July 01, 2015

Remembering Lorraine Pruett, Host Mother to Many

Late last year, Lorraine Pruett, a mother of two and host-mother to many international students, passed away at age 86.

Judy Xiaoyi Wu von Emloh'90, originally from China, with host parents Lorraine and Bill Pruett. Judy Xiaoyi Wu von Emloh’90, originally from China, with host parents Lorraine and Bill Pruett.
A longtime city of Beloit resident, Pruett and her husband, Dr. Bill Pruett, began serving as host parents as early as the mid-1960s.

“Lorraine and I probably started the international student host family program,” Dr. Pruett says with a laugh. He estimates that the couple hosted at least 20 students over the years. “Morocco, Malaysia, Italy, Turkey, China, Laos, and two from Russia,” he says, naming some of their home countries.

His interest in hosting students comes from his own experience. “I am a foreigner in a foreign land,” he says. He was born and raised in Vietnam by missionary parents. Lorraine’s interest had to do with her profession as a schoolteacher and her soul. “As a teacher,” Dr. Pruett says, “Lorraine had a soft spot for children, international and domestic.”

Their son, Steven, who now lives near Milwaukee, says one of his earliest memories is of sitting in a sinking kayak on Turtle Creek with his parents’ first unofficial international student.

The student, from Laos, carried a soaked and sobbing Steven out of the kayak and right up to the first house he found, which happened to belong to Beloit’s Dean of Men Gustav Johnson.

“I spent Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with Lorraine and Bill,” recalls Monica Gotomo’01. “We (international students) would decorate their big Christmas tree with ornaments from different countries.”

In addition, one big unifier for many who remained in touch with the Pruetts was food. “One summer we made raspberry jam out of the raspberry bushes in their front yard,” Gotomo says.

“Lorraine was like a grandmother to me,” Karl Mehta’04, who lives in India, wrote by email. “She was warm, friendly, kind, caring, and a generously large-hearted lady who truly looked after the international students she hosted. She knew I loved her pumpkin pie and always saved me an extra slice.” Mehta found the small moments to be the sweetest. “I vividly recall the quality time we’d spend catching up on life while doing the dishes after a wonderful meal or for an evening stroll in her lovely garden.”

Dr. Pruett concurs. “Lorraine just had a way to make people feel at home.”

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