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EKSTROM Aileen Helen

Female 1914 - 2008  (94 years)


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  • Name EKSTROM Aileen Helen 
    Born 27 Jun 1914 
    Gender Female 
    Died 08 Dec 2008  Maplewood, MN Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Memorial Service: Beaver Lake Lutheran Church, Maplewood, Minnesota Friday December 19, 2008
      Interment: Union Cemetery Maplewood, Minnesota
    Notes 
    • Getting a Jump on Life: 90 Years of Flying in the Face of Obstacles, Overcoming Hardships and Making My Own Way

      Author's Statement

      I inherited a skydiving former-nurse from my mother. Aileen Fritch, who had gone to nursing school with my Mom and remained a close family friend, was always present in our lives. I remember being fascinated not only by her amazingly funny stories but by her attitutde toward life.
      She raised a son with cerebral palsy when the normal practice in the 1950s was to institutionalize such children. She had been abandoned by her husband, the baby's father. She worked as a single mom and continued working after she married and had two more children at a time when women usually stayed home and tended to their families. She worked as a nurse until she was eighty. These facts are a product of her attitude towared life but they don't capture what caught my attention about her.

      Was it that she always expected to come out ahead and on top no matter what life threw her way? No victim role or self-pity music for Aileen. Life wasn't what she endured; it was what she sought out and shaped according to her dreams and imagination. Engaging is a good word. Anyone who dealt with her would readily be engaged by her wit and intelligence. Above all, she seemed willing, eager and able to wrangle with life.

      Part of why I am writing this book is to define for myself how Aileen lives her life. What gives her such amazing resilience? Where does she get the ability to expand life and to shatter people's expectations? She lived her life with her eyes and mind wide open long before the women's movement cleared away obstacles for us. Of course, I also want to study how she lives as an older person in our society. At 93 she is part of a growing number of peope living longer and better. I want to see how she does it and prepare myself!

      Aileen and I have spent hours upon hours in interviews and discussions about her life and how I'm writing her story. Her articulate and witty delivery provides the right material for her book. I shaped, rearranged and clarified material, expanded dialogue, and made connections. But this is her story in her words. And what words! The chapters included her given an idea of who we are dealing with – not merely a feisty lady who lives her life on her own terms. What emerges from her story is also the journey of a soul. Underneath the fun and fascination of knowing Aileen, I always felt a strong soul connection. Her story slowly reveals what propels and supports her – a strong connection to God, her inner source.

      Chapter 1 - Jump

      I'm sure people are wondering why I would want to go skydiving for my 90th birthday. Probably when you finish reading my life story, you'll say "No wonder she wants to jump out of an airplane!"

      I've always felt life is an opportunity that has to be taken advantage of before it slips away. What's the term folks use today – proactive? As a kid when life got too quiet and ordinary, I always thought of something to shake things up. I don't know how much my attitude and efforts were appreciated by others around me, but life wasn't dull for too long if I had anything to do about it.

      Jumping from a plane turned out to be another way to inject some energy into this stage of my life. Growing old isn't a lof of fun in itself, is it? Why not see what will make it better and more interesting, what will bring new people into my life, and show others what can be done. In other words, get a jump on this business of life. When I saw 90 coming over thill, I figured I needed to do something fun and interesting. That's what I did. It was a great day.

      I'm doing it! I am in this plane and I'm really going to jump. I had better! The St. Paul Pioneer Press did a story on me and down there waiting for me to jump is a camera crew from the local CBS affiliate. I seemed to have caused quite a stir. I don't know why. I watched a lot of programs about skydiving and always thought it looked like fun. Definitely something I'd want to do. So here I am.

      The plane is circling around dropping other parachutists. I see all different looks on their faces as they head out the door. Most are eager and excited. Today's not the greatest day to be jumping. The weather is overcast and drizzly. But we're doing it anyway. It's almost my turn.

      I'm securly attached to Terry McCullough, my handsome, delightful and confidence-inspiring jumping partner. He's going to guide me through this crazy jump. He's also the owner of Skydive Twin Cities, based at the Wisconsin airport where we're doing the jump.

      When we met, I said, "Terry, I usually don't mention my age or have regrets about being the age I am. But this one time I wish I were 60 years younger."

