Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Hundred Years Old

Ellen Dittfurth – Age 100

Born 7/18/14 – a few weeks before World War I and about six years before women had the right to vote. She was the oldest of three children born to James and Abigail Thompson. Her father was an accountant and part-time preacher.
Ellen used to recall how she loved to go on trips with her father to hear father preach. Ellen finished high school in Cold Springs, Texas, valedictorian of her class of twelve.
During the depression her father had a job in a bank in Shepherd, Texas. Ellen often helped her father in the bank and learned her bookkeeping skills through this type of unpaid apprenticeship.
One day the bank in Shepherd was robbed and Ellen’s father roughed up. The robbery had a telling physical and mental impact on her father, who recommended to the bank that they allow Ellen to take his place. She did and became the breadwinner of the family during these hard times. Her father died less than a year later.

The Shepherd bank finally had to close, and Ellen went to work as a waitress in the café across the street. There she met a handsome young man named Louis Dittfurth, who was working in the area cutting and hauling logs. She said she just knew that he was the one she wanted. So, she asked him out on a date. She was the one with a vehicle, and they went to the Fat Stock Show and Rodeo in Houston. They were married in the summer of 1941.

December 7, 1941 the young couple had gone squirrel hunting. In the peaceful East Texas forest they first heard the news of Pearl Harbor on the car radio; an event which would change the direction of their lives. Louis was called into service in the US Army. Exactly two years from Pearl Harbor Day, their first child, Marvin, was born. During the war Ellen lived in Laredo, San Antonio and Tennessee as she and her young child followed Louis around to his stateside duty stations. He served in the European and Pacific theatres of the war and when it was finally over, they settled back in Cold Springs where Louis went back to hauling logs for the local sawmill. They also lived in Corrigan for a while before moving back to Cold Springs. During these times, Ellen gave birth to her two daughters Shirley Marlene and Joyce Ann.

Looking for a better future for themselves and their young family, they moved to Houston when Louis went to work as a Houston fireman. At first, the family had to live in a rent house on a rough side of town. When Louis worked nights Ellen slept with a bayonet and a machete next to her bed. On one occasion when Louis was working nights, a man banged loudly on the door. Mother got out of bed with the bayonet in one hand and the machete in the other, and went to the front door. There she shouted loudly and waved the machete menacingly. The man left.

Within a year or so, they bought a small new home in a better part of town, and Ellen got a job at a milk distribution company as a bookkeeper. She worked there many years, and when the company was going under, she was the last employee kept working before the doors closed.
When Louis retired from the Fire Department, they moved to Madisonville, Texas. There Ellen became involved in her church and other civic organizations. She was one of the founding board members of the Sonshine Center, which is still doing good work for the needy in the area.

When Louis was diagnosed with cancer, Ellen became his caretaker. For the next five years she dutifully cared for her ailing husband until Louis passed away in 1984. In 1985 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery and recovery she began to travel . She has been on many cruises; she has been to Hawaii, taken an RV trip to Alaska, and has been to Branson many times. However, she always maintained that her trip to the Holy Land was the best.

Throughout, she has always loved to fish. When her son Marvin and his wife Pat bought a place on a small lake, she was always ready to go. After she fell and broke her hip, recovery and rehabilitation was done with the hope that one day, she could still get in the boat and fish She did. And, for several more years she fished. She said once that the fishing she had in her later years was the very best of all.

After a second hip surgery in her mid-nineties, she had complications and did not fully recover. Since then she has been confined to the Assisted Living in Madisonville, Texas. Nevertheless, she is still smiling, she is still a loving person, and if you ask her if she is happy, she will say yes, and that God has been good to her.