Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society hires new Executive Director, Tessa Flak

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Iowa native moves to South Dakota

Tessa Flak grew up in Decorah, Iowa in a farming family that loved Laura Ingalls Wilder and her stories. She double majored in sociology and anthropology at Iowa State University and graduated in May of 2015. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society (LIWMS) is thrilled to have hired her as their new Executive Director.

Tessa said, “This is a dream job for me. I am very interested in doing research and preservation work, I couldn’t pass it up!”

Earlier in 2015, Tessa worked at Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center, in Decorah, Iowa. She focused on one specific project related to the National Exhibition of Norwegian Folk Art and updated the website content for their Gold Medalist Virtual Portfolio.

Tessa & Cheryl, working together to ease transition

The previous LIWMS Executive Director, Cheryl Palmlund, is now retiring. However, Cheryl continues to work part-time to help ease the transition for Tessa. Cheryl will work closely with Tessa, assist with bookwork and help with special projects.

Cheryl has worked at the LIWMS since 1990, and her contributions over time have been significant. She served as executive director from 2003 to 2015. Cheryl’s retirement will be full of sewing, gardening and enjoying time with her grandkids, two grown children and husband. Cheryl especially enjoys making American Girl doll clothing.

Tessa grows up a Laura fan!

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Every year during its annual Laura Days, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa allows both boys and girls to try out for their Little Miss Laura and Young Almanzo contests.

Tessa said, “I grew up near Burr Oak, Iowa and Laura and her family lived seven miles from my home for one year in the late fall of 1876. After my freshman year of high school, I started working as a tour guide at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum. I worked for eight summers as a tour guide.”

Tessa and her family were very involved in the local museum, but their Laura involvement didn’t stop there. Like many other Laura fans, the Flak family planned their family vacations around Laura’s home sites.

During the summer when she was 11 years old, Tessa visited De Smet for the first time. During that trip, her family traveled to Laura’s home in Walnut Grove, MN and out to the Black Hills and saw Mount Rushmore. When they traveled to Branson, Missouri, they stopped to visit Laura’s homes in Mansfield, MO, and Independence, KS.

“I became a huge Laura fan. Of course, I read all of the books and more books about Laura, too.” Tess explained, “Our family trips and involvement with the local museum were important to me.”

Tessa and her family visited all of the Midwest locations where the Ingalls family had lived, but needed to visit Malone, New York, where Farmer Boy was based.

“We went to New York City, and I practically dragged my family to Malone. It was an extra five hour car drive, but it was totally worth it! Farmer Boy is my favorite book in the series, and I was not leaving New York without seeing Malone. My family was glad that I made them go, because in the evening we went to Niagara Falls. It was beautiful.”

Tessa will now call the Little Town on the Prairie home and begin her career sharing Laura’s legacy with travelers from all around the world!

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12 comments on “Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society hires new Executive Director, Tessa Flak

  1. Lori says:

    Congratulations Tessa. You have had a life of training for this job…Laura would be proud.

  2. Shirley Ham says:

    Congratulations to both Cheryl and Tessa. Cheryl, on her retirement, and Tessa, for the perfect dream job!

  3. Cindy A. says:

    Congratulations, Tessa! And very best wishes for retirement Cheryl! I love getting the monthly email of updates. Laura’s books were special to me growing up. Our daughter loved them too as well as the family recipes and now we look forward to sharing the stories with our granddaughter.

  4. Carolyn says:

    Congrats Tessa and Cheryl! And, thank you for continuing a legacy and tradition – the monthly emails are so special and treasured!

  5. Connie in Colorado says:

    Welcome, Tessa! I wish you well as you settle into this new leadership position in my favorite Little Town on the Prairie. You can count on the great resources and previous good work of those who laid a firm foundation for preserving the unique properties and frontier story of the Ingalls and Wilders. Looking forward to meeting you someday!

    Connie Ryle Neumann
    “On the Trail of Laura Ingalls Wilder”
    and the
    Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association

  6. Marilyn says:

    Congratulations Tessa. Wishing you a world of success. Cheryl have a wonderful retirement.
    Marilyn,Joan and Marion

  7. Sandy Petkovsek says:

    Congratulations, Tessa, on landing this dream of a job!!!

  8. Elpy says:

    Congratulations, Tessa on your new career

  9. Kelly says:

    What a beautiful story…..and legacy of your own life….you will be a wonderful addition to Discover Laura and sharing her life history with so many others. Welcome!
    Kelly from Finger Lakes in New York State….

  10. Congratulations and best of luck.

  11. Mindy Kampert says:

    Welcome Tessa, you sound like you are PERFECT for the job!! I am a huge Laura’s fan and YOU HAVE MY DREAM JOB!!! haha Mindy Kampert

  12. john anthony griffin says:

    dear tessa ,,,,,,,hearty congratulations from a huge laura fan in birmingham uk, you are made for this job, good luck and all good wishes,,,,,,if i was 40yr s younger you would of had a bit more competition, .but you still would of got the role , john griffin,

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