Viola (Kringler) Braa ’32, one of Concordia’s oldest alumni, died Feb. 24.
Braa was born in 1909 in Buffalo, N.D., and grew up on a farm. As a child, she was often sick and missed so much school that she had to repeat the first grade and never imagined she would live to be 108 years old.
To put it into perspective, 108 years ago, the U.S. issued the first Lincoln penny and William Taft was president. In 1932, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression and Amelia Earhart became the first woman to make a solo air crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.
After graduating from high school, Braa enrolled at Concordia where she studied English and music, and was a member of the Concert Choir (now The Concordia Choir). After graduation, she enrolled in Valley City College, while working in a telephone exchange in Buffalo, to obtain a degree in elementary education.
In 1935, she was hired for a teaching position in Buchanan, N.D., where she taught first-grade through third-grade music and high school chorus. Her total salary was $564 for the school year. While she was there, she met the principal of the school, Hildor Braa, whom she married in 1941.
During the war years, married women weren’t allowed to hold jobs, so she stayed home to raise their family of three boys but returned to teaching after the war and retired in 1972.
The family moved several times in North Dakota until settling in California in 1959. Braa passed away in a senior living facility in Fresno, where she spent her remaining years close to family.
Braa’s husband passed away in 1997. She is survived by her three sons and their wives, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A Celebration of Life Memorial Service was held March 10.
“She was a great person that had an infectious laugh,” said her grandson, Erik Braa. “That’s what I will always remember. She was asked, ‘what’s the secret?’ And she replied, ‘Just laugh a lot.’”