Louise Oehlman Took in the Orphaned Daughter of the Clampitts

Louise Oelhman

The kindness of a Dexter teacher to a family living in poverty during the Great Depression is evident in a family story from those years. Since Delbert and Donald Wilson didn’t have suitable clothes for the junior banquet, they didn’t want to go.

Miss Oehlman came to the house. She and their mother Leora sat outside on the top step, talking quietly. “They are important members of their class,” Miss Oelman said. “I’m sure I can borrow suits for them, if it would be all right with you.” 

The brothers got to attend the banquet.

Louise Oehlman was also a favorite teacher of my mother’s, who was Delbert and Donald’s younger sister.

Recently I learned more about this remarkable woman. When she taught in Dexter, W.D. Clampitt was the school superintendent.

Lois, Doris, and Ralph Clampitt, Dexter, Iowa, 1936

Mr. Clampitt and his wife had three children. Doris was born in 1929,  Ralph in 1931, and Lois in1935. During WWII, the Clampitts moved to Johnston, Iowa, where he was superintendent of schools.

Doris Clampitt died in 1943, at only age 14. Mrs. Clampitt died three years later, leaving Mr. Clampitt a widower with a son who was 15 and an 11-year-old daughter. Mr. Clampitt died two years later, leaving two children, ages 17 and 13.

Louise Oehlman returned to her hometown of Derby, Iowa, where she served as the school superintendent for twenty years.

I found information about the orphaned Clampitt children through Find a Grave. From the obituary of the youngest daughter, Lois: “Upon her parents early passing, she was raised by a dear family friend Louise Oehlman in Derby, IA.”

I wonder whether my mother knew this story about the kindness of a favorite teacher.



  1. I’m sure that many such acts of kindness went unreported during the Depression, a time when neighbors truly cared for and helped neighbors. I recall hearing how my grandfather during the time when many farmers were being instructed by the government to pour out surplus milk chose rather to give it away to needy families in the neighborhood.

    • In such a small town, the school and its activities were so important during those Depression years, especially when the teachers were so kind and encouraging.

  2. This is such a beautiful story! What a kind heart this woman had. You are right…in a small town in those Depression years, neighbors depended on neighbors. It is wonderful that you found this information and that you shared it with us. Thank you!

  3. Life appeared to be less tangled during the depression years. Decisions could be made out of the goodness of one’s heart. Louise Oehlman was a true blessing on this earth. Thank you for sharing this touching story, Joy.

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