The story of Elsie and Elsie begins with Elsie.
Elsie Locke, the latter, lived to 103 and never dyed her curly red hair. She lived in Flandreau, S.D., near Pipestone, worked as a nurse, raised four children and did such a fine job of it that she was named South Dakota Mother of the Year.
Four generations later, Elsie’s name returned in another winning way. Last November, Elsie Locke’s great-granddaughter, Amy Williams of Falcon Heights, gave birth to Elsie Williams. Amy fondly remembers her great-grandmother, who wore a lemon yellow pantsuit to her 100th birthday party.
Soon after little Elsie was born, Amy began taking her to visit her grandparents and other residents at Ecumen Seasons at Maplewood, an assisted-living facility where Amy works in development.
“It brings me so much joy to have her bring joy to older people,” says Amy, whose father is a pastor. “But it’s equally a gift to her. My Elsie will have so many friends of different ages.”
One day, Amy and little Elsie caught the eye of a resident, whose eyes lit up upon seeing the cherubic baby.
“What is the baby’s name?” the resident asked. “Well, my name is Elsie, too!” she said, elated by the response.
It wasn’t long before little Elsie and Elsie Gustavson, 94, were blowing raspberries together on a weekly basis.
“It makes me happy,” says Elsie G., who grew up in Saskatchewan, raised three children, and also worked as a nurse.
She’s lived at Ecumen for three years, since becoming widowed. Elsie G. always has been delighted by children, says her daughter, Juanita. She was a Sunday school teacher until about five years ago, pulling the 2- and 3-year-olds onto her lap.
“They’re so refreshing,” Elsie G. says of the little ones.
And they bring luck, too. Today is Bingo Day at Ecumen, and Amy carries little Elsie to Elsie G.’s table in the formal dining room. Little Elsie gnaws on her own bingo card and knocks Elsie G.’s red chips nearly off the table. Elsie G. laughs.
“You’re going to help me,” she tells the 9-month-old.
“I-24!” the caller shouts officially, as an attendant weaves a cart of prizes between tables around the room. The spoils include small apples and mini-candy bars, A&W root beer, applesauce, stuffed animals and Kleenex boxes. “B-7! B-11! Chicken legs!” The air is thick with excitement. Boards are filling up. Elsie G. concentrates on her two cards, as Amy places busy little Elsie on her shoulders, away from the action. “G-49! O-61! N-33!” says the caller.
“Bingo!” says Elsie G.