      Terry has briefed me on what to expect and what happens when we jump out of the plane into thin air. I'm fascinated and eager to go. I've been wrapped, packed, zipped up, buckled in and attached. I'm getting antsy. I want to see what happens.

      My landing is going to be perfect. That's what I told everybody. I promised to do a better job than the senior Bush. No landing on my bottom for me! Once I land, we'll go to my church for a birthday party with all my family and friends.

      Who would have thought that a rascally farm kid from Towner, North Dakota, would be skidiving into the next phase of her life!

      What a jump!

      What a life!

      Chapter 2 – Family

      I was born on Wednesday, June 27, in 1914, between one and two in the afternoon. But that afternoon was the Ladies' Aid Society meeting day at church and my mother was supposed to be serving. My grandmother was quite upset that I had to be born exactly at that time. My poor mother told me that her mother-in-law had suggested, "Maybe you could come for a little while and help."

      Mrs. Shipman, the midwife, delivered me and all the children in the area. I was my mother's first. In all she had four, but Edna Karen, born two years after me, died from pneumonia at age two. When she died, my Aunt Anna, a teacher, told my parents, "Don't worry about Aileen Dying. Nothing's going to happen to her. Neither the devil nor the Lord wants her." I guess my character was already notorious at age four. My sister Ruth Mamie was four years younger and brother John Verner, nine. I was named Aileen Helen after my Swedish grandmother who raised birds.

      When I look back on my childhood and my family, I try to figure out who and what were the influences on my life. I'm not sure I can trace any direct effects except that several of my ancestors were strong-minded and individualistic. But, truthfully, I can't find anyone to blame for how I turned out.

      My father's mother – the one I named after and who raised birds – was from Stockholm, Sweden. Her mother (my great-grandmother) was a lady-in-waiting to the queen of Sweden, My grandmother, Aileen Helen, loved her birds. She learned how to raise them in Stockholm an brought the skill to America with her. For as long as I can remember, she raised her jubilee warblers in a room built onto a corner of the kitchen. It had special isinglass windows and a thermometer. The room had to be kept warm. The birds lived in beautiful wooden cages. She sold her canaries to customers in New York. Her warblers were guaranteed to sing and she made a lot of money from them. Letters came to her addressed "Dear Bird Lady." When the birds were laying eggs, we had to whisper in the kitchen. We were so excited to see the new birds when they were born, but we couldn't make any noise. She was very skillful and worked with them to make sure they sang. She hummed and sang to them when she was in their room to accustom the birds to singing. It was as if she were teaching in a school for birds. If one of them didn't sing loudly enough, she'd stand right next to the bird and talk to it. When they were ready, she would ship them to her customers by rail. It seemed from what I was told that the railroad men cared for the birds all along the way. They regarded it as a special privilege to watch out for her birds and make sure they were all right. She never had one returned because it didn't sing.

      My grandmother was fascinating to me. I remember she was always well-groomed and dressed like a lady – an elegant lady not usually seen in small towns. Her dresses were full of frilly things [Gibeau]. Her hair was braided and held in place with hairpins that glittered. She wore the braid like a crown and to me she looked like a queen. She also wore gorgeous hats that a cousin of hers in New York sent her. Once she got a hat with a stuffed white bird on it. Grandmother was furious that a bird had been killed to make a hat.

      Her husband, my grandfather, had sailed around the world twice as a ship's captain. Everyone addressed him as Captain Ekstrom. I don't know why my grandparents decided to homestead in North Dakota. Besides the farm they had, my grandfather also ran a dray line with horses. He never walked along the street, he tipped his hat to every lady he met. Unfortunately, Grandfather had poor eyesight. He was hit by a train – he didn't see it. They brought him home with a severe concussion and put him to bed. The doctor said he wouldn't last long. Everyone gathered around glumly waiting for his death. I was about eight years old and for Grandfather to get hurt was unimaginable to me. He was such an important part of our lives. He had taught us the names of all the stars and showed us how to use the sextant. We were all feeling sad and resigned as we sat together in the kitchen. Suddenly he burst through the door wrapped in a blanket with a lampshade on his head and another blanket over his arm. "Ladies," he announced, "I think I'm going to leave now." His head was a little off but he was up and walking and he did recover. Grandfather Ekstrom had given my grandmother yellow diamond earrings for their wedding. He had brought them back from a seafaring trip. She always wore the canary diamonds. They sparkled like the sun when she moved her head. When she died, he insisted that the earrings be left on her. We asked him why. "They belong to her," he said, "and I'll be able to find her in heaven because she'll be wearing them."

