Biruta Straumanis


10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 17th, 2022
O'Connell Family Funeral Home
225 South 3rd Street
River Falls WI, 54022

Biruta Straumanis, who is remembered by her family as an avid gardener, talented cook and voracious consumer of the news media, died Friday, Sept. 9, in River Falls Area Hospital. She was 96.

Straumanis, a resident of River Falls Township, was born Feb. 14, 1926, in Nitaure parish, Latvia. She was the second of three daughters born to Aleksandrs and Anna Kaneps.

She was a high school student in Riga, the capital of Latvia, when Soviet forces occupied the country during the Second World War, followed by Nazi Germany’s invasion. As the German front collapsed and a second Soviet occupation began, Straumanis joined tens of thousands of other Latvian refugees who fled to western Europe.

While living in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany, Straumanis attended the Baltic University, a school established by Baltic refugees. She then joined other young Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian women who were recruited to emigrate to Great Britain where they worked as nurses under the “Balt Cygnet” program. It was while stationed in Nottingham that she developed a passion for all things British, including her favorite tea, Earl Grey.

In October 1955, she sailed for Canada. “I cried all the way, because I liked England,” she later told a reporter for the Daily Egyptian, the campus newspaper of Southern Illinois University. The following year she married Alfreds Straumanis, a Latvian refugee who had immigrated to the United States. The couple relocated to New York, where in 1957 their son, Andris, was born.

Straumanis continued to work as a registered nurse in university clinics and hospitals in New York, North Carolina and Illinois. She retired from Southern Illinois University in the early 1990s and joined her husband at their new home in River Falls Township. There, she tended to her flower and vegetable gardens, as well as consumed local and international news. She often commented after dinner that it was time for her to watch the news to find out “if the Earth is still turning.”

Straumanis is survived by her son, Andris, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls; granddaugher, Kaija Straumanis (and husband Chad W. Post), and great grandson, Aleksandrs, all of New York; and sister, Anna, of Saldus, Latvia. She was preceded in death by her husband, Alfreds Straumanis; her parents; and a sister, Ilga. A private memorial service was held Sept. 17 at the O’Connell Family Funeral Home in River Falls.

Services are entrusted to O’Connell Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services of River Falls,, 715-425-5644