Elkhorn's Doris Reinke perseveres and preserves

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Saturday, May 5, 2012
— Nobody can accuse 90-year-old Doris Reinke of disloyalty.

For the past 82 years, she's been a solid Chicago Cub fan.

She's equally committed to preserving Walworth County history.

Since she retired as a teacher and principal in Elkhorn, she has been the driving force behind historical preservation in Walworth County. She's president of the Walworth County Historical Society, a post she's held several times.

"I've been president three of four times, I guess," she said during a break from working at the Doris Reinke Cultural Center in Elkhorn. "There's a rule about consecutive terms, so I change off."

She might have to share the top post, but that doesn't mean she backs off on her work for the society. She's loyal to the organization and is at either the center or at the Webster House Museum every day.

The center is named after Reinke because the museum already was named after Joseph Webster, a famous composer who lived in the house and penned "In the Sweet By and By" and "Lorena," a song immortalized in the film "Gone With the Wind."

"Doris is the driving force behind preservation in Walworth County, and it was fitting that the center be named for her," Walworth County Administrator Dave Bretl said. "She is a remarkable person who is the soul of preservation for us."

Reinke's interest in historic preservation began in earnest when she joined the Elkhorn History Club. The club dissolved in 1993 after 100 years of service.

"In 1993, I joined the Walworth County Historical Society, and that's when I got involved with the Webster House," she said. "I've always been interested in history, but that's when I got serious about preservation."

Reinke can cite Joseph Webster statistics without a cheat sheet.

"He moved here in 1857 and wrote more than 1,000 songs, including ‘Lorena' and ‘In the Sweet By and By,''' she said. "What's remarkable about him is he was able to support a family of seven by writing songs. The sheet music sold for 10 cents apiece. That was his sole source of income."

Doris grew up in Delavan, attended UW-Milwaukee and took her first and only teaching job in Elkhorn.

"My mom was worried that I would stay in this small city all my life," Reinke said. "Well, I have, and I like it here."

While the county owns the historical society properties in Elkhorn, Reinke gets a lot of the credit for keeping the society's trains running on time.

"I've just been here so long, I guess I just know something about it," she said. "I like to keep busy."

It's no surprise to Elkhorn residents that Reinke drives every day.

"I have a 1995 Buick station wagon," she said. "I thought about getting a newer car, but they don't make them that big anymore, and it's always full of books and stuff, so I need a big car."

Although she's a Cub fan, Reinke attends Brewer games at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

"I have no problem going to a Brewer game—as long as they are playing the Cubs," she said. "As a matter of fact, I'm going to a Brewer-Cub game June 7 in Milwaukee."

There's a lot of history that goes with the Cubs—most of it bad—but Reinke continues to collect Cub memorabilia.

Her prized possession?

"I have a baseball signed by the 1984 team players," she said. "You know, that's one of the years we were supposed to win it all, but every year is the year we are supposed to win it all."

Reinke will have all bases covered at the June 7 game.

"I'm taking a hat from each team," she said. "After the game, I'll wear the winner's hat, but I hope it's the Cub hat."

Last updated: 8:39 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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