Posts Tagged: probituary

Probituary: Ernest M. Corson

Probituary: Ernest M. Corson, interviewed by daughter Charlene Selbee
Originally published in the Summer 2017 Inspire(d), Ernest passed away August 20, 2017 at the age of 102. Our condolences to Ernest’s family and friends.

Ernest Corson was born to Melvin and Emma Corson on May 29, 1915 on the “Skunk Farm” in Hesper, Iowa. He was joined in later years by his brothers Norman and Manford, and It was during his youth that he first met Charlotte, his wife -to-be, at family get-togethers. The couple would eventually grow their family to 6 kids; Denny, Lynda, Doug, Dalton, Forrest, and Charlene. Ernest graduated from Mabel High School, and attended Normal School in Preston, MN to become a teacher. (? Include?where he was the only boy in the class!)

Enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1941, he was judged too old to fly planes at the age of 26 so he entered radio school and graduated two days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He served during WWII at locations throughout Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, including volunteering for the invasion of Attu. He was diverted to the nearby island of Shemya and participated in the building of a top secret Air Force base during extreme arctic conditions. After World War II, Ernest and his brother Norman opened a radio repair shop in Mable, MN before re-enlisting.

Charlotte and Ernest were married Nov. 7, 1946, in Montana. Two deployments to England soon followed, family in tow – where the family spent a total of 6 years. Retiring after 20 years of service in the USAF, they returned to the family farm near Hesper. In 1967 Ernest became the manager for the Mabel Cooperative Telephone Co. where he used his skills to update the regional phone system. He continued to help on the family farm until the age of 93 and joined his wife Charlotte at the Aase Haugen Home in Decorah before their 66 years together came to an end in 2012. A life member of the Mabel Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Mabel, Ernest was surprised as a part of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight to Washington DC in Arpil 2013. Several members of his family joined him in Washington where they toured the memorials before returning to Eastern Iowa.

1. What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My dad and mom gave a lot of advice. Like “Don’t hunt anything unless you want to kill it.” Mouse or rat included. Why harm it if is not harming anything. Also, on longevity, “Lots of grass cutting. Don’t use a rototiller. Lots of hoeing by hand. I always had a big garden.” The secret for a long marriage? Always have fun together, and take your kids with you wherever you go.

2. How about the worst?

No bad advice – listen to what people had to say.

3. What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was 6 years old I had a plan, I was interested in being a teacher.

4. What do/did you do?

I had many odd jobs like pin setter at the Mabel bowling alley, and was a 1st – 8th grade teacher after high school. Enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941 and went to radio school. After WWII we ran a radio repair shop in Mabel, was manager at the Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company, and farmer on the Young family farm outside of Hesper.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?

I’ve been many places – and food and water are the most important things. Water is the most important. People don’t even know how important is. Water is more important than food.

6. If you eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Good food. My Dad was a sharp shooter and hunter – we always had food on the table from the big garden and good meat!

7. Name one thing you could not live without.

Water. Some people take it for granted but I don’t. No food or water – you won’t live very long. I’ve seen guys who were prisoners of war – in the Sahara Desert 1942, they got home and said water was most important. You can go without food for 2 or 3 days but can’t go very long without water.

8. Multiple choice: tell us about… Your first job.

I taught at South Fork in Fillmore County, MN. All eight grades in a one room school house – an they didn’t complain. Kids had to walk 1 mile to school, but I only walked a ¼ mile. I had to light a fire every morning before school at 9am – we let out at 4pm in time to go home and do chores. Some kids’ parents came from Norway or Germany and spoke no English, but it wasn’t hard to teach English. Spelling was a favorite – they were good at that. Memories include getting to the school in a cutter or sleigh in Winter and snowball fights. The Christmas program – so crowded that parents who came late had to stand. Having an apple or orange for lunch, and playing pump pump pull away outside during recess.

Probituary, A Notice of Life: Phyllis Green

phyllis-greenPhyllis Green, interviewed by daughter Pat Beck

People around Decorah know Phyllis Green as a bridge player, club member, cookie baker, reliable volunteer, teacher and loyal friend. These qualities, plus a cheerful outlook, and a pragmatic can-do attitude have had a positive effect on people who have known her over eight decades. Phyllis was born August 16, 1928, and grew up on the Erickson family farm near Burr Oak. Though it was during the Great Depression, her life was rich with farm activities, 4-H, church, a sister, cousins, chores, and her pets. She learned the rewards of hard work, of challenging herself, of true love, and of giving.

phyllis_siblingsPhyllis lived in Decorah during her high school years because there were no school buses. She made this big transition shortly after she turned 13; she shared a room with people she didn’t know, cooked for herself, and was introduced to running water and electricity. Decorah High School offered High School Normal Training to prepare teachers for country schools. Phyllis’s long teaching career led to recognition as Scott County Teacher Award, North Scott Community Arts Patron, Iowa Social Studies Teacher of the Year, University of Iowa Distinguished Teacher Award, and The 51st Point of Light given by President Bush.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I am rather averse to advice. I learn by example. My mother taught me to try new things because that’s how you learn if you can do them or not.

What is the worst advice anyone ever gave you?

Since this is not a part of my thinking, I usually count on my own ideas – sometimes good and sometimes questionable. Isn’t that how you learn?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was in second grade, my teacher showed me the love and understanding that touched and impressed me. It was in second grade that I set my goal to become a teacher.

When I finished high school, I taught two years in a country school. Then I married K. Ted Green, my life partner. We have five beautiful children. When they were all in school, I started college and completed my degree at Upper Iowa University. Because of Ted’s job with Oscar Mayer, we moved to the Quad Cities. I taught at North Scott Schools for 25 years. Living just 50 miles from The University of Iowa was incentive to continue my education. I completed my MA in two areas and was accepted in the doctoral program. Ted knew I wanted to further my education and he made this dream a reality by his complete support, encouragement, and understanding. These were the building blocks that made my dreams come true. I’ve always been curious about people and places. Ted and I enjoyed foreign travel so this was a part of our yearly plan.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?

