Louise LaBay loves people and finds enjoyment in learning from them and helping them. She attributes that interest in life and her loving attitude to her parents and to her husband of 33 years, Hugh.
Along with an encompassing love is a quest for learning that has stayed with her through her 68 years. She attended Northern State College during the depression years, working her way through. Later she taught in South Dakota and California public schools. She has two children from a previous marriage, Joan Livingstone of New York City, a freelance writer, and James Moulds of Great Falls, Montana, a public school superintendent.
That same quest for learning has made it possible for her to avail her volunteer talents to the community of Brentford and to the state of South Dakota.
The southwest Faulk County native is a 32-year member of the TNT Extension homemakers club. Louise organized the club in 1949 and was its first president. Still a member, she served on the county and state councils of the South Dakota Extension Homemaker Clubs from 1952-61. She was state health and safety project leader in 1956-57 before becoming chairman of the state mental health project during a special two-year effort.
In her work with the mental health project, the former teacher conducted a survey on the needs in South Dakota for mental health services. In 1963 she was selected by the National Association for Mental Health to appear on a symposium at a regional leadership conference in Texas. From 1957-67 she served on the State Board of Mental Health and held the offices of vice president and treasurer. She also served on the county Board of Mental Health and was county chairman for four years; she was on the executive board of the Northeast Mental Health Association for two years and represented Spink County on the Advisory Board for six years.
Mrs. LaBay has been active in the Red Cross and was the first president of the North Spink Cancer Unit in 1956-57. She was present at the organizational meeting of the Farm Safety Council in Huron in 1957-58. In 1967-69 the needs of the elderly became apparent to the Women’s Fellowship of the Brentford Church. Louise coordinated a senor citizens group in both Brenford and Mellette and soon after the towns of Northville and Mansfield joined the unit.
Mrs. LaBay applied for a grant that would allow the North Spink Unit to hire a driver for a school bus which would transport the elderly to Aberdeen twice a month and to Redfield, the county seat, once a month. The grant was approved and the bus went into motion.
At that time she was the acting president of a group from Spink County that organized into a County Council for Senior Citizens. Officers were elected and eventually the group was incorporated, a director hired and a building provided.
The Eminent Homemaker has always been an active member of the United Church of Christ. When the congregation did not have a resident minister, Mrs. LaBay organized the Congregational Church Youth Group in Brentford and was its leader for eight years. She was also a 25-year Sunday School teacher and served on local church boards. She has been president of the local Women’s Fellowship, president of the Association Women’s Fellowship and its moderator in 1957.
She served on the State Board of Directors of the Congregational Church for six years and was elected moderator-elect of the United Church of Christ in South Dakota in 1973 and was the State Conference Moderator in 1974.
During her years on the board, members became aware that a history of the Conference of the Church had never been written. Along with a history-conscious minister and the state superintendent, Mrs. LaBay formed a committee and selected writers. Louise served as chairman and again applied for a grant. The grant application resulted in $7,000 which was met with matching funds. The book was completed during the bicentennial year and presented at the spring conference.
She is currently the state chairman of the State Historical Committee of the United Church of Christ, trustee of the Midwest United Church of Christ Historians, representative of Spink County on the advisory board of the Northeastern Mental Health Center, member of the Spink County Historical Society and a life member of the South Dakota Historical Society. She also belongs to the National History Organization, the “Western Corral” of Aberdeen.
How does she view her most recent honor, 1982 Eminent Homemaker in South Dakota? With the full support of her husband and family during her years of service to others, she added, “This is an honor for the whole family—and for my TNT club members—not just for me.”