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Ex-employee, entertainer now resident at care center

Esther Lundgaard relaxed in her room at the Ellsworth Care Center Wednesday. Lundgaard celebrated her 90th birthday with a party at the care center the previous Saturday. (Herald photo by Bill Kirk).

Esther Lundgaard has had a full life elsewhere, but not much fuller than where she presently lives—the Ellsworth Care Center.

When the now-90-year-old moved into the local nursing home nearly five years ago, she’d already spent over two decades working and entertaining there, she said Wednesday. Her work was in the care center’s housekeeping department; the entertainment came in the form of talent she developed on the keyboard.

The area native’s housekeeping and music skills were honed outside