The Life of Earl Hugh Ellingson
The Life of Earl Hugh Ellingson Less than a year after the beginning of World War I, Berg and Mary Hall Ellingson were living in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. Berg was a piano salesman, and the couple already had 5 children - Malcolm, Ora, David, Sherry, and Roland. To this family was added another son- - Earl Hugh Ellingson on Wednesday 31 March, 1915. At birth, it was discovered that Earl had a clubbed foot. He underwent surgery early in life, to fix the problem. Although Earl’s foot was straightened out, his one foot was three sizes smaller than the other. Throughout his life, Earl would walk with a slight limp, but most people did not notice it. Due to a shorter leg, and smaller foot, all his life, Earl put extra pressure on his good hip. That proved to cause him problems later on in his life, as he had to undergo two hip transplants. However, Earl was a healthy child. He was strong, and learned to work. Getting a new position in Calgary, Berg moved his family to the big city, west of Medicine Hat. Earl remembered riding the train to Calgary with his family. Wanting to be sure her family was not afflicted with the flu virus that was going around at the time. Mary Ellingson had her children wear gauze masks on the trip to Calgary. Young Earl loved his mother, and remembers feeling how she must have loved him deeply. He recalls spending time with her, and feeling secure with her. That feeling of security came to a terrible end for Earl in May, 1919. On May 14, 1919, his mother delivered a feeble baby boy who was given the name of William. However, William died the same day. The pregnancy, illness, and trauma of all this was too much for Earl’s mother. Although the family had survived the flu epidemic of 1918, Mary contracted blood poisoning in the hospital, and passed away ten days after William’s birth. It was a devastating blow to Berg Ellingson and his 6 children. Mac was 14 years old, Ora was 11, Dave, Sherry, Roly, and Earl were all younger. The funeral for Mary Hall Ellingson was held in Taber, where Mary’s family was living at the time. After the funeral, the family was sitting around Orson Hall’s (Mary’s father) home, and Earl was sitting on his father’s lap. Ora was having a tough time, so Berg gave Earl to Grandpa Hall, so he could console Ora. When Earl got to Grandpa Hall, this fine man said to his grandson, “Earl why don’t you come and be my little boy?” Earl agreed, so when the rest of the family returned to Calgary, Earl stayed in Taber. He was to live with his grandfather, and Aunt Rye, who was Grandpa Hall’s second wife, after his first wife died. In that family were two daughters, just a few years older than Earl-Dean Hall (later Burbank), and June Hall (later West). Earl often said that “if a boy had to lose his mother, the Lord could not have prepared anyone better to replace her with than Aunt Rye.” She was a wonderful mother to this little boy and raised him and loved him for the rest of her life. Orson Hall was a farmer. It was hard work, and Earl learned to work along side his grandfather. He worked with horses, learning to plow, and also milked the cows. It seemed a meager living, but the family survived. During the winter of 1927-1928, Grandpa Hall and Aunt Rye were on a trip to California to visit two of Mary’s sisters. While on vacation, Grandpa Hall suffered a stroke, and never recovered. Earl watched as Aunt Rye helped this great man until his death in 1929. Grandpa Hall was gone, the decade of the “Roaring 20’s” was over, and the depression had begun. Earl was just 14 years old, but much of the work fell upon his shoulders to help provide for the needs of his family. The decade we call the “Dirty Thirties” was interesting for Earl Ellingson. He made a decision during those years he would always regret-he quit school, and decided he could earn a living ranching, farming, and just working. He soon found life to be very tough. His work took him from job to job, and finally nearing the end of the decade, he found work with the Sugar Factory in Picture Butte. Several other members of the family were living in Picture Butte, and Earl found happiness living near Ora, and Bide, along with Sherry and Etta. Also during the 30’s, Earl made a trip to Salt Lake where he came to know his father’s other family a little. He learned to love them all, and they filled a gap in his life. With the miserable decade of the 30’s coming to a close, and just prior to World War II, Earl found what he was looking for in life. During the summer of 1939, he was working at the canning factory in Taber. He had a working friend whose name was Emrys Parry. Emrys had a little sister, Nellie, who brought him lunch. Soon Earl got up the courage to ask Nellie out for a date and the fire of love was ignited. When the sugar run campaign started in Picture Butte that fall, Earl hesitated