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J's Life Story

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J's Life Story - Page Text Content

S: J Ellingson

BC: Made with Love by Judi & Shaunti

FC: J Ellingson

1: On a cold Thanksgiving Day in Forrestburg, South Dakota, on November 27th, 1929, J Wesley Ellingson was born at home. As J puts it, “"My mother was very thankful that Thanksgiving."” His parents, Jack (John Lorens Ellingson, born May 8, 1899) and Alta (Mary Alta Williams, born October 27, 1901) were married in Woonsocket, South Dakota 8 years earlier on June 15, 1921 and they now lived in Forrestburg where Jack owned a filling station and mechanic shop. J was proceeded by two older sisters, Naoma and Betty Lou. Three years later J'’s younger brother William John (Bill or Billy) was born and eventually his little sister Mary DeeAnn was born in 1940.

2: The Stock Market had crashed right before J was born and the Depression had just begun so times were tough. But little J didn't know anything different, life was normal to him and he became a survivor of sorts. One time curiosity got the best of him and he almost died after drinking fly spray. There wasn't a local doctor and it was a big deal to get help but J survived and life went on. Another time he battled a bad case of rheumatic fever but that didn't stop him long either and he soon started getting into mischief again J didn't really like school too much unless there was a reason to go other than just learning. Things changed in the 5th grade when he made the tumbling tryouts and was asked to be on the schools tumbling team.

3: In 1934 they moved to the big city of Pipestone, and moved into the first of 9 houses that they would eventually live in. (Usually they were just too good a deal for Jack not to buy, rent or trade so they were always moving.) That first house was a real fixer-upper and eventually the city inspector quarantined it after they all got scarlet fever, mumps and many bouts of the flu. Kids those days did simple things to stay busy: played hide and seek, kick the can, hiked along the river and slid down snowy hills in Winter. Since they couldn’'t afford fancy coats they just put more on of whatever they were wearing so they could barely move to run and play. There was a local park where there was a race track, skating rink and rides and the kids were in 4H so they had a busy and fun life in spite of the hard times. J will tell you about the first time he ever went to a movie house and how he ran out because he was terrified of the huge wolf that leaped off the screen at him. Those were simple times and they made the best of things. | It was an all-grades school and most of the team were high school kids so he was the youngest person ever selected. He even got a school letter in 5th grade, just like the older kids did in high school. He was the star at half time games and was famous for his flips, cartwheels, and walking yoga-style on his knees. It was the highlight of his life up until that point and even though he paid the price later on with bad knees he'’d tell you it was worth every minute of it.

4: Later on, when his interest was waning again he found another reason to stay in school - drama. He quickly showed them how good he was and got the lead in the play, “Out of the Frying Pan”. Later they went on to win State for their one-act play which was a pantomime where the actors could improvise and keep each other in stitches. J graduated high school, thanks in part to his extracurricular activities (which had also included being on the cheerleading team). One time J and his friends painted the local water tower with “Class of 47”, which of course they got in trouble for. His high school best buddies were Kenny Gilbertson, George Ressmeyer and John Risch and the foursome stayed good friends for the rest of their lives.

5: 'In the Summer of '49 a girl from Slayton caught his eye. Eldora Mae Reinhold was graduating from high school and the boys from Pipestone decided to crash the dance. J took one look at Eldora in her pretty yellow dress and the rest was history. Even though she lived 25 miles away J drove to see her several times a week. She was pretty, fun and he couldn't resist her charms! On July 25th, 1949 they were married at the Lutheran church. Their best man was Ron and their maid of honor was Bernice. They both knew how to have fun and decided that their wedding party would be at the Silver Star Restaurant /beer hall, followed by a honeymoon on Lake Okoboji in Iowa. Married life had begun!

6: On March 2, 1950 Judy Belinda was born and at that time J was working for Juba’s Grocery store earning about $25 a week. Less than a year later and only 2 weeks after his father died, in January 1951, the National Guard was activated to help fight the Korean War and J was shipped out to Camp Rucker where he trained on light weapons. Thankfully he narrowly missed going to Korea later on because he was four months away from being discharged. By then Marsha Jane had been born on July 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, California and J was happy to be home with his family again.

