Virginia J. Leland

Monday, October 17, 2016 1:25 pm

Virginia J. Leland, 89, of Decorah, died Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah. Memorial services are at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at Decorah Lutheran Church with Rev. David Sorenson officiating. Private family inurnment is in Lutheran Cemetery in Decorah. Visitation begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, one hour before the service, at Decorah Lutheran Church. In lieu of flowers, please give memorials to Minnesota Public Radio, 480 Cedar Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101, Friends of Iowa Public Television Foundation, 6535 Corporate Drive, P.O. Box 6400, Johnston, IA 50131-6400, or Decorah Parks and Recreation Office, 400 Claiborne Drive, P.O. Box 513, Decorah, IA 52101. Virginia always helped fund her grandsons’ recreation classes and would have wanted all children to have a chance to participate.

Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah is serving the family. Online condolences may be made at

A long-time resident of Decorah, Virginia was born July 10, 1927, at the farm of her maternal grandparents near Oconomowoc, Wis. Her parents, Cora (Gunderson) Johnson and Nels M. Johnson (a native of Norway) were at the time residents of Chicago, Ill. where they had moved seeking employment in the early 1920s. Virginia attended the public schools in Chicago, graduating from high school in Jan. 1946. She then enrolled in the University of Chicago, completing her general studies in Dec. of 1947. In 1948 she went on into a graduate program in human development for an additional three years, at the same time serving as an assistant teacher in the nursery school which was part of the university’s laboratory schools. In Nov. of 1947, she married Earl J. Leland, a fellow student at the university, a native of Superior, Wis. and a veteran of service in World War II. The Lelands continued their studies at the university until 1959, when they moved to Decorah where Earl Leland began a 27-year teaching career at Luther College. Virginia had a variety of jobs during her residence in Decorah. She had several secretarial jobs at Luther College library in the early years and later worked for Edward Jones brokerage firm. When not employed she was a frequent volunteer for community-based organizations. She was a long-time member of the American Association of University Women and of the Luther College Woman’s Club. She was a member and officer of the Mental Health Association of Winneshiek County during the years when it was active in supporting the first rural-based mental health center in the state of Iowa. She was a volunteer for many years at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, the Aase Haugen Home and the R.S.V.P. organization. She was also active in the women’s groups for the Decorah Lutheran Church, where she was a long-time member. The mother of three children and grandmother of five, she always found her greatest satisfaction in caring for her family and contributing to the betterment of her community.

Virginia is survived by her children: Timothy (Anne) Leland, Shorewood, Minn., Cora Leland, Minneapolis, Minn., Amy (David) Usgaard, Decorah; her brother, Paul Johnson, Homer, Alaska; five grandchildren: Elizabeth Leland, Minneapolis, Minn., Robert Leland, Minneapolis, Minn., Curtis Usgaard, Ames, Daniel Usgaard, La Crosse, Wis., Douglass Usgaard, Decorah.

Virginia was preceded in death by her husband, Earl J. Leland, April 30, 1995.

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