H. Lorraine Holmen Profile Photo
1921 H. Lorraine 2023

H. Lorraine Holmen

November 18, 1921 — October 20, 2023


Lorraine Holmen died peacefully in her sleep, after witnessing a century of change. Born Hortense Lorraine Nelson in LaPorte, Indiana in 1921, she grew up the daughter of an Augustana Swedish Lutheran pastor, Axel Nelson, and his wife, Hanna Larson Nelson. Her older brother, Clayton, was five when Lorraine was born. Their mother Hanna’s parents were sod busters in Western Nebraska who valued education. They sent Hanna to study and board at a Swedish Lutheran High School in Eastern Nebraska.  It was there that Hanna met Lorraine’s father, Axel Nelson, a Swedish immigrant who had left Sweden by himself at age 15, arrived in New York’s Ellis Island, then traveled to Nebraska to move in with and work for his Aunt. He continued his education, earning his undergraduate and divinity degrees at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, while Hanna taught school before they were married.  Lorraine remembers that he worked hard to eliminate any trace of a Swedish accent as he became a Lutheran minister.  Axel eventually earned his doctorate degree in divinity.

When Lorraine was 3 ½ years old, the family moved to the South Side of Chicago where her father pastored Bethany Lutheran Church.  It was a new neighborhood and they lived in a beautiful parsonage. Three years later, Axel received a call to Chisago Lake Lutheran Church in Center City, Minnesota.  Lorraine grew up in this beautiful place—a congregation founded by immigrants many years earlier and depicted in Wilhelm Moberg’s classic novel The Immigrants. The family lived there from 1928 to 1939, and it was there that Lorraine went through all the grades of school, graduating from high school in the spring of 1938 at age 16. These were the years of the Great Depression, and Lorraine’s family weathered the storm better than most.  The parsonage sat on top of a hill and had a beautiful view of the town of Center City and Chisago Lake. Lorraine remembers that there were times when her father was paid with food, since they were in the middle of farm country. She also remembers that her father preached a sermon in Swedish and another in English every Sunday. And they had to be different sermons because the congregants would stay for both.  In the winter, members of the church went out and started their cars to warm them up between services, to be sure they would start once church was over.

Lorraine wanted to be a nurse, but since she was only 16, she was too young to enter nurses’ training. So, in the fall of 1938, she headed to the University of Minnesota where her brother was in Medical School.  Their father, Axel, struggled with heart trouble, so her parents left the church in Minnesota in 1939 and moved to Chicago. Axel became the Superintendent of Augustana Inner Mission, and Lorraine moved with them to Chicago.  Still too young for nurses’ training, Lorraine enrolled at North Park College, where she met her future husband, Raymond Olson. In the fall of 1940, Lorraine entered the nursing school at Augustana Hospital in Chicago.  She graduated in 1943 and went to work for her favorite teacher and talented physician, Dr. Crean. In 1945 she married Raymond, who had recently graduated from Northwestern University Dental School.  They lived in the Austin neighborhood in western Chicago, on the second floor of a two-flat with Ray’s parents on the first floor.  They were active members of the Austin Covenant Church, and it was here that their two sons were born, James in 1950 and John in 1953. Her favorite memories from this time were when she spent summers in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with her boys, with Ray traveling back and forth on weekends.

Many of the children of the Swedish immigrants who lived in Austin started to explore options of moving out of the city, and Lorraine and Ray did the same.  One option was to move to a Chicago suburb, but they decided to move a bit further, to South Florida.  After traveling to Florida a number of times, they decided to settle in Ft. Lauderdale.  They were among the first to settle in the Sunrise area, and home movies show how undeveloped Ft. Lauderdale was at the time.  They built Ray’s dental practice on Intracoastal Boulevard, and their home on Middle River Drive. It was there that their daughter, Anita, was born in 1961. Sadly, the marriage soon floundered, and Lorraine and Ray divorced in 1964.   

Thankfully, Lorraine found happiness again, marrying Gordon Holmen, a widowed Covenant pastor, in 1966. Many years earlier, they had been in the same Swedish class at North Park, and the families had become reacquainted in Florida. The size of the family grew, and Lorraine became step-mother to Helen, Karen, and Bill, all of them older than her own children. Lorraine and Gordon moved to the Bradenton-Sarasota area, where Gordon served the Tri-Par and Trailer-Estates Covenant Churches.  Once Anita was in school, Lorraine re-started her nursing career, something that gave her deep satisfaction. They founded Sarasota Tours so that they could plan and lead groups of retirees on adventures to such places as Hawaii, Mexico, Scandinavia, and the Western U.S. National Parks.  Lorraine took care of most of the financial details of these trips. They also brought groups to Plantation, Florida to attend the Benevolence dinners at what was then known as Covenant Village, and to tour the facilities.

As they neared retirement, Gordon and Lorraine enjoyed spending summers in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where her son Jim lives. They continued to travel, although not with a busload of people in tow.  In 1991, when Lorraine was 70 years old and Gordon was 72, they moved into Covenant Village. Lorraine soon joined a group of quilters and made many dear friends. The Village became home to them. In fact, it was the longest Lorraine lived in one place her entire life. Gordon passed away in 2003, and his daughters Karen and Helen preceded him in death. Lorraine remained active and was able to live independently well into her 90s. She enjoyed a special friendship with Bob Hall until his death.

In addition to her loving husband, Gordon Holmen, Lorraine was predeceased by her parents, her brother, Dr. Clayton Nelson, and her nephew, Paul Nelson. She is survived by her children, Bill Holmen (Gail) of Angels Camp California, Dr. James Olson (Kitty) of Hendersonville, North Carolina, Dr. John Olson of Orlando, Florida, and Dr. Anita Olson Gustafson (Charlie) of Clinton, South Carolina, twelve grandchildren, nineteen great-grandchildren, and her dear friend, Anne Owens. She was dearly loved and will be missed by all of us.

A celebration of life service will be held in the Chapel of Covenant Living of Florida at 11 am on Wednesday, November 1, 2023.  In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in memory of Lorraine Holmen to the Covenant Living of Florida Benevolent Care Fund, 9215 W. Broward Blvd. Suite 100, Plantation, FL 33324.

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