      My mother's family was from Norway. My mother, Nettie Haugen, came to America as an infant with her mother, father and two brothers. They settled in northern Minnesota near other family members who farmed. They were a close-knit group. Norwegian was their main language. The kids learned English at school but always spoke Norwegian at home. People said that in our town even the dogs barked in Norwegian.

      Mother married a Swede, John William Ekstrom. The name, shortened for Ekstrommer when my grandfather came through immigration, means "Strong Oak." They settled on a farm near the Canadian border in North Dakota. They were self-sufficient like all farmers before the turn of the last century. Mother made baby underwear out of men's old long johns. Home medicine was an art and a science practiced by the farm women. Mother had a book of household medicine, but went beyond it. Neighbors came to consult with her. She was always whipping up drinks, making mustard platers, or administering some cathartic treatment for illness. I remember that vanilla extract – expensive and hard to get – was the most precious item in the house. She was furious when she discovered that her sister-in-law's husband drank up one of two bottle she had purchased to have on hand.

      Our dairy farm was right outside of Towner, North Dakota, near Minot. Besides running our farm, my father operated the grain elevator in town and served as fire chief of our town' volunteer fire deparment for forty-five years.

      I remember that we had a wonderful shared phone line and I could listen in on conversations. That was great fun. Everyone on the phone line had their own special ring so I knew who was getting a call. I'd lifted the receiver very carefully so as not to make any noise. I found out a lot about people and life through the phone line.

      Our life on the farm was planned around the cows. We had to get back home in time to milk them. We had to get up early to feed them and stay around for calving season in the spring. We were a self-sufficient family. We bought sugar, flour and raisins. Everything else we raised and processed ourselves. We canned everything from the pig except its squeal. The pig's bladder we washed, blew up and used as a football – the original pigskin. All the farm kids played with pigskins.

      My family had large gardens and I helped with the gardening. I worked ouside most of the time. I was not an indoor person. Starting at age seven, my summer job was helping in the hayfields combining. The combine has two wheels and gathers up the hay. It's pulled across the field by a team of horses. My job was to drive the horses ahead which would raise the extended arm and pull in the hay. I loved haying season and working in the fields. I wore coveralls all the time. I never wanted to be a girl anyway. To me it was pitiful that every Saturday I had to wash my hair and have my hair put in rags so I looked nice for church on Sunday.

      My father's favorite summation of me what that I was the poorest possible advertisement for a dairy farm in the world – skinny with never an ounce of fat on me.

      I don't think we thought anything of the hard winters we had with snow several feet high and covering everything in sight. Although we didn't live too far from town, there'd be a days that we'd never leave the house except to go to the barn and tend the animals. Heavy ropes were strung from the house to the barns to guide us when we went out in snow storms when the snow was falling so thickly we couln't see a foot ahead.

      Winter was made more bearable because of Christmas and all the rituals around the holiday. On Christmas Eve my dad pulled out a huge flatbed and filled it with hay. He hitched up Molly and Sue, the horses, and put bells on their harnesses. Ten or more people – friends and family – settled onto the straw and we drove into town a mile a way to go caroling at friends' houses. After that we came back to the house where our lutefisk and lefse dinner was ready. Lutefisk is the Scandinavian delicacy that folks in Minnesota joke about. The lutefisk came in huge slabs, solid as a rock. It had to be soaked for three days before Christmas, then boiled. Now it comes frozen in tidy packages. However, it still retains its characteristic, unmistakable fishy fragrance. We also had lefse – a torilla-like bread made from potatoes – and sunbackle, a little pastry filled with dates and nuts. Quite delicious. Grandfather would make a beautiful speech. Everyone would be very quiet as he spoke. Then we'd go into the living room to open presents around the tree. It had real was candles in metal holders that attached to the tree branches. After the gifts were distributed and opened, the candles were blown out. The children would have to go to bed to wait to see what Santa Claus would bring on Christmas morning.

