Verdie Ellingson has always loved Valentine’s Day. In fact, he has a frame holding eight valentines he received as a child at his country school in Chippewa County, Minnesota.
Later in life, Valentine’s Day would be when he proposed to his future wife Norma. And today, he still celebrates by sending valentines to family and friends and decorating the drift wood Valentine’s tree that Norma saw in a store and had to have.
Verdie and Norma’s romance started long before it became official. In 1944, Verdie attended a “basket social” at the country school where his sister Sylvia was a teacher. At a basket social, the girls would bring a basket containing a picnic lunch. The baskets were auctioned to raise money for the school. Sylvia tipped Verdie off as to which basket was Norma’s. He bid on it, won and had the privilege of having lunch with Norma that day. He went as far as to ask if he could give her a ride home, but her mother refused, being Norma was only 14 and Verdie was 20.
A couple of years later, Verdie was home on leave from his military service and went to a dance where he saw Norma. The two danced and visited and this time Verdie did give Norma a ride home. After that, Verdie went back to serving in World War II. Norma regularly sent him letters while he was gone.
Upon his return, Verdie was determined to finish college. After graduation, he took at teaching job in southern Minnesota. During Thanksgiving break, Sylvia once again played a role in Verdie and Norma connecting. Sylvia was married to Norma’s brother and wanted Norma to come home for Thanksgiving. She asked Verdie if he could pick up Norma in the Twin Cities where she was attending nursing school. He agreed. That ride sealed their fate. The two started seriously dating and on Valentine’s Day of 1952, Verdie proposed and Norma accepted, and as Verdie says, they “lived happily ever after.”
The two would spend almost 50 years together, Verdie always in love with Norma, just like a fairytale love story. “She was easy to love and she made it so I was easy to love, too,” says Verdie.
Verdie worked as a teacher, then an administrator and then a school superintendent. Norma worked as a nurse. Together they had four children and 10 grandchildren. When the couple retired, they moved to Moorhead to be close to their son.
When Norma needed more care due to her rheumatoid arthritis, the couple moved to Eventide on Eighth, where Verdie continues to live today, still celebrating Valentine’s Day.