In honor of Veterans Day, we will feature several residents of Eventide Senior Living Communities who are veterans. A special thank you to those featured for sharing their special stories.
Veteran Spotlight: Verdie Ellingson, Eventide on Eighth, Linden Tree Circle
Verdie Ellingson is a proud veteran of World War II, but how he came to be a part of the war wasn’t exactly what he’d expected.
What Verdie had expected was to be drafted soon after he graduated from high school. He looked forward to serving his country. Upon graduation, he was told that he would not be drafted – his older brothers were already were serving and he was expected to stay back and help on the family farm. Verdie took this and made the best of it, speaking to the character that still is ever present in the man today.
Although Verdie wasn’t drafted when he thought he would be, his time would come. Verdie had enrolled in his first semester of college at Luther College in Dechorah, Iowa, when his draft letter came. In 1946, even after the war had ended, the draft continued. There was still work to be done. Anyone who served in the military up until December of 1946 is a World War II veteran.
Verdie was stationed in Korea as a radio teletype operator, sending messages to Japan. Verdie compares the teletype work to early computer work. Not only was the work he did there purposeful, but the experience of living in another country for two years was what Verdie calls outstanding. He was immersed in the Korean culture and enjoyed getting to know many of the people living there, including a young man he worked with in a civilian job when he wasn’t fulfilling his service work.
After two years in Korea, Verdie was discharged from the army and returned to his family farm near Montevideo, Minn., until he could return to Luther College to finish his education in the fall of that year. Verdie graduated from Luther in 1950 with a degree in business education with a minor in history – Verdie loved and still loves history. Verdie was a teacher until he earned his master’s degree in education administration in Missoula, Montana. He then worked as a principal before becoming super intendent of schools in Glencoe, Minn.
Along the way, during the time when he was in college, Verdie married the love of his life, Norma. Many use the term “love of his life,” but if you ever have a chance to hear Verdie talk about Norma, you’ll know that no other words are truer or could be used. The couple had four children and 10 grandchildren.
When they retired, Verdie and Norma moved to Moorhead, Minn., to be close to two of their children. After Norma developed rheumatoid arthritis, the couple moved to Eventide on Eighth into an apartment in Linden Tree Circle. Norma passed away in 2011 and Verdie continues to live at Linden Tree where he is active in the community.
In October of 2015, Verdie had the opportunity to go on the WDAY Honor Flight. He brought his son Todd along and Verdie toured Washington D.C. with fellow veterans. He’s proud of his service to his country and had an amazing experience on the trip.
Today, on November 11, 2016 – Veterans Day, we’re thankful to you, Verdie, and all of the veterans!
Veteran Spotlight: Earl Roesler, Eventide Sheyenne Crossings
In 1942, at 23 years old, Earl Roesler’s life changed. He went from working on his farm near Leonard, ND, to being drafted into the army during WWII.
Earl found himself at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas. There he went through basic training. When completed, he and other soldiers would check the bulletin board to see what opportunities were available so they could leave infantry training. A position for a cook caught Earl’s eye and he signed up, although not too excited. Then he saw an opportunity for an auto mechanic – this was something he could get into! Next to farming, mechanical work was a hobby he really enjoyed. And so began Earl’s adventure in the army as a mechanic.
After spending time on Angel’s Island near San Francisco, not knowing what the future had instore, Earl stepped foot on a ship. Twenty-one days later, he found himself at the Fiji Islands. The soldiers lived near a seaport and did mechanical work. After nearly two years on the Fiji Islands, Earl again found himself on a ship. On their next adventure, the soldiers crossed the equator, Earl noting it being a strange thing to see.
“That’s quite the experience, crossing the equator,” says Earl. “All you could see was water. Looking west of the ship, the water was blue, looking east of the ship, the water was green. It was a line between blue and green across the hemisphere.”