7: They had close friends, loved to play cards and spent many a night staying up late having fun and then scooping the girls up to take them home. He’d tried other jobs including going back to Juba’s store and selling feed to farmers. But he knew what he wanted to do and the GI bill would pay for it so he went to radio announcer school in Minneapolis. His first radio job was at a start-up station in Rockford, IL where they lived for a couple of years. He had a great radio voice and personality. Later on they moved back to Minnesota where he worked for a while at a station in Montevideo. Even though he loved being an announcer the pay was low and eventually he decided he couldn't spend any more time in radio so reached out to friends in the grocery business who hired him. Quickly he was promoted to be a Super Value grocery store manager in Hutchinson, Minnesota and he was there for the next 8 years. That was a good time for the family and his career and he was very busy serving on committees and participating in the annual Water Carnival with a store float. At one time he was President and Vice President of several committees at once and his name was in the paper all the time. Life was good (but very busy) and they loved Hutch.

8: In the early 60’s, J and Dora’s entrepreneurial spirit shined and they moved the family to Paynesville, MN to own and run their own grocery store. It was a brief, fun, challenging and exciting time for the family, but things weren’t as they thought so they were soon headed back to Hutchinson. Sometimes the grass isn’t really greener over on the other side but it's fun finding that out.

10: In 1965 J & Dora headed West and moved to warm and sunny California. J was sure he could get another grocery job and most of Dora’s family was there so he walked away from Minnesota with the confidence that all would be well. And it was! During the first morning out job hunting he aced a math test and Alpha Beta grocery stores put him to work that same day. It was meant to be that they would now be Californians.

11: During those years he managed a grocery store and then went into the personnel department at Alpha Beta and spent 15 years with them. It was also during this time that his daughters, now grown, went off to school, Judy met her future husband, Basil, and they started giving them grandchildren. Within a few years, Justin, Ryan and Shaunti had been born and they were happily experiencing being grandparents. Marsha Jane focused on college and getting a degree and later met and married her future husband, Mike. It turned out that Marsha & Mike’s marriage last too long but then fate took over and she met and married a great guy named Ron, so they had a new son-in-law. Around that time, on July 25, 1974, they celebrated their 25th anniversary with friends and family. It was a time of prosperity and happiness!

13: In 1980 they were ready for a new start so J & Dora moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Judy & Basil had moved to the White Mountains in '79 and after a few visits to see them they decided it was time to move closer to the grandkids and live in the desert. They arrived on a 4th of July weekend and found out what HOT really means. life was good and they bought a beautiful home on Villa de Paz Golf Course so now there was golfing to enjoy almost every day! They quickly made lots of new friends who got together often. Almost all the weekends were fun times with family and friends, they were great hosts and their house was a revolving door for relatives and friends in the Winter. They also made frequent trips to see Judy & family in Durango, Colorado after they moved there in 1980. At one point J got his real estate license but the market was poor at that time and so it was a brief venture.. They were grocery people at heart and Dora was still working for Alpha Beta/ABCO.

17: J’s family was spread out but they managed to stay close and see each other as often as possible. Family trips to California and then Minnesota were quick but fun car rides that involved non-stop driving because vacation time was short. (mostly they kept busy with sing-alongs of old songs like “Found A Peanut” or “Row Row Row Your Boat” so the ride flew by fairly quickly.) It was always worth the trip and the family stayed close and shared many wonderful times together.

20: Life-long friends, wonderful neighbors, fellow church members, co-workers and classmates all make up the tapestry of J & Dora's life. J is a great friend, the most fun & entertaining, happiest, and most cheerful guy around, and everyone gravitates towards him They are blessed with people they love and who love them dearly in return.


