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Westra, Rena (1901-1997) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Westra, Rena (1901-1997)

Historical Note:

Daughter of Dutch immigrants, Rena Westra, grew up with her parents telling her that education was for boys. Despite having finished high school at the age of 21, Westra was able to receive further education through Butterworth Hospital School of Nursing and Columbia University. Westra wanted to enter the missionary field, and through the Presbyterian Board of Missions, she was able to become a foreign missionary in China. She was to teach nursing education, and did so for several years.

While in China, her work was interrupted by the Communist army. They put her in house arrest for two years.  She was finally escorted to the Hong Kong border, and left for Thailand. She taught in Thailand for 14 years. She eventually made her way back to the United States, settling in Wisconsin. While in Wisconsin she worked at care facilities and wrote instructional manuals.  In 1985 Westra moved to Bradenton, Florida for retirement.  Even in retirement, she continued to learn. She even bought a computer at the age of 90.  In 1997, at the age of 96, Rena Westra passed away. She wrote of her experiences in China, "For the Scenario of Life There is No Script" before her death.

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