When Ellen was asked how old she was, she quipped, “I am just over the hill or you can say that I am a recycled teenager!” Nearly 100 years old, Ellen exudes positivity and her appreciation for life inspires all those around her. This feisty woman only stopped driving at age 90 and still actively enjoys gambling, playing bingo and going to garage sales. When asked about how aging has impacted her life, Ellen immediately retorted, “Aging doesn’t even bother me a bit. Aging is just another year. I am so happy!”
In the midst of her optimistic outlook on life, she downplays the fact that she does have problems with her heart and requires medication. Ellen is unable to make the long trips to visit her remaining family which is isolating for her, especially since Ellen is a woman who prioritizes family over everything else.
Ellen grew up in Hamilton, Iowa and married her husband, Maynard, in 1939, when she was 18 years old. Less than a year later Maynard’s mother died unexpectedly, leaving his father with 5 boys and 3 girls to take care of all on his own. Incredibly young Ellen and her new husband moved into an old farmhouse with her father-in-law and she became the mother to these 8 kids. She cooked, cleaned, cared for and raised them as they were her own. This Iowa farmhouse was without electricity or running water, something Ellen likens to “living in the pioneer days.” Over time, Ellen and her husband added to their family, having four boys of their own.
She mused how will she never know how all 12 kids and 3 adults fit into that old, dilapidated house but she declares, “We loved every minute of it!” and reassures, “I would do it all again, if I had the chance!” Ellen thought about what a special treat it would be to see her 3rd son Mike again, especially in light of his recent battle with cancer.
During Mike’s cancer treatment, he lost over 100 pounds and his health deteriorated to the point of requiring a feeding tube and wheelchair. He made remarkable improvements and while he still requires regular scans, Mike wanted to share his second lease on life with his mom. He was so motivated to see her again that he collected cans and mowed lawns in his hometown of Rifle to try and save up enough money for this wish.
“There is always hope,” Mike said, “Both my mother and I are definitely declining as we age, but we still know the importance of connecting with each other.” It was clear that Ellen and Mike shared a special bond. Wish of a Lifetime was honored to reunite this remarkable mother and son duo for a visit in Iowa.
Photos courtesy of Dave Totten.