23: Over the years you could follow fashion trends by observing J’s attire and Judy even gave him a perm once or twice. There’s no one better at generating a laugh and being the life of the party! One of his best tricks was to wrap a small gift in many boxes so that the receiver had to keep opening boxes to find his or her treasure. It’s also nice because you can fool someone into thinking they’re getting a big present when in fact it might be a $20 bill. He always enjoys a good laugh and is ready to tell one of his famous stories whenever the right time arises. His girls have great memories of listening to him entertain the family with colorful stories, some of which they should not have heard! (they were good at eavesdropping at family reunions and thought it was great fun)

24: Judi & Marsha Jane pulled off a wonderful surprise at a local country club when they hosted a 50th anniversary party for J & Dora. It took months of planning and secrecy, which wasn't easy for this family! And boy were they shocked when a sea of their own faces looked back at them when they walked in the door. It was a joyful celebration with friends and relatives from near and far away who’ had chosen to be part of their special day.

25: 50 years!!

26: Shaunti, Ryan & Justin (the first grandkids!)

27: Over the years J and Dora celebrated the birth their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. Here’s how it all came about: Judi & Basil had three children (Justin, Ryan, Shaunti). Justin had four children, who became their great-grandchildren (Skye, Leah, Christian & Colton), Ryan had one son, Logan (a great-grandchild), Shaunti had two children, Chase & Maya (great-grandchildren). THEN, the great-greats started happening! Skye had two little girls, Maddisyn and Cienna. And, Leah had a little girl, Ariel. All totaled, at the time of this book, J & Dora have three grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren!

29: “A grandchild fills a space in your heart that you never knew was empty.”

30: The legacy

34: J & Dora always thought about moving to another house but the golf course beautiful view, their great patio (which has always been the favorite family gathering spot), and the house itself helped them to realize it just couldn’t be beat, so they stayed. Always active socially, they continue to entertain, have their friends over regularly for cards or Tripoli and their calendar is almost always full. There were health trials and tribulations, surgeries and strokes but J is strong and a fighter, so he bounced back every time and always kept his “tremendous” attitude.

36: The Church at Litchfield Park has been a very important part of their lives for many years and strong friendships have carried them through some difficult times. They've been deacons of the church, volunteered and served in many ways, participated in circles and committees, helped with the search for new pastors, played cards every Monday and Wednesday with their church friends and attended many services and special events there over the years. Their church family is made up of dear friends who love and support them and who are deeply loved in return.

37: The Ellingson household never was without a dog. When the girls were growing up there were Puddles, and Jipper and then they raised dachshunds when they lived in Hutchinson. So along came Princess, Lulu, Gretchen and lots of puppies that found good homes (especially JJ, the long-haired doxie that was named after you-know-who). The girls knew that their parents were easy touches so along the way they gifted (that’s a nice word for it) them with their own dogs which, for one reason or another, they could no longer keep (or maybe it was just the best place for them so they got them that way). Elsa, Sam, Candy, Baxter and Bentley were all gifts from their daughters that were only going to “stay one night” but of course couldn’t be given up after they’d fallen in love with them so they stayed forever. J likes to make a big deal out of how he got them all but we know that he wouldn’t have it any other way and we also know the dogs all had the best owners a dog could hope for. It was win-win for everyone!

38: "TREMENDOUS!!" | At the time of this writing, J is 82 years young, in very good health and has been blessed with a beautiful, loving wife of over 60 years, two children (Judi and Marsha Jane), three grandchildren (Justin, Ryan and Shaunti), seven great-grandchildren (Skye, Leah, Christian, Logan, Colton, Chase and Maya) and three great-great-grandchildren (Maddisyn, Cienna and Ariel)! Unending faith, love, strength and determination, intelligence, perseverance, creativity, humor and an optimistic attitude have all served him well and continue to help him to lead the way for the generations who walk in his footsteps. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To laugh often and much, To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, To leave the world a better place, To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, This is to have succeeded.” He just might have been talking about "J".

39: We love you Dad, Grandpa, Friend and Husband.

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  • By: Judi E.
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  • Title: J's Life Story
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