Niina Rebassoo, a longtime resident of Decorah and popular teacher, succumbed to heart failure at age 97 in Seattle, Wash., Jan. 11, 2020.

A native of Estonia, Niina fled the Soviet Russian advance in 1944, and was reunited with her husband, Herbert, after his harrowing last-minute escape. Niina, Herbert and their infant son escaped again, as Russian troops poured into Central Europe. At minimum, being caught meant probable deportation to Siberia. The family became refugees in the American Zone of Germany, where in 1949 they gained admission to the US through the efforts of UNRRA, the US Congress and the Lutheran Church, along with thousands of others.

At the age of 25, she settled in Decorah and resumed her education, and raised three young children. After receiving a B.A. degree, from Luther College in 1958, Niina founded a German language program and taught in Decorah schools until her retirement in 1984. Once widowed, Niina joined her son Vaho in Seattle to assist with raising grandchildren, and to escape harsh Iowa winters. Nina traveled extensively. She visited the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China, as well as a son, Peep, in New York and another son, Arvi, in Germany. Arvi, the only family member born in the US, is also the only one of us to settle abroad, performing in orchestras.

The mountains and parks in Washington State became her favored destination, where she relished communing with nature.

She was grateful for a long life, her husband, and three sons (all of whom attended Decorah schools), grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her husband, Herbert Rebassoo, was a member of the Luther College mathematics faculty from 1949 until his death in 1971.

Niina is survived by her three sons, five grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.