John Rudolf | August 4, 2014 | Notre Dame Magazine
In the summer of 1989, 29-year-old Norma Kreilein finished her pediatrics residency at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, packed up her house in Altadena and drove east with her husband, Mike, to Indiana. Norma was a country girl returning to her roots. She grew up on a family farm in a rural hamlet known as Duckville, a few miles outside of Ferdinand, a town of about 1,500 people in Dubois County, in southwestern Indiana. Her parents were third-generation German Catholic immigrants farming the same 200 acres their grandparents settled on back in the 1850s. They raised cattle and grew corn and soybeans, but the economics of the farm business were brutal, and the family of 10 struggled to make ends meet.
In her teens, Kreilein worked as one of her high school’s janitors, scrubbing toilets and sweeping floors after class, and babysat on the weekends. She dreamed of becoming a doctor, studied hard and, in her senior year, was accepted to Notre Dame. That summer she saved money for college by working at a local factory, cleaning engine rods. In the evenings, after her factory shift, she waited tables at a pizza parlor. When she headed off to South Bend in 1978, she was the first person in her family to attend college.