      My mother told me this story about one of her Christmases as a young girl. She was six years old and had never owned a doll. That Christmas the Lutheran Church was going to give out dolls and toys to the children. Her parents bundled her up and they drove the horse and buggy all the way into town from their farm. My mother was so excited. She could visualize her new doll and feel it in her arms. She had made a special place for the doll to sleep in her bed. But when they arrived, there were no more dolls left. All the way back home to the farm my mother felt so sad. On Christmas morning, though, she opened her eyes and saw a doll sitting at the foot of her bed. It was so beautiful and finely dressed that she could hardly believe the doll was real. She held it in her arms – her first doll. Her father had stayed up all night carving the doll out of wood while her mother sewed the doll's dress using her own clothes and cut her own hair to us for the doll's hair.

      Chapter 3 – Childhood

      I got myself born into a wonderful family with interesting people and into a wide-open space where I could roam and explore and feel free. I needed that. I like open spaces. I think the people who raised me were glad I had open spaces to run and wander in and that I had horses to race and cows to care for. I love doing things and there's always something to do on a farm. I also love being with people and find others fascinating. Of course, I have strong opinions about others and clearly I wasn't timid about acting on them.

      Hmmmm, I wonder if in today's terms my behavior would be called acting out. Or maybe I would have diagnosed with attention deficit syndrome!

      Reputation – Galoshes

      I had a reputation that I worked hard for. We attended a small Episcopalian church in town. On a particularly cold snowy Sunday when the pastor had left his galoshes outside, I got my firend Ruth to help me fill them with water.

      Vet-reading

      Aunt Anna, my dad's sister who was a teacher, taught me to read and write before I went to school. She loved to read and would wash the dishes with a book propped up at the sink. She gave me books. My dad treated all the animals and had lots of veterinary books. I read them and learned about the birds and bees that way. I really wanted to be a surgeon and to operate. I used to cut open everything I could get my hands on. I'd catch snakes and beetles then take them apart – all kinds of things. I wanted to know what made them tick.

      Hair

      Mother used a wire brush to comb my long hair so tight that whatever expression I started the day with I kept all day. She put two braids on top and two below and fastened them together. For me braids were better than when she'd put rags in my hair to give me curls. That was awful. I put up with braids. I wanted to chop off my hair like the boys but my dad said he'd keep me in the basement until it grew back. I believed him so I didn't cut it.

      6 year birthday party

      My sixth birthday was coming. Mother told me, "You're going to have a birthday party just like the other girls with ice cream and angel food cake." Later, she always made me an angel food cake with thirteen egg whites for my birhday and would send it to me no matter where I was.
      I said I didn't want a party with the girls and didn't want ribbons in my hair and my hair tied up with rags the night before. I didn't want to get dressed up. But no matter, I was going to have a party. I wasn't at all happy with that so I went and gathered lots of garter snakes and put them in a bucket in the garden. And I found an ax. Thie girls arrived, all dress up and pretty. They brought me presents. I told them to come and see something real unusual. They watched as I kicked over the bucket and chopped up the snakes. The girls all ran away screaming and went home. My mother was so upset. This was a terrible thing to do. She gave back presents. I didn't want the presents anyway. They were just silly girly things.

      Dolls

      I had no time for dolls. Never liked them and never played with dolls except for one doll – Sarah, a rag doll. That was the only one I liked. After my dad bought me boxing gloves, I didn't play with girls anymore. I played with the boys. They'd punch me but I never complained. I got a couple of black eyes. My father figured he needed to teach me how to box to take care of myself. He'd invite the boys over and put the boxing gloves on my hands and had me pound away at them.

      Mr. Coe

      Mr. Coe was my third grade teacher. I must have decided it was my mission to make his life miserable. I invented a song that I taught others: "Mr. Coe stubbed his big toe. All the kids went ho, ho, ho!"
      He was always helping out a girl who sat near me. She was very pretty and had lots of curly hair. I had long straight hair that I wore in braids on either side of my head like curved ram's horns. When he bent over her desk, his pants bagged out. I didn't like baggy pants. I had spotted a huge red ant hill on the church property. One day I collected some red ants and brought them to school. That day when Mr. Coe bent over the curly haired girl's desk, I poured the ants into his pants pocket. Then I got up, wet for my coat and walked home. My mother saw me coming up the road. She came to the door and said, "Aileen, Aileen. What have you done now?"
      Of course, I was suspended from school for several days for that one. My delight in my prank was sharply diminished by the fact that for all those days at home my mother put me to work. We had a hardwood floor in the kitchen and she made me scrub it with lye. That took up almost the whole time I was out of school.