This time when the ship reached its destination, Earl was on the Solomon Islands, where there was very little civilization and an active volcano, something he was always aware of. Earl and his fellow soldiers occupied one end of the island, while Japanese soldiers occupied the other end. After the Solomon Islands, Earl was sent to the Philippines. The island offered very hot days – once up to 126 degrees, but mostly around 100+ degrees – and cold nights. Although the temperature would stay around 80 at night, the air was so damp that the soldiers would shiver beneath many layers of blankets. It was nothing like back home. While there, the war ended.
On November 1, 1945, Earl arrived by train to Casselton. He went back to farming where he grew many acres of grains over the years, while also raising cattle in the winter months. In 1951, he married his wife and together they raised five children. Earl and his wife eventually started spending winters near Orlando, which allowed Earl to golf all year long, something he very much enjoyed. Earl lives at Eventide Sheyenne Crossings, is 97 years old, and has five generations below him with the farm still in the family.
Veteran Spotlight: Robert J. Sarbaum, Eventide Jamestown
Robert J. Sarbaum was drafted in 1946 when he was 23 years old. He trained at Fort Snelling in Minnesota as MP (military police) and was stationed in California. His role was to provide security for the German prisoners of war (POWs) held at the POW camp. He served in this role for two years, received the WWII Victory Medal and remains a member of his local VFW today.
Upon honorable discharge from the army, he and his wife Myrna farmed near his hometown of Marion, North Dakota. Today, he lives at Eventide Jamestown.
Veteran Spotlight: Tim Kurtz, Eventide Heartland
In 1947, at the age of 17, Tim Kurtz joined the National Guard, wanting to join his brothers in serving his country.
“It means a lot to me,” he says. “To have served my country with my seven brothers, all of us serving in the Army. It made my father so proud that every one of us was able to serve our country.”
Tim began his service at Camp Rucker in Alabama and then went on to Fort Worth, Texas. After receiving an honorable discharge, Tim returned to his hometown of Devils Lake where he worked in a furniture store and also assisted in a carpet installation business with his older brother.
When Tim was 22 he married his wife Mary Anne. In January they will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. The couple raised two daughters and three sons; they lost a three-year-old son who had cerebral palsy.
Tim’s special interests have included woodworking, gardening, helping others and following his Catholic faith. An avid football fan since he was a child, Tim continues to follow his favorite teams, the North Dakota State University Bison and Minnesota Vikings.
Thank you, Tim, for your service to our country!
Veteran Spotlight: Sheila McMullen, Eventide Fairmont
Moorhead native Sheila McMullen has always been up for adventure. After finishing nursing school in Valley City, ND, Sheila was a nurse at St. Ansgar Hospital in Moorhead and then moved to Minneapolis to continue her work as a nurse. Living in the big city was exciting, but still, she wanted to do more. Following in her father’s and brothers’ footsteps, she joined the military to put her nursing skills to work for her country. After enlisting in the Air Force, even more adventure ensued. Sheila completed basic training and then spent two years in San Antonio, Texas – a place she very much enjoyed. Later, she was stationed in England where she served as a nurse to men who’d been injured in Vietnam and were transitioning – either to go back home to the United States or to finish their duties elsewhere after they were restored back to health.
As a nurse, she knew how to help the injured, and as an empathetic person who enjoyed her work in mental health, she knew how to connect to the soldiers who’d been injured in war. The service was meaningful and rewarding and her role was important.
“I worked with great people and it was an honor to serve,” says Sheila.
Being in England offered Sheila an opportunity to go on another adventure she often dreamed of, one that meant something on a different level – she got to go to Ireland. Some of Sheila’s ancestors were from Ireland and she’d always embraced a deep interest in those roots.
Although Sheila considered staying in the military, she decided 10 years was the right amount of time for that adventure. After leaving as a Captain, she returned to the Moorhead area where she could be close to her family, continue her career as a nurse and embark on another adventure – learning. Sheila has always had an intense interest in history and politics which led her to get a degree in international relations at Concordia College. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she still continued with the work she loved – nursing – until she retired. Today, she continues to have a passion for learning – something she fulfills by reading many books while living at Eventide Fairmont.
Thank you, Sheila, for your service to our country!