Ellen Mae Arneson was born on February 28, 1922, in the middle of a North Dakota blizzard. Her father, Theodore Arneson, delivered her. Ellen passed away on March 17, 2019, peacefully in her sleep, just as she always wanted. Ellen had a generous spirit like no other. She had an intense faith that carried her through unimaginable tragedy and grief, including the death of three sons before the age of six, the drowning of her husband and oldest son, age 16, the death of three adult sons, and two grandsons. She is survived by four children: Judy Chappelle, La Brea, CA, Dawn Becker, South Heart, ND, Casey Becker, Helena, MT, and Rose Vallie-Norris (Kyle Norris), Flagstaff, AZ.
Ellen grew up on the family farm in North Dakota during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years. She then lived in Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. Ellen returned to North Dakota to retire and live near her two surviving brothers. She spent the last 17 years of her life here in Flagstaff, participating joyfully in the lives of her grandsons, Walker, Quinn and Graham Norris, as well as keeping up with the lives of each of her remaining 18 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and 7 great-great grandchildren.
Ellen’s mother, Belle Nichols Arneson, homesteaded in North Dakota on her own and supported herself as a teacher for years before marrying Theodore. Belle passed on a passionate love of gardening to Ellen, who was most happy with her hands deep in rich soil (see picture taken 6 weeks ago planting spring bulbs with her family). Ellen was dedicated to saying the rosary every morning for family and friends, and she had a special place in her heart for Holy Mary Mother of God.
Ellen was intellectually curious and sharp until the end. She was the valedictorian of her high school class and captain of her high school basketball team. Ellen was a passionate Democrat, and she had the most genuine compassion for her fellow human beings. She had a special relationship with her sister Claribel, and though they didn’t live near each other, they talked almost daily by phone until Claribel’s death.
Although she struggled for many years to support her family as a single mother, she remained steadfastly positive. Of the many jobs she had in life, she was most fond of caring for the late Governor/Senator Milward K. Simpson in Cody, WY. She was a loyal friend, even if you just met her, with her kind and nonjudgmental heart. Ellen greeted everyone with a warm smile and sometimes her typical North Dakota slang: “hello dere” or “you betcha.”
Ellen just celebrated her 97th birthday while living at the Olivia White Hospice House. Her caregivers there truly honored the gift of age and the dignity of dying.
Ellen’s memorial service will be at San Francisco de Asis Catholic Church on March 29, 2019, with Holy Rosary at 9:30, Mass at 10:30, and reception after at the church. Please consider giving a donation in Ellen’s name to Catholic Charities, 2101 N. Fourth St., Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Memories and condolences may be shared with family on the online guestbook at www.norvelowensmortuary.com