonni’s posts.
While Matt Hume [2012-2016] cannot by any stretch call himself a Laura Ingalls Wilder enthusiast, he is married to one. That, and his 25 years of accounting experience, make him an ideal fit for Chief Financial Officer. He is also a farmer, like Pa and Almanzo, and already knew what a Chinook was when he married his Laura fan.
Sandra Hume [2009-2015] came to her love of the Little House series through the TV screen on Monday nights in the 1970s. Something about those braids, that lopsided house, that school bell … Walnut Grove seemed like a pretty neat place to live. (The year her parents signed her up for art lessons that ended at 8:30 on Mondays—third grade, as she recalls—was a particularly trying time in her young life.)
Only a chance closing-credits sighting of “BASED ON THE LITTLE HOUSE SERIES OF BOOKS BY LAURA INGALLS WILDER” led to her discovery of the book series. Sandra’s upbringing in suburban Boston didn’t exactly square with the windswept prairies and daily farm work of Laura’s life, so settling into Wisconsin or Plum Creek or De Smet provided an ideal escape, over and over and over again, from 1980s adolescence.
Later on, things started to make sense. She found herself in the middle of the country, married to a farmer, identifying with Laura’s story in a much more visceral way. From her new Midwestern base Sandra was finally able to realize her dream of visiting Laura’s homesites and museums, each trip fueling her passion for these living testaments to Laura’s life. A writer by trade, she put her skills to use publishing the Homesteader, a newsletter for Little House fans about Laura and her homesites, which was mailed to paying subscribers all over the world for ten years, until 2012.
Today Sandra, now a mom of three, continues to blend her love for all things Laura with her career as a freelance writer, and is currently working on both a memoir about her experiences as a city girl turned farmer’s wife and a family travel guide to the Little House sites. Click here to read Sandra’s posts.
Linda Starbuck (2014-2016) is recently retired as Senior Director for The ACT test product for ACT, Inc. in Iowa City, Iowa, a non-profit organization whose mission is “Helping people achieve education and workplace success”. Linda was with ACT over 36 years in a variety of positions leading departments and special projects within the corporation. Linda rediscovered “Laura” about 17 years ago on a trip to DeSmet and has never looked back. She has visited all but 2 of the homesites and has attended both LauraPalooza conferences. She coordinates the LIW programs at Ushers Ferry Historic Village in Cedar Rapids, IA where she has volunteered as a historic interpreter for 15 years. She has also volunteered at the Pepin Laura Days Quilt and Sew for many years and is a novice quilter doing her quilts totally by hand. Linda is also President of Friends of Ushers Ferry focusing on grants and fundraising, volunteers for the Iowa City Animal Center, and is working on a book of poetry. She is excited to devote her time to the LIWLRA and to be part of such an exciting organization.
LauraPalooza 2012 attendees will remember Susan Thurlow‘s  presentation on black frontier physician Dr. George Tann; a booklet form of the Tann presentation is on the gift store shelves of the Walnut Grove, Burr Oak, Spring Valley, and Independence homesites.
Susan is a veteran educator with a passion for American history and children’s literature. She currently homeschools and teaches literature, composition, grammar, and history at Collegium Study Center in Colorado Springs. Susan has authored two children’s literature study guides for the classic books Sarah, Plain and Tall and The Wheel on the School, published by Common Sense Press. Her love for Laura is evidenced throughout the Thurlow home: her prairie dress and bonnet, Charlotte doll, multiple copies of Little House books, as well as biographies, maps, historical papers, and other Wilder lore!
Iowa-based Sarah S. Uthoff [2009-2015] is a widely respected authority on Laura Ingalls Wilder. She has been visiting Laura’s homesites in the Midwest on a regular basis since 1983. Much in demand as a speaker on Laura and other topics, Sarah has presented at several of the homesites, is on the Humanities Iowa Speakers Bureau, and spoke at both LauraPalooza conferences.
Sarah is also is the creator and host of the Laura Ingalls Wilder–themed podcast. She’s been involved in several historical preservation endeavors, most recently running a national campaign to identify letters penned by Laura. Her interest in Laura led her to an interest in social history, specifically one-room schools and historic foodways. She runs the one-room school listserv and serves on the board of the Country School Association of America and is the head of the Midwest Open Air Museums Coordinating Council Historic Foodways Resource Group.
A reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Sarah was an editor of and frequent contributor to the Homesteader, Sandra Hume’s newsletter about Laura Ingalls Wilder that was published for ten years. She maintains her own website and blog, Trundlebed Tales, Click here to read Sarah’s posts. Find her social media links at about.me.
Laura Welser [2013-2014] fell in love with the Little House books after her sixth grade teacher introduced them to her class. Throughout her life she has read everything she could about Laura, always wanting to know more.
After her children were grown, and she found herself with a few extra minutes, Laura devoted much of her spare time to learning more about Laura Ingalls Wilder and doing her little part to help preserve Laura’s legacy. Besides her fascination with LIW, Laura loves time spent with family, reading, writing, history, horses and antiquing. She has always managed to find a way to relate many of her passions back to LIW and the Little House books.
In the past five years, Laura was able to experience her lifelong dream of visiting several of Laura’s homesites and connected with others who share her enthusiasm at LauraPalooza 2010 and 2012. Laura and her husband have two grown children, a spoiled Lab mix pup, and own and operate a water well drilling business in Michigan.