      Run away

      Once when I was eight and had done something particularly bad, I ran away from home. I packed some food, a blanket and a pillow. My plan was to hide out in the cornfield all night. A few hours went by out there in the cornfield. I heard my parents calling me. Finally I decided to go visit a neighbor, Mr. Miller, who lived near the river. I went to his house and that's where my parents found me. (DID he tell them?)

      Brother to gypsies

      It was my job to care for my baby brother who was nine years younger. His problem (other than that he had me as his sister) was that he cried a lot. He also had exzema which made him a very fussy baby and I got tired of taking care of him. One day when I was pulling him in a wagon trying to distract him, I saw a group of Gypsies. They came every summer and camped a quarter of a mile from the farm. I had heard that they would take children, so I decided to give my yelling, squalling brother to the Gypsies. I was heading across the field, but before I reached them, my dad spotted me and asked where I was going with Johnny. "I'm goin to give him to the Gypsies because all he does is scream," I told him. My father was furious with me. I got my usual castor oil treatment.

      Castor Oil

      I don't remember ever being hit or spanked by either parent. But when I intentionally did things I shouldn't have, I'd get castor oil as a punishment – one tablespoonful if I didn't resist, two if I did. So I just opened my mouth and swallowed it. Later I thanked my folks. I told them that due to the castor oil I never had constipation problems my whole life.

      I always wondered about the connection between castor oil, misbehavior and intestines. Perhaps the idea was to flush out the bad behavior. Or maybe it was a way to control me for a while. I couln't get into any more mischief at least until I had gone to the bathroom and spent a while on the throne, as we called it.

      New bull

      My father had purchased a new bull. The bet came out to put a copper ring in the bull's nose, but they couldn't find the copper ring. Of course they couldn't find it. I was wearing it. I saw it and slipped it on my arm that morning and went off to school. I didn't have much jewelry. I thought it was pretty. It was my first bracelet. The vet had to drive all the way back the next day. My father said, "I wonder if they have one that will fit your nose. Then at least when I tie you up to a post, I'll know what you're doing."

      Potato bugs

      We grew a lot of potatoes in the garden. My parents assigned me the job of picking bugs off the potato plants. We didn't use pesticides back then so the bugs had to be gotten rid of by hand. I used a long fork to hit the plants and make the bugs fall into a big pan. I had to scrabble through the potato vines and deal with the creepy bugs that sometimes ended up on my arms and legs. I thought it was disgusting and unfair that I had to do this task. As I watched the bugs plunk into the pan and crawl around, I came up with a plan. First, I short-sheeted my parents' bed and then dumped the pan of potato bugs into their bed. They were so mad. I got two tablespoons of castor oil poured into me for that.

      Froggies

      It wasn't that I was a bad kid. It's just that life would get too quiet. I could always figure out something to do to liven things up like putting frogs in Miss Munkabe's desk. She was the teacher in charged of morning assembly and had this fixed routine. Every morning she opened her top desk drawer, pulled out her white hankie, shook it and delicately patted her mouth. After that ritual she would speak to the assembly. One morning she opened the drawer and out jumped a dozen froggies.

      Car

      I never lacked things to do to create mischief, but I didn't act out of meanness. I think I was just observant and really inventive. My Dad had purchased a nice new car. I carefully watched to see how he shifted and drove the car. Everyday he came home from work for lunch, then he took a nap on the couch. The car was just sitting there so I decided to take the kids for a ride in it. I put my brother and sister in the front seat and started the car. I drove it around the farm, then pulled up in front of the house and honked.
      Dad came flying out and started chasing me. I jumped out of the car and ran across the field to my grandmother's house a half-mile away. Grandma Ekstrom saw me coming. "What did you do now?" she asked as I ran in the back door. "Quick. Go hide under the bed."
      Dad drove up in the car and looked around the house. He cound't find me. My grandmother didn't say anything. But I lost on that one because the circus came to town and as my punishment I wasn't allowed to go.