I’d want lots of pictures of our family – children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, a good book, paper and a pencil, and a Hershey Bar. I know that is more than three things, but I usually get what I want.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.

I am a hard worker, an honored wife, a loved mom, grandma, and great-grandma.

If you could eat anything everyday for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A Hershey chocolate bar.

Name one thing you could not live without.

I need a pencil and paper to record my feelings, my wishes, my poetry, my dreams, my stories, my ideas, and to communicate with family and friends – but if I can really have only ONE thing, it would be my family.

phyllis_ted_weddingTell us about your favorite memory.

I will never forget meeting Ted. I was at the county fair when a friend introduced us. He was the county boys’ 4-H president and I was the county girls’ 4-H president but we had never met. I finished high school, taught two years and Ted went to Madison to start his career.

Our wedding day started 63 years of “favorite memories.” We were married at Upper Lutheran Church and had our wedding reception at the Winneshiek Hotel.  We were blessed with four sons and one daughter. Each birth, baptism, confirmation, graduation, wedding have added to our favorite memories.

Also our 60th wedding party, planned by our children, was also held at the Hotel Winneshiek. I have so much to be grateful for!


Probituary, A Notice of Life: Ernest “Pokey Pete” Peterson!

PokeypostcardErnest “Pokey Pete” Peterson was born in the spring of 1925 in Cedar Falls, IA. He grew up on a farm just outside of Osage where milking and chores took the place of extra curricular activities, but also accounted for a strong family life and respect for hard work. He joined the US Navy on Thanksgiving Day 1943 and from an early age figured out that he didn’t personally need much money, especially when it could be better used helping children and those in need. In August of 1968 Ernest paid off his bills and bought the best riding lawn mower he could find, a Massy Fergeson, as it would need to be red to be the locomotive of his train. Two wooden cars – a “coal car” and a caboose were built in his basement that winter, and moved up in the spring so that a fun, new attraction could be presented at the many rural town festivals across eastern Iowa. And of course it would raise money for charities.

Ernest knew his operation needed to run entirely non-profit – “morally non-profit” as he says – from covering his own expenses, to sharing the proceeds with those in need with no judgment or concern. All of his proceeds, including much of his janitor’s salary, an incredible sum nearing $400,000 total over three decades went to charities such as the Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald house of Iowa City, private individuals in need, and more. He also rang bells for the Salvation Army in Cedar Falls – complete with his railroad engineer’s outfit on, for 35 years.

Pokey Pete, aka “Troll’s Trolley” was (and still is) an institution at Decorah’s Nordic Fest, where he donated his train to the Decorah Lion’s Club in 1989. You can read more about Mr. Peterson’s incredible contributions in the new book by Dawn Svenson Holland entitled “Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong”.


1) What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Take your own advice! Actually, my parents didn’t do a lot of talking, but they sure set by example.

2) What did you want to be when you grew up?

I didn’t know there was another job other than farming – my brothers and I milked 25 holsteins – an hour and a half every morning and every night. There wasn’t time for the other activities, and I didn’t get exposed to the problems that people have today.

3) What did you do?

I came back in ‘45 and just looked for a job – whatever was available. A short time at the Rath packing plant, and then at that time in the 50’s we had 9 dairies bottling and delivering milk to homes. I thought the dairies would go on forever – Carnation and Walnut. So I worked there, but as of about 1970 there wasn’t a milk bottler in Cedar Falls. I got to sanding floors for 10 years after that – I just took what was available at the time. And then I became the school house janitor at Orchard Hills school in Cedar Falls for 16 years. The school job allowed me to take my vacation days off to drive the train.

4) If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you want?

Hahaha, well it ain’t ever gonna’ happen! Well, look around your home. Who needs all this stuff? Not me – we could all get by with a lot less.

5) Try to describe yourself in one or two sentences:

I was just a carnie operator doing my job, if you want to call it that. I’m awful proud I did it (the train) and made all the decisions myself. And you need to do what you believe.

6) If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I don’t eat to eat. The hunger to over eat is pitiful.  You learn that on the farm too – you work to eat, and eat to work, and exist. I can live without food now almost – I’m 91. I have my 2 slices of toast, but I don’t ever expect too many tomorrows at my age.

7) Name one thing you could not live without:

We all need a dream, and you have to get to living that dream.

8) Tell us about…

Your Wedding Day:
I was married in 1947, for ten years – but things didn’t work out. We didn’t see the same way about money. Then there was a nice young lady that lived near my folks – Juanita and I got married in 1958. She had been through a tough marriage as well – we both had our challenges, but those 2 negatives made a positive. The only job she travelled with me on each year was to Nordic Fest, as it was more than one day. She ran the “Station”, and Gary Svenson always had someone lined up that we could stay with. That was the only job she came with me on each year.


Your favorite memory:

There are many, but the times when I would help a toddler get up on the train engine and walk them in a circle letting them drive. Parents, and kids, loved that – taking pictures, their little darling was the engineer. I did too. I gave the train away in ‘89 (to the Decorah Lions Club), one of my biggest helpers telling that story was Paul Harvey. I gave away the rest of my money on my 90th birthday, just before I came to the Western home. What I did, you know, I wasn’t Mickey Mouse or Super Man – I’m just a human. Its time we all get back to doing more human things. ——————–


Benji Nichols can remember riding on the Pokey Pete (or “Trolls Trolley”) train from a very young age. Getting to interview Ernest for this article and realize the magnitude of his extreme generosity have been a major highlight for Inspire(d).