Lisette Ellene (Taylor) Moermond passed away peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her three sons, Jim, Tim, and Kim, in the early hours of August 27, 2017, in Homme Home Assisted Living in Wittenberg, Wisconsin.
Lisette was born nearly a century ago, six weeks after the end of World War I, on December 21, 1918, in Landerneau in Finistère in France (translated to English, she was born in the “land of the moon at the end of the earth”).
Lisette was the daughter of Vernon H. Taylor, an American naval officer stationed in France during World War I, and his French wife, Germaine (Jambou) Taylor. In the late spring of 1919, Lisette and her mother made their way to America as guests on the Empress of Scotland (formerly the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria), a German ship confiscated by the Allies and used to transport American troops back home. The nurses on the ship knitted a baby blanket for the youngest passenger’s voyage.
When they arrived in Sioux City, Iowa, which became her home, Lisette was celebrated in the Sioux City Journal as “Sioux City’s First International Baby” and she and her mother as the First International War Bride and War Baby.
Lisette spoke French until she was 3 years old, and spoke French to all her pets and with her family whenever she could for the rest of her life.
Lisette was soon joined by two brothers, René (born in 1920) and Paul (born in 1922). By all reports they had a very loving family. Their father was a conductor on the Chicago and Northwest Railroad, and he would bring back art supplies for Lisette and fireworks for the children, even in the depths of the Depression. Her mother, Germaine, known to all as “Michi”, would tell the children bedtime stories from the famous operas, such as “Les Miserables,” and other classic stories she had grown up with in France.
In her youth, Lisette studied piano and violin and did ballet and toe dancing, elocution, and horseback riding. Lisette was a pianist in the orchestra at her school. Lisette was raised Catholic and played organ at the St. Joseph Catholic Church and also played the piano at her father’s Presbyterian Church.
Lisette also loved art and wanted to be a fashion designer. Lisette and her mother Michi would window shop at the finest stores of the time, with Lisette drawing the dresses and then converting them into patterns which Michi, a fine seamstress, would then make.
Lisette wrote and illustrated a children’s book when she was at Floyd School in Sioux City. She also won an award for being the most healthy student in her school at Floyd (and to the best of anybody’s knowledge outlived all the other participants). She graduated in 1937 from Central High School in Sioux City, known as the “Castle on the Hill,” where her father had graduated at age 14 in 1902.
After graduation, Lisette worked briefly at a fashion store and was a model for the Genelli Studios and Conde Nast publication photographers.
Lisette then attended the Art Insitute of Chicago for one year. Lisette was proficient in all media, from pencil, chalk, water color, oil paints, and, her favorite, charcoal.
Lisette returned to Iowa, and, on June 21, 1940, she married James Orlin Moermond, who at the time owned a plumbing business in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Their first child, James Moermond, Jr., was born in 1941. After World War II broke out, James went to work in the shipyards in Long Beach, California in 1942 and was joined there by Lisette and their son, living in Redlands, California. James then enlisted in the Navy as a Pharmacist’s Mate.
After the War James wanted to become a doctor, so the family moved back to Sioux City, Iowa, where James finished his premed studies at Morningside College, and their second child, Timothy C. Moermond was born in 1947. They then moved to Iowa City, where James was President of his medical class at the University of Iowa Medical School, and Lisette helped her husband study for tests.
When James graduated from medical school, the family then moved to Duluth, Minnesota, for James’ internship at St. Luke’s Hospital. James then began his career as a Medical Doctor in general practice in Hull, Iowa, for two years and then moved to Buffalo Center, Iowa, in 1954, where Dr. Moermond joined two other doctors (Drs. Kroack and Feldick) to run the Buffalo Center Hospital and Clinic.
The family made Buffalo Center their home, and in 1961, James and Lisette had their third son, Kim, born and raised in Buffalo Center. Dr. Moermond practiced in Buffalo Center until he retired in 1978 for health reasons, as the last remaining doctor in the town. After closure of the Buffalo Center Hospital, Dr. Moermond and Lisette converted the building into the “Clinic Apartments,” and lived in their apartment there until 1983. For a time Lisette helped her husband run the “Antique Clinique,” which was built out of the old waiting room and doctor office area, where they sold antiques they had enjoyed collecting.
During the family’s life in Buffalo Center, Lisette was quite active in civic and women’s organizations. Lisette was a member of the Order of Eastern Star, where she would help with events and play piano. Lisette was also active in the National Society of Arts and Letters, the Federated Women’s Club, and the Methodist Church. Lisette did numerous art and other projects for each of these various organizations and for events, including special art displays for the Buffalo Center School. She was also in the Iowa State Medical Auxiliary.
Lisette also maintained contact with the family in France. Lisette was able to visit her French cousins in France, and Lisette’s French family, including her grandmother, aunts, and cousins visited here in America several times over the years. Once Kim was able to call his Mom from Landerneau on her birthday while traveling in Europe.
In 1983 Lisette and her husband moved to Antigo, Wisconsin, to be nearer to her children and grandchildren, who had wound up in Wisconsin. In 1989 her husband James died of a heart attack. Lisette continued to live in their home in the woods outside Antigo until she moved to Homme Home in Wittenburg, Wisconsin, for assisted living in 2012. Lisette preferred to be called “Lee,” a nickname she got from her husband, and, in her later years, by the nickname of “Nez-Nez,” which she got from her grandchildren after giving them eskimo nose kisses (as her French grandmother had done to her). Lisette loved being mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, and remained the center of her family. Lisette also remained a constant point of contact for the entire extended family, both hers and her husband’s family.
Lisette was preceded in death by her father, mother, brothers, and husband. Lisette is survived by her three sons, Jim, Tim and Kim Moermond, by her 8 grandchildren, Jim, Marcia, Barb, Tim, Jonas, Jade, Sam and Jacob Moermond, and her 3 great grandchildren, Taylor, Tucker and Tessa Moermond (all of whom were able to visit Lisette during her brief, but final, illness), and by her numerous nieces, nephews and cousins, including one remaining cousin in France, Germaine Dennez.
A memorial service for Lisette will be held at the Homme Home on Saturday, September 2, with reception from 12:00 to 2:00 and service at 2:00.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Homme Home Foundation, in memory of Lisette (Lee) Moermond. Address: 604 South Webb Street, Wittenberg, WI 54499.