Louis Lukas Groninga


February 22, 1903 – July 10, 1968

Louis Lukas Groninga was born on February 22, 1903 to Klaas and Anna Hilfers Groninga in Bigelow, Nobles County. His parents, as children, emigrated from Ostfriesland, Germany.

Louis was the second child of a nine children household, two of whom died in infancy. Louis was described as handsome, affable, likable and trustworthy.

It was Louis’ fate to endure several catastrophic life experiences. On September 2, 1910, walking with his father on railroad tracks from their Org home to downtown Worthington, he witnessed his father mortally wounded by a Sioux Falls passenger train after Klaas pushed seven year old Louis to safety. The accident left Anna Hilfers Groninga a widow at thirty-four with seven young children ranging in age from 8 years to six months.

It fell to Anna’s family to help her raise her seven children. The children were periodically “farmed out” for long periods of time to her father’s and brothers’ farms. After assisting his mother, Louis served a one year US Army enlistment from October, 1920 to October 1921. Louis worked a series of jobs throughout the Midwest. Ironically, he “rode the rails” with his younger brother John to eastern Washington to pick apples during the depths of the Great Depression. Louis worked with and for his younger brother in Washington. After Johnny moved to Southern California to start a new life with his wife Naomi, Louis’ life seemed to take a downward turn.

Divorced, Louis announced, in 1940 he was restless and needed to move on to Alaska. This was the last time his family heard from Louis until, ironically, his body was found by railroad tracks in Reliance, South Dakota in 1968. In failing health, he wished to get back to his sister Betty Groninga Staubus in Worthington and buried with his parents in Reading.

Louis spent years wandering through Washington, Montana and Utah seeking a happier life. He married Jessie Hays in May, 1946. In November, 1947, they were involved in a violent head-on collision with a cattle truck in Billings, Montana. The accident took Jessie’s life and left Louis severely injured, traumatized and with long-term memory loss. He is known to have lived in Ogden, Utah area from 1950 to 1968.

While in Utah, Louis remembered only he had been involved in a Montana traffic accident which took his wife’s life and precious memories of her and much of his previous existence.

His US Army headstone, a precious gift from the daughter he never knew, Naida Groninga Bell Glick, will be re-installed at Summit Lake Cemetery in Reading. Surviving relatives include Louis’ two granddaughters Susan Glick Krimmer and Leslie Glick Godbe, several nieces and nephews including Bette Schroeder Calkins, Jack Schroeder, Cliff Lutz, Curt Groninga, Bruce Schroeder, Mike Groninga and Jeanne Groninga Tokarski.

Reuniting Louis with his father Klaas and mother Anna, in September, 2021, fulfills a long-term commitment to his brother John Groninga and sisters Alice Groninga Pierce, Anna Groninga Sexton, Betty Groninga Staubus, Dena Groninga Schroeder and Kate Groninga Lutz.

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