On Tuesday, May 19th, Excelsior Springs citizen Ellen Halvorson turned 100 years old! Currently a resident at Valley Manor, her birthday celebrations had to be put on hold due to the precautionary measures nursing homes are taking out of risk of the coronavirus. While family was unable to visit directly with her, they were able to share some information regarding her story and the great life that she has had here.
Lori Hicks, Ellen’s daughter, shared that her parents were originally farmers from Alberta, Canada. When her parents married in 1959, they came to Independence, Missouri for the honeymoon and to visit her mother’s brother who was living there at the time. During World War II, Ellen’s husband Alfred, received a deferment from serving because he was a farmer. When a drought hit Canadian farmers in 1961, the Halvorson’s wanted to return to the Missouri area. Originally looking for a farm in Excelsior Springs but landing on one in Cowgill, their farm included wheat, cattle, pigs, and oats and grains.
The Halvorson’s had their daughter Lori a month after having moved here and she has a younger brother named Neil. Growing up, she said that her parents never felt that they should take leadership roles because they were immigrants. That didn’t keep Ellen from being involved with school activities, though. She was a good baker and often made molasses cookies and homemade bread for activities, such as the Polo Music Boosters Banquet.
“Grammy” Ellen’s cooking is something that Ellen’s grandchildren have also enjoyed. For Lori’s oldest daughter, Ellen made 500 or 600 hot rolls for her wedding reception. Grandson Brett Hicks remembers the cookies, apple pies, and hot rolls that she fed the grandkids growing up. Granddaughter Ambrielle Hennager, remembering when she was younger, shared that Grammy Ellen always loved to bake. She said, “Oh, I know. EVERY grandma loves to bake. Only difference is, my grandma literally is the best at it!”
Growing up she learned in a one room schoolhouse and rode a horse to school. Because the girls couldn’t wear pants at the time, her legs under her dress were frozen by the time she got there in the winters. Her siblings and she had a family band, with each of them playing an instrument. Ellen on piano, they would often take their gig to community dances. Throughout her life she has been an avid reader and letter writer, until her eyesight gave up on her. She’s never had a television and only got a radio late in life. While in the states, she’s never had a drivers license, though she drove before while in Canada.
Ellen never let her age get in the way of what was needing done on the farm. Even in her 70’s, Lori said, her mother was shoveling grain and continued farming. It wasn’t until she was almost 80 that she retired. Since breaking a hip and damage to her knee, Ellen has been living at Valley Manor in Excelsior Springs. The staff at the Manor said, “We enjoy hearing about her life through rougher times than COVID. It really makes us all appreciate life as we know it.”
Now a Centurian, Ellen Halvorson is a woman who has lived through the Great Depression and remembers when Jello was originally hitting the stores in Canada. Now she can add a great pandemic to her list of experiences she’s had along the way.
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