Local centenarian reflects on life of adventure
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD – Floreine Kurtzweil was born seven miles south of Edgar on a farm on June 9, 1921, the oldest of seven children.
Kurtzweil attended Catholic school in Edgar, before two years of high school in Edgar and two in Stratford.
At the age of 21, Ruppert Kurtzweil and Annete Cepuder’s bright-eyed girl left for a visit in Chicago and stayed there 42 years.
“It was World War II and there was no social life,” she recalled. “My mother was kind of raised in Chicago, so there was opportunity.”
Kurtzweil went to the Windy City along with her sister, where some of her mother’s family still remained.
“We had to find a job. I was a secretary; I had no trouble because I was educated in Wisconsin, instead of Chicago. My skills were real good,” she recalled.
“I started out in the newsroom of the Chicago Tribune, which paper I still get today, daily.
“Then, I went to WGN, their radio station, and then a small advertising agency. I was only there a year or so, and then I went to a very big advertising agency – Leo Burnett.”
Kurtzweil worked for Leo Burnett from 1955, until she retired in 1983.
“I have kept a journal since the summer of 1942, when I went to Chicago. It has turned out to be a wonderful reference and reflection piece,” she explained.
“I took nice vacations. I remember in Mexico flying near an erupting volcano. Cuba in 1949, just before the border closed. 1952, Rome, a so-called ‘private’ audience (with 10 people), arranged by Mary Jane Carey, with whom I traveled – Pope Pius XII,” recalled Kurtzweil.
In Egypt, she recalled getting on the wrong camel.
“This was a tour. I was in Egypt at the Sphinx and the men owned a camel and that is their livelihood. They use it for tours. We get on the camel, and we ride to the Sphinx. I didn’t know any of their language, but they were all screaming and looking at me. Somebody said, ‘You got on the wrong camel,’” she laughed.
“I was at the first Reagan inauguration standing right down below the reviewing stand. I was there.”
Kurtzweil also went to Russia in 1988, right after the Cold War.
“This was the first travel trip that Russia allowed into the country, so it was just at the end of the Cold War. The guides were talking to me about Reagan,” she recalled.
“The main thing is, they all wanted to come to the United States. Doesn’t everybody?” she asked.
“I would have loved to have gone to Australia, but I never got there. That is about the only place.
“I always went to learn something, and I always felt that I was glad to live in the United States, every time I got back from a trip. Just grateful. I can understand people coming here; they want to live in the United States; they want a better life than what they have had for heaven’s sake.”
Kurtzweil says that she has no regrets looking over the past 100 years and is grateful to have gotten to the places she has, though she never took the opportunity to raise a family.
She added that if she could go back she would do it the same way all over again.
“Until I got away from home, I didn’t know there was anything else. It’s the truth; you’ve got to get out there,” she added.