If there’s one thing Sister Ladonna Kassmeyer is sure of, it’s that Marjorie Reinhart is enjoying the company of saints.
Reinhart died Monday, depriving the community of a quiet giver who supported hospitals, the Catholic church, schools and the arts.
Viterbo University President Rick Artman said Reinhart stepped up in both business and philanthropy when her husband, D.B., died in 1996.
“She was a very savvy business woman. The family has been very generous to Viterbo and the community,” he said. “She’s been with five presidents at Viterbo. We will miss her greatly.”
The school’s science center is named for the Reinharts. She’ll also be missed at the two medical centers in town.
Peter Grabow, executive director of Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Health Care Foundation, said Reinhart’s influence is everywhere.
“In any direction you look, you can see the influence she and the Reinhart family have had — in the arts, children, education, higher education and the medical community.”
She was instrumental, he said, in fundraising for the Advanced Medicine and Surgery building at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.
“She really cared about this community, and she left it a much better place,” Grabow said.
Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center also experienced her generosity, said Phil Schumacher, executive director of Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation. She donated annually and also gave $2 million in support of the cancer center and $3 million for a device used in precise procedures that limited damage to surrounding tissues.
“She thought about what was needed and really followed up afterwards,” Schumacher said. “Our doctors often had conversations with her and were able to tell her what they were able to do with the gift she made. That was an important thing for her.”
Marjorie and D.B. Reinhart were a team, former Mayor Patrick Zielke said.
“She was a very positive woman,” he said. “She sure knew how to handle ‘Rhiny’. She knew his needs and wants and she seemed to be able to handle the pressures that are in the business world. She was still running the business,” after D.B. died. “She was a very sharp woman, but at the same time, she was a gentle woman. She was good for Rhiny, and she was good for La Crosse.”
Jim Hill, executive director of the La Crosse Area Development Corp., knew the Reinharts long before he joined the business world.
“Their kids, they were just behind me all the way back to Blessed Sacrament,” Hill said. “They were a team, ‘Rhiny’ and Marjorie. Together, that’s how all their efforts went forward. They did enormously important things for the La Crosse area,” some of which will never be known. “It’s an enormous loss for the community.”
Kay Berra, principal at Blessed Sacrament School, where the Reinharts’ children and grandchildren attended, said this is a personal loss to the Catholic community.
“I saw Marge and D.B. at First Communion and Christmas concerts. They took great pride in their family first and foremost.”
The Rev. Robert Hundt, former pastor at Blessed Sacrament, said Marge was generous financially but also was willing to give of herself.
“When you had a conversation with Marge,” Hundt said, “she had a point she wanted to make with you.”
And if that point involved money, she didn’t shy away from that.
Said Berra: “Marge did not want the big hoopla, but she would say, ‘Kay, what do you need?’ They were people who lived their faith and they imparted that to their children and grandchildren. Those young people will be good servant leaders as well because of Marge and D.B.”
Bishop William Callahan didn’t know Reinhart long, but he had visited with her twice, most recently in the hospital. “I found her to be a very extraordinary woman, in touch with all aspects of culture and life, and a little bit of sense of humor. I saw her a couple of weeks ago at Gundersen and she was eating a Dove bar — just the delight of eating ice cream and carrying on a conversation, in spite of the fact that she was quite sick. There is a deep sense of her presence in that family. I really wish I had gotten to know her better.”
Sister Ladonna Kassmeyer said Reinhart was “a gracious, faith-filled person who loved life. She gave her time and treasure to her family and causes dear to her heart.”
And when she had no more to give, she left to “enjoy the company of the saints.”