Today, my husband’s grandmother passed away. She would have been 90 years old one month from today.
Ellen was the 6th of seven children born to Rev. Paul Danker and his wife, Wilhelmina Dabelstein. The life of a small town pastor’s family was difficult. They raised chickens and the area farmers would donate feed and corn cobs to help out. Shoes were repaired and passed down and the kids were good friends with the large Italian family who owned the shoe repair shop. The boys played basketball in the neighbor’s barn and baseball with the area boys in the summer time. As they got older, they all took turns helping to mow the cemetery next to the parsonage. Reverend Danker earned $1200 a year and some of that was food donated at harvest time. But they were happy. The 7 siblings were close, faithfully gathering from all corners of the country for family reunions as long as they were physically able.
Ellen lived her entire life in the rural counties south of Chicago. One day, she climbed onto the school bus and met her future husband, Bert Smith, who owned and drove the bus to supplement his farming income. When Bert proposed, Ellen and her sister, Irma, planned a double wedding ceremony. On August 3, 1941, Ellen wore a pink chiffon dress and carried white roses, while Irma wore a blue chiffon dress and carried yellow roses. The four newlyweds honeymooned together in Wisconsin.
Bert and Ellen raised a large family of their own. Bert continued to drive the school bus for a total of 47 years in addition to farming. Ellen was a beauty operator and together, they cleaned the small school in their small town. They raised 7 children, including my mother-in-law. Bert was a skilled wood worker and together, they made crafts to sell at area shops. My oldest son was the recipient of a beautiful rocking horse, hand crafted by “Grandma and Grandpa Bert” when he turned 1. Some day, my grandchildren will sit on that horse and we will tell them about Grandma and Grandpa Bert and how they went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome in their house.
The last several weeks have been painful for Ellen. Today, she is reunited in Heaven with the love of her life, Bert. And we are comforted by knowing that not only is she now pain-free, but we will soon be gathered as family to share our memories once again.