going, because he knew he would have to leave Nellie. However, on one weekend, he came back to Taber, proposed to this dark haired beauty, and the plans were made for their wedding. They were married in Taber the October 24, 1939. Nellie soon got to know Earl’s family living in Picture Butte, and learned a great deal from them. She also got to know other people who were important in Earl’s life. However, one thing Earl had that she soon embraced was the gospel of Jesus Christ. After campaign, the happy couple returned to Taber, and took up residence in the basement of Bishop Harold and Sister Ida Wood. Nellie soon started learning about the gospel, and how to pray. When Earl was off working, Nellie would often run upstairs in the house to ask questions she had about the gospel to Sister Wood. Satisfied with the answers she received, she was soon baptized. In June of 1940, Earl and Nellie were sealed in the Alberta Temple. As happens in life, Earl and Nellie wanted a family. Just a year after they had been sealed in the temple, Nellie gave birth to a lively little girl on 2 July 1941. They named her Elizabeth (after Earl’s mother) Anne Ellingson. Other children would follow- Parry Hugh -- 25 March 1943, Richard Berg-- 22 July 1946, Mark David-12 December 1947, John Earl-20 November 1950, Bronwyn-29 April 1954, and Robert Orson-19 November 1957. With the war on, during the decade of the 1940’s, Earl wanted to volunteer for the services. However, his clubbed foot got in the way. Due to his one small foot, the doctors told him he would likely only be able to serve in kitchens or someplace like that. He was told that his work, at that time in the Coal Tipple in Taber, would be more beneficial for the war effort than having him serve as a cook. So he did not go to war. Nearing the end of the 40’s, Earl found the full-time employment he wanted -- with the Canadian Sugar Factory LTD. He actually started working at the factory during the construction. Then when the factory was completed, he got employment in the beet end of the plant. He worked there until his retirement in the late 1970’s. During the decades of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, Earl and Nellie’s family would grow and change. Just having the income of the factory, Earl wondered if that would be enough to raise a fairly large family on. He found a farm, just west of Taber, which they purchased and by the spring of 1958, the family moved to what Earl lovingly called “Anxious Acres.” Perhaps it was Earl’s love of the land, or his hope that they could get “rich”, but the farm did not produce what, nor how Earl wanted it to. However, one crop that was successful was his family. Anne married Louis Turcato in 1959. Parry got married in the early 60’s, and so Earl and Nellie soon moved on to another stage of their lives. Earl and Nellie always hoped their sons would go on missions to serve the Lord in preaching the gospel throughout the world. With Parry’s early marriage, the lot fell to Richard to be the first to serve. Richard served in the South Australia Mission from January 1966-January 1968. Mark served in the French Mission from January 1967-July 1969. John served in Italy from January 1970-January 1972. Robert served in California from March 1977-March l979. With missionaries, marriages, and children growing up and moving away, Earl was losing his cheap labour for the farm. After their missions, Richard and Mark attended the University of Lethbridge, and John was on his mission. Robert and Bronwyn were the only ones left home. Earl had sold part of the farm, and it appeared that the farm years were at an end. In March of 1970, Earl and Nellie found a nice home in Taber just a mile east of where they lived on the farm. That spring they moved into the house, thus beginning a new phase of their lives. Although this home was nicely situated, Earl was not content. One day, on the way home from work, he drove past the Catholic convent in town. There was a “For Sale” sign on the lawn. The wheels in Earl’s mind started moving. He eventually took a tour of the house, and that is when he said, he had a vision as to what this building could be. Earl had a hard time convincing Nellie this would be a good move, but Earl won out, and they purchased the convent. It would take some work, but Earl’s vision was that there would be 3 single bedroom apartments for rent, along with a large living space for Earl and Nellie. The renovation work was done mainly by Earl, but it was a labor of love, and he enjoyed seeing his vision actually take a physical form. At first Earl did not think he had a deadline for the convent, but when Bronwyn announced her marriage for July 1973, Earl wanted to have the family dinner in the basement of the convent, so the hours of work increased, and the work was done. When Mark married Marilyn Baker in the Alberta temple on July 29, 1970, Earl announced