      Horse

      When I was about seven or eight, my dad bought a horse for me. It was a Pinto. We called them Indian ponies. I took care of it. I had a saddle, but I like riding bareback better. I was a farm girl. I rode my pony all over, even into town. Everyone rode their hourses around town. It was a great way to get into town. My pony's name was Choppy – he had a terrible gait, but he could jump. I'd put trees down and built up a barrier. I'd poke him in the ribs and he'd run and jump. I had him for about six years. We sold him when I was twelve or thirteen. The horse I got then wasn't a purebred. He was different shades of tan like a palomino.
      I enjoyed dressing like a cowboy with the hat and the works – chaps, boots, vest, jacket. My dad would get me whatever I wanted in that line. Not many of my friends had horses nor did my sister who was four years younger. As far as I was concernd, she didn't do anything. She was "a lady." I wasn't.

      Coveralls

      I wore coveralls all the time. I wouldn't wear shoes to school, only boots – lace-up work boots. I never dressed up except on Sundays and that was because my mother said the Lord would be looking straight at me.
      No one who knows my enjoyment of fashion and clothes today would ever believe I was such a tomboy. I remember once when I did dress up, my dad said, "Oh, that's nice. you do look like a young lady."

      Milk truck

      All farm kids got their licenses early. I got mine at age ten for ten cents so I could drive the milk truck into town. When I drove the truck we had to put blocks of wood on the peddles for me to reach them.

      Herding cattle

      In the summertime we had to move the cattle to another grazing ground. When I was herding cattle I had all sorts of time to myself. I could dream, think about my future, watch the bugs in the grass and read. We didn't have much to read. The magazine we got on the farm was The Farmer's Digest – which used to be The Country Gentleman. I read every page of that and whatever other magazine people would give me. I also borrowed books from our tiny public library. I read lots of books.

      I loved herding the cows. I'd move them and they'd graze a while. The horse would lie down. There weren't any fences so I had to keep them in sight. Because the land was open, sometimes as I was moving the cattle across the land, a cow would go running off and I had to chase after her to round her up. I had to move them every day bring them back in the evening to the corrral which was half mile from the house. Old Shep, our farm dog, would help get the cows into the corral and help my dad, mother and the hired hand get the cows into their stall for milking. Our dary cows were milked by hand. Whe it was raining we didn't take them out to graze. I was a good job and I liked it.

      Another big job I did on the farm was working with the hay stacker at harvest time. First the hay is cut. Then the hay stacker comes along pulled by two horses. Long metal rakes push the hay into the forks. I had to sit on the wooden backboard where the forks were to drive the team and keep them moving straight. When the team moved forward, that lifted up the forks and brought the hay over the top of the stack. Well, there were huge ropes all around and I was so close to the action that I got a scar on my hip from the rope burn. I told my Dad, "Hey, I'm branded just like the cattle."

      Wafers

      I was baptized and confirmed as an Episcopalian. My grandmother was a staunch Episcopalian. My mother, a Luthern, became an Episcopalian when she married my dad. When I was about twelve, I started getting serious with myself. I wondered why I was always in trouble and pulling these pranks that upset people so much. I was a member of the church choir and knew where the communion wafers were kept. I decided to eat them all. I had thought about this for a long time. If I ate a lot of them, I reasoned, maybe I'd get real holy and be cured of being so mischievous. I conviced Ruth Weber to go along with me. We had choir practice the night before and it's when Ruth and I snuck away from the choir and got the wafers from the cabinet where they were kept. We took out the box and opened it up. We started with a few and kept on going until we devoured all the wafers in the box. They were awfully dry.
      "do you feel holy yet? Ruth asked
      "I don't know," I answered. "How is holy supposed to feel?" I didn't realize that the wafers had to be blessed first.
      We put the empty box back.
      At the service the next day, the deacon discovered there were no wafers for communion. He had to go across the street and get regular bread from Mrs. Elliot and cut it into cubes so we could have communion that morning.
      It didn't take them long to figure out who did it. We told them we ate them up because we thought we'd get holy and be good.

      Barn dances

      I played with the boys and had boy friends, but I didn't date. We didn't have proms or special dances at school. We did go to barn dances, though, and I did lots of dancing. When I was in my teens, I was friends with the deputy sheriff's daughter. He was the chaperone at the barn dances. By then I must have gotten interested in curls. One Sunday I burned my tongue testing the curling iron trying to curl my hair. We were supposed to sing that Sunday in front of everyone. I told my mom I couldn't go. My tongue was hanging out and I couln't close my mouth. My mother said, "Oh, the Lord won't mind if your tongue is out as long as you're in church. Besides, you never close your mouth anyway, so it won't matter."

      Graduate early

      As I mentioned, my teacher aunt Anna taught me to read and write before I started school so when I was in the first grade I did part of the material from the second grade. I could also do multiplication tables, addition and subtraction before first grade. In fourth grade I was taught by a cousin of mine. That was horrible. By the time I got to high school, they offered extra advanced subjects to take so I got through high school in three years. So I graduated at age sixteen in a class that wasn't mine. I always thought to myself, I'm going to get out of this place. The wide open world beyond my familiar open spaces was calling to me.

      Chapter 4 – China

      (See Attached documents for original version)

      All of my life, I seemed to be drawn to "life things" – that peeked my curiosity and love of adventure, that seems to be the main force in my life.
      For many years I've been a member of St. Paul League of Women Voters and my quest for answers especially in the political world that was all around us and to better understand the whys, or where it was all leading and how it effects the human race.
      So when I received all info on this trip to China, I was truly excited. The 1st meeting with others also wanting to learn more, however had applied for trip had a great meeting in Mpls. League quarters.
      Another pleasant part was the fellow travels were an interesting group of various people that I felf this indeed was a great adventture to share.
      We assembled together in San Fransisco and left on a flight to tokyo on April 15. On April 16 in the evening we arrived in Tokyo for a night stay at Narita Nikko. We stayed there on the 12th floor overnite. However we had our introduction to an earth quake. In fact Dorothy my roomate and I almost fell out of bed. We decided this must be a signal of an extiting trip. Of course, we were ready to get on the bus – When I had left my faithful hot water bottle – A strange factor she indulged in for many years – was upstairs – Anyway the bus waited while I trotted back to retrieve my comfort hot water bottle – On the bus trip to the airplane – I decided to name the hot water bottle "Andy". This did vive a certain status to it, at least I thought so. After someone also asked "Is Andy here???" On April 17 we left Tokyo at 10 AM on JAH flight #81 arriving at Bejing at 13:15 on April 18.
      I was very surprised about the physical care given by JAH. We had all shapes and sizes of soft pillows, hot wash cloths automated
    Person ID I2612  Freeman-Smith
    Last Modified 7 Jul 2016 

    Father EKSTROM John William,   b. 19 Jun 1878, Litchfield, MN Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1963, Union Cemetery, Newport Twp., Towner, ND Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years) 
    Relationship Natural 
    Mother HAUGEN Nettie,   b. 1883,   d. 27 Jan 1975, Union Cemetery, Newport Twp., Towner, ND Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 92 years) 
    Relationship Natural 
    Married 12 May 1912  Fosston Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F2632  Group Sheet

    Family 1 MEYERS Everett (Bud) 
    Married 1942 
    • Aileen's 1st husband
    Divorced 1955 
    Children 
     1. Living
    Last Modified 7 Jul 2016 
    Family ID F5642  Group Sheet

    Family 2 FRITSCH Joeseph William,   b. 1909, Ste Gaellen, Switzerland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 06 Aug 1989, St. Paul, Ramsey Co., MN Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 80 years) 
    Married 1955 
    • Aileen's 2nd husband
    Children 
     1. Living
     2. Living
    Last Modified 7 Jul 2016 
    Family ID F3270  Group Sheet

  • Photos At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    Aileen Edna
    Aileen Edna
    Aileen on left, Edna on right.
    Aileen Per
    Aileen Per
    Per on left, Aileen on right.
    Cook Family about 1900
    Cook Family about 1900
    Standing L-R: John William Ekstrom, Capt. Pehr Ekstrom, Henning Gumelius.
    Seated L-R: Helen Ekstrom, Karin Ekstrom Gemelius.
    Adults seated on blanket L-R: Mamie Ekstrom, Irven B. Cook, Anna Cook.
    On Anna's lap is Hattie Annetta Cook.
    To the left of Irven Cook is Helen Mary Cook.
    On the left of the blanket is Carl Arvid Gumelius
    Picture taken at the Cook ranch house in Towner, ND.
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.

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