Ada was born in 4 September 1913 in Bismarck, Burleigh County, North Dakota, the daughter of Ragnar Ekstrom and Iva Whitlock . She died 30 January 1989 in Rochester, Olmsted County, Minnesota. Burial in Riverview Cemetery near Wilton, North Dakota.
Ada's Life Story
Ada grew up in Washburn, North Dakota. According to her stories, her childhood was happy and carefree. Her father was quiet and patient. Her mother had a quick temper but was kind. Ada never talked about punishment of any kind. Her mother did not have the patience to teach Ada to cook and keep house. As a result, her mother-in-law found it necessary to teach her to cook and keep house - not a happy circumstance.
She told her children many stories about her childhood. She delivered the “Grit” magazine. With the money she earned, she and her brother, Glenn, went to the movies. She had grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Washburn to help keep life lively and interesting. On an occasional Sunday, her parents would take the family by train to visit an uncle, aunt and cousins in the nearby town of Hensler. They would come home on the evening train.
Her Grandfather Ekstrom told wonderful stories about his life in Sweden. Her Grandfather Whitlock would slip her a dime or quarter when his second wife was not looking. The Whitlock's owned a restaurant and, according to Ada, she spent many hours washing dishes, etc. She said it seemed to be expected of her with no mention of pay.
Even so, she had plenty of time to have fun. Some of things that she and her brothers did would appall any parent. Jumping from one railroad car to another sounded daring and dangerous to me when I was a child. Ada did not say whether her parents knew.
Her childhood seemed idyllic although there were family problems, a father who drank too much and never enough money. Even with the problems, it was happy. She did not talk about the bad times.
One family tragedy made a lasting impression. Ada was about thirteen years old. Her mother sent her to find her brothers and bring them home for dinner. She probably knew that she would find them at the river. Although they had been warned about the strong currents in the river, they had gone swimming with their cousins. As Ada approached, she heard excited cries and calls for help. When she got there they told her that Earl Raymond had been swept away. His body was never recovered. He was eight years old.
The year before, when she was about twelve years old, her brothers came down with scarlet fever and her family was quarantined. Her father could not stay at home because he had to go to work. Although Ada was not sick, her mother kept her out of school to help. The quarantine lasted several weeks. Toward the end, Ada became ill with, what was later decided, rheumatic fever. As a result, she failed her grade in school and, even worse, developed heart problems. (School's at that time, did not send work home to make it possible for a child to keep up.) From that time forward, she could not run and play as she did before. Later in life she had surgery to implant new heart valves.
She married a couple months after her eighteenth over the objections of her parents who wanted her to finish high school. Life changed completely. She moved in with her husband, his mother and his younger brother. Ada had visited friends on farms but never had to do farm chores. She not only had to learn how to milk cows, care for chickens, work in the vegetable garden and do a multitude of other farm chores, but also had to learn to cook and keep house from a mother-in-law who was not always patient.
Life improved when she and her husband moved to their own home a half mile away. She and her husband attended the Methodist Church about two and a half miles away. It was a big drafty church, almost impossible to heat. In the winter, families took turns having church services in their homes.
Otherwise, she did not have the opportunity to belong to clubs and organizations while her daughters were young. Later in life, she joined the local homemaker's club and became their president.
Ada was kind, patient and loving. She never punished her children severely. If fact, she seldom punished them at all. She managed to become a good cook, she taught herself to sew so that she could make clothes for her daughters. She liked to crochet in her spare time. She had a sweet singing voice and it was a pleasure to hear her singing as she worked. She could play the piano and later had one of her own. She was quiet and unassuming, but well-liked by everyone who knew her.
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