that he would buy a new suit for each marriage in the family. He had no problem keeping that promise until December 9, 1972 when Richard married Annette Maegaard. It had been over two years since Mark had married, but one suit was not bad. However, John married Janice Hardy on April 28, 1973, and Bronwyn married Brian Freeze on July 21, 1973 so Earl bought three new suits in just over six months. Since marrying in 1962, and again in 1964, Parry took the step to matrimony again on October 26, 1970 when he married Krystina Garlinski in Winnipeg. Richard, Mark, John and Bronwyn had been married in the temple, but Parry’s wife Krys was not a member of the church. However, gradually Krys started listening to the missionaries. She was baptised and later, Parry and Krys were married in the temple. With Bronwyn married, Robert was left at home alone. However, Robert’s friends seemed to fill the gap for Earl and Nellie. They seemed to be at the convent all the time. Actually Earl and Nellie enjoyed having young men around again. With Robert’s wedding in 1979 to Paula Gallup, Earl and Nellie were now totally alone. It was kind of nice. Although Earl rarely missed work due to illness, his body was getting older. From the late 1970’s on it appeared his body was wearing out. There were 2 hip transplants, open heart surgery, cataract problems in the eyes, and the eventuality that seems to come to many male Ellingsons, Earl developed diabetes. However, that did not slow Earl down. After retiring in 1980, Earl was looking forward to some time to do things he had always wanted to do. He soon found that people in town, and in the ward must have been waiting for him to retire. Soon he was working on all kinds of projects that kept him tremendously busy. He wondered how he had had time to put in 8 hours a day at the Sugar Factory. Yet he was happy. Not only was it projects he was involved with, but he still had connections with Scouts Canada, and was actively part of the scouting program. Since the boys had all gone on missions, Earl and Nellie hoped they could someday also serve. However, Nellie’s mother was not well. Wisely Earl and Nellie felt it better for them to postpone their missionary service until things were settled with Nana. Nana passed away in 1985, which left a void in Earl and Nellie’s lives. By 1987, a call was extended. Earl and Nellie were to spend a year in Salt Lake City to serve in the Family History Library there. It was a great experience. One of the non-missionary rewards of that mission was that Earl was able to spend time with his brothers who lived in Salt Lake-- Wayne, and Mel, along with his sister May. As well, Earl and Nellie came to know other members of the Ellingson family, which became a tremendous blessing to both of them. Another tremendous blessing came that had not been expected. Their grandson Randy Ellingson-- Parry’s son from a former marriage, started taking the missionary lessons, and was baptised a member in 1987. Over a year later, with the Alberta Temple in Cardston closed, Earl and Nellie returned to Salt Lake to witness Randy’s marriage to Dionne Fromm, in the Salt Lake Temple. Randy was the first of their grandchildren to be married in the temple. Their mission was such a blessing. Although they missed having immediate family nearby, several of their children came to visit during the year they spent in Salt Lake. It was wonderful for them to spend every day together, and most of their evenings together. At the end of that year, they returned to Taber in 1988, with the anticipation of living long, productive lives together After a couple of years, still living in the convent, health problems again poked up its ugly head. Earl had open heart surgery, and recovered. Thinking the convent was now too big for them, to handle, Earl and Nellie put it up for sale. They had tried to sell before, but no one seemed interested. However, this time a deal was worked out. During the Christmas holidays of 1992, Earl and Nellie moved their belongings into a nicely situated home, not far from their Stake Center. It was a lovely home, however, all Earl’s projects just would not fit into the new place. Some things had to be discarded. For months after the move Earl was looking for things he knew he had, just a few months before. However, he never knew where some of his “precious” projects ended up The move to the new house proved to be a blessing in disguise. Earl’s eyesight started to deteriorate. Cataracts were the problem and surgery was arranged. At first it seemed to be routine surgery, but the recovery just did not take place. Nothing seemed to help bring his eyesight back. He became frustrated. Several trips to the doctor could not make an improvement. At a moment of discouragement, Earl visited a friend who was totally blind. After that visit, he wrote in his journal, that maybe things were not so bad for him, he had so many blessings. One thing about the diminishing eyesight for Earl that turned out to be a blessing was that now Nellie had to assume some of the responsibilities she had not done for a long time. She now had to drive the car, shop for groceries, and do a variety of things that Earl used to do when he could see. Even with diminishing eyesight Earl continued working on a variety of projects. He had to take things slowly, but he enjoyed working in his shop. However, he was not healing. Wednesday, February 2, 1994, Earl and Nellie went to bed as usual. However, during the night, Earl became deathly sick. They went to the doctor, and Earl was given a shot, but it did not help. The next day things did not improve, so the doctor sent Earl to Lethbridge. Even the specialist did not know what was going on, so Earl underwent emergency surgery late that night. The doctor found that Earl was suffering from a systemic infection. That night, and for a few days, Earl did not recover as the family hoped. However, within a week, Earl was back in the hospital in Taber. Nellie was relieved that Earl was near home, and had no thought that he would never come home. Sunday morning February 20, Earl woke up early to go to the bathroom. On his way back to bed, he fell down. Nurses were soon on the scene, trying to get him back in bed. Earl was having a heart attack. The nurses worked to make him comfortable, but his blood pressure sky rocketed. He wanted to go to sleep, and did. Within a few minutes Earl had passed away. Undoubtedly the first to meet Earl in the spirit world was his mother. What a great reunion that must have been for Earl, to once again embrace his mother who he had not seen for almost 75 years. It is so difficult to calculate how one individual affects the lives of so many others. Earl was one of those who was a positive influence in the lives of many people in Taber, especially young men in the scouting movement. Some of the many spiritual experiences Earl had during his life came with his involvement in scouting. During the 1950’s, Earl had an experience on Blakiston mountain which he spoke of often. After climbing to the top of the mountain, Earl and the boys started coming down the mountain. It had taken longer to get to the top than expected, so they started sliding down snow banks on the mountain. They rode their staffs, like witches on brooms and were having a great time when one boy Jimmy Palmer lost control, and went tumbling down the mountain. By the time Earl got to him, it was evident the boy was badly hurt. He had a broken leg, and they were still over three quarters up the mountain. Don Ellingson (Uncle Dave’s son) was one of Earl’s scouts at the time and was instrumental in keeping young Jimmy Palmer comfortable while Earl and others went down the mountain to get help. Earl had to climb most of the mountain twice that day as he had to come back with others to help bring Jimmy down. Of that entire experience, Earl said “Only later, as I analyzed the succession of events did I realize what had happened here. We were so humbled by the magnitude of the task ahead of us that we became candidates for the promptings of the Holy Ghost. “Not only Prophets and Presidents and Bishops can receive inspiration and help, but common folk, like we, can be recipients of Divine guidance. And if the Holy Ghost can work through a man like me, and override all my weaknesses and frailties, it can work through anyone. How sad it is though, that it takes a near tragedy like this one to bring us to that level of humility.” Several years later, Earl led a bunch of scouts, and Venturer age boys on a back pack trip during which they all got lost (Earl’s sons Richard and Mark were on this trip). The trip had taken longer than expected, and food supplies were getting low. At almost age 50, Earl knew this would be his last chance to do this trip, so wanted to finish it. However, being lost, and having low food supplies, he put the needs of his boys first. It was another spiritual experience in which the Lord opened the way for them to get food, and find their way back to civilization where they could make contact with leaders in Taber, to get the boys all safely home. Earl had such influence on the lives of young men through scouting that at his funeral service, there was a scout honor guard that accompanied the casket from the Taber Stake Center. Earl Hugh Ellingson was proud to carry his name. He loved his immediate family, even though he was not raised with them. The Ellingson reunions were special to him. It was important for him to be part of these reunions. During the last reunion he attended in Waterton 1993, his eyesight was causing problems, but he thoroughly enjoyed visiting with the family. Earl also loved his own family. He loved Nellie, and their 7 children, 49 grandchildren and many great grandchildren. He is missed by all who knew him.