The last time Palace City Profiles interviewed the Laursen family, the story centered around Marius and Heidi's short-term plans for living in Mitchell. Marius and Heidi Laursen moved to Mitchell in 1997 and planned to stay only a year or two.
Marius recalled, "You know our story, we thought we'd stay for a year, absolutely no more than two, and then try to get back to Minneapolis." Heidi was from Minnesota, and the plan was to raise their family there. "Our goal was always to end up in the Twin Cities."
What happened instead is that Marius and Heidi found a "wonderful life" in Mitchell.
In the last Palace City Profile in 2015, the Laursens had lived in Mitchell for 18 years with their two children. Avery, their daughter, was then an eighth grader and into "everything fine arts," and their son Grayson was in third grade.
Fast forward to 2020, Avery is now in her sophomore year at Augustana. She is the third in the Laursen family to attend Augustana in Sioux Falls. Mom, Heidi studied nursing and is currently a registered nurse at Sanford Clinic. Dad, Marius, graduated from Augustana with a degree in history with an emphasis in elementary education. (You can read the story of how Marius found his current career path in the 2015 Palace City Profile.) He now serves as the Interim Chief of Fire and EMS in Mitchell.
Avery, who participated in various music programs at Mitchell High School, including the award-winning Mitchell High School Show Choir, now studies biology to emphasize ecology. A music scholarship helps with part of her tuition as long as she participates in a music group on campus. Avery is especially interested in etymology. Yes, she wants to study bugs.
Avery says, "Bugs play a huge role in agriculture, protecting the environment and protecting pollinators." She is currently thinking she may want to do field research in this area.
Avery says she sometimes gets questioned why she likes and has chosen to study bugs. She gushes, "Bugs are just the coolest things. They are just fascinating."
When asked if she has always collected bugs, she replies, "Not really, but I have always liked butterflies and caterpillars and thought they were cool."
Avery's interest in biology started when she took an AP Biology class her senior year. She gives her teacher Mrs. Olson all the credit for awakening her interest and inspiring her in pursuing a study of biology and, in particular, environmental studies. Avery believed previous to this class, she thought she wanted to be a graphic artist.
Last summer, Avery discovered she loved cockroaches when she worked in the biology department at Augustana. Her job of feeding them and cleaning their cages was, at first, not something she was incredibly crazy about. Yet, after caring for these little critters and learning more from her biology professors about the importance of insects in ecology, she was hooked, or should we say "bitten."
Avery hopes one day to further her study of etymology in graduate school, even earning a doctoral degree as an etymologist. Her interest and talent in art, currently her minor, she says, "will actually be a big help as drawing is crucial in the study of etymology."
While Avery is away at school, Grayson, now in ninth grade, finds high school in Mitchell to his liking. His favorite class so far is health occupations. He thinks one day he might like to go into the medical field, "anything but dental," he says. Then added, "I don't like going to the dentist."
Grayson enjoys participating in track and field events. He is a thrower of the shot put and discus. Like his sister Avery, Grayson is taking advantage of the quality music programs at Mitchell High School. He even made the show choir this year, which is quite an accomplishment for a freshman. Show choir will keep the busy family traveling during competition season. Even Avery hopes to catch a few performances.
Heidi and Marius both agree time spent traveling to Avery and Grayson's events and activities has enriched and blessed their lives. Many Mitchell memories have been made here. The family loves spending time together traveling, camping, biking, fishing, and attending school events.
When Heidi and Marius do have time alone, one occasion they are looking forward to this spring is the couple dance-off competition for Lifequest. This fun event and fundraiser was canceled last year due to COVID, but the Laursens are ready this year with their fire-themed dance. Yes, fire themed. What else would you expect from the Fire Chief?
The Laursen family never planned on being in Mitchell for more than a year or two. "We definitely didn't plan on staying here or loving it as much as we do." It's funny how things work out; looking back now, it definitely happened the right way."
"It's a Wonderful Life" for the Laursen family in Mitchell, South Dakota.
Palace City Profiles is an ongoing series of community members’ stories, introducing us to our neighbors and the personalities that call Mitchell home. If you have suggestions for an upcoming profile, please contact Karen Whitney at 996-1140.