Lois Bouton '39
At 91 years of age, Lois (Guenette) Bouton continues to be a bright light to Coast Guard men and women serving our country around the world. In 1939, when Lois graduated from Northern Illinois State Teachers College, she had no idea what course her life would take or that she would gain celebrity status as "The Coast Guard Lady."
Even though Lois lives miles away in Arkansas, NIU still holds a special place in her heart. Through the years, Lois has supported the College of Education's Miriam Anderson Endowment, which provides scholarships to students studying kinesiology and physical education.
Recently, Lois discovered another way she could benefit NIU and receive dependable, fixed payments for life—through a charitable gift annuity. "The rates were great…I look forward to that deposit in my checking account every quarter. It really helps make ends meet on my fixed income and I feel good knowing I am helping my alma mater," Lois says.
The Coast Guard Lady
Lois recalls her younger days at NIU in the midst of the Depression, when her parents sacrificed so that she could go to college. Lois loved to swim and pursued a degree in physical education, and later switched to elementary education. She lived with more than a dozen girls in Shafer House on Locust Street. "We had one bathroom and never had any problems. I think it was because there was no mirror in that bathroom," Lois chuckles. She remembers $15 per quarter tuition and 10-cent Prince Castle sundaes. "We always had a good time," Lois says.
Reaching out and helping others comes naturally to this lady with a zest for life. After college she launched a 30-year teaching career in Lake County, Illinois. One day, Lois was intrigued by a story she read to her students about a Coast Guard rescue off Lake Michigan. She thought it might be interesting to work with them, and inquired about a job. "I think I was looking for a little more excitement," Lois recalls.
From 1943 to 1945 Lois served in the Coast Guard women's reserve as a boot camp teacher and later a radio operator. It was during this time that she met her late husband, William. The couple married and, after the war, Lois returned to teaching.
Lois encouraged her students to write letters to the servicemen at the nearby Great Lakes Naval Hospital. On one occasion she delivered the letters herself and took along chocolate chip cookies. That earned her the nickname "Chocolate Chip Lady." As Lois' visits became regular, she says it was clear that she preferred visiting and delivering cookies to the Coast Guard veterans first before the other veterans. She soon became The Coast Guard Lady and continues to be called that today because of the thousands of letters she has sent to Coast Guard members and their families around the world. "I never know what's going to come out of my pen when I start writing, but I'm never at a loss for something to say," Lois says.
In August she sends out U.S. Coast Guard Day greetings and throughout the year she answers the hundreds of letters she receives from Coast Guard members and their families. "Every once in a while someone will feel sorry for me and send stamps," Lois smiles. Her relationships with her Coast Guard friends keep her spirits buoyed. "It keeps me young. I have a purpose in life and I enjoy doing it. I love going to the mailbox each day. I never know what surprises will turn up," Lois says.
And it's that spirit and caring attitude for the Coast Guard, her alma mater, and for others that makes Lois so special.