The ABCs of Lowell History: Y is for Rosella Curtiss Yeiter

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about Rosella Curtiss Yeiter who was a prominent citizen in the early to mid-20th Century. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.


Rosella “Zella” Curtiss Yeiter was the wife of O. J. Yeiter. He was well known both as a businessman in furniture sales and funeral services. He served as president of the Village Council. Rosella may not be as well known but she certainly led an amazing life. She was adventurous, accomplished, active and most of all, she persevered through difficult times.

She was born in 1887, at Morse Lake near Alto. Her parents were Earl and Mary Evelyn Curtiss. Her grandfather was Sessions P. Curtiss, Civil War Soldier. After high school she studied music in Chicago and became a piano teacher. In 1909, she married Orlo J. Yeiter.

Rosella was very talented in dramatic and humorous readings. She was a popular performer for special events. When the showboat acts were all local talent, she and Peter Fineis became locally famous for their performance of “Me and My Shadow”. Many of her performances were locally written poems. Performance events included a 1931 Kent G.O.P. Women’s club meeting that also included State Representative Dexter G. Look, annual flower shows by the Lowell Garden Lore Club, YWCA Guild meetings, and countless church and social banquets in Grand Rapids.

At some point Orlo appears to have begun to struggle. The cause of Orlo’s struggle was not identified but it appears to have affected many levels of his life.

The November 26, 1936 Lowell paper stated “The inquiry culminates a series of misadventures, apparently consequent upon some disintegration in rational judgement, which have been very painful to relatives and friends, and peculiarly lamentable in view of the high status Mr. Yeiter enjoyed as a citizen and the nature of his valued services to the community in which he has lived.” Rosella filed for divorce in 1934. The couple later remarried only to divorce again in 1945. Orlo seems to have continued living with Rosella throughout this time. He died in 1949. When life became difficult with her husband’s struggles, Rosella held things together. She kept The Yeiter Company operating successfully. 1934 ads even list her as proprietor.

Rosella’s children were Evelyn Yeiter Speerstra, Samuel and Robert Yeiter. Evelyn spent time with her mother, spending weekends with her and socializing together. Evelyn and her husband, Peter Speerstra owned the local Dodge dealership for a while, along with the Speerstra Insurance Agency. They left a lasting legacy to Lowell in the form of a scholarship for Lowell High School graduates.

Both of Rosella’s sons served during World War II, and on multiple occasions the Yeiter name is included in the wounded in war report.

In March of 1943 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram printed an article by an International News Service War Correspondent that featured soldiers’ letters. It was titled “Eating, Mail and Cigarets top list of Soldiers’ pleas in letters to Mom.” The article included a letter from Capt. Samuel Yeiter to his mother, Mrs. Rosella Yeiter 527 Monroe Ave, Lowell, Mich: “Hiya, Mom: Everything’s okay. They just can’t spell my name right. Keep the door open. Be seein’ ya soon. Love, Sam” Sam led a reconnaissance regiment through Tunisia in Northern Africa against “Desert Fox” Gen. E. Rommel through Italy and France. He received the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for bravery, along with the La Croix de Guerre medal, one of the top honors of France. Sam was also Lowell’s first Eagle Scout.

Bob Yeiter was a paratrooper with the 505 Parachute Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army. He was included in the pre-dawn jump of D-Day behind enemy lines. His Division was credited with liberating the first French city of the Allied invasion at Normandy. He fought in numerous battles in Holland and in the Battle of the Bulge. He was also part of the march into Berlin.

It was not a surprise that Rosella joined in the home movement to support the soldiers. She served as district president of the 6th District Women’s Relief Corp, and was also a member of the Joseph Wilson Relief Corp.

Rosella also served her community as a member of the First United Methodist Church of Lowell and enjoyed working with the women’s groups. She served as a matron and life member of the Cyclamen Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star. She was also an elected official, serving as Treasurer for Lowell Township.

Through her life and the lives of her children, Rosella Yeiter’s legacy and impact is still felt in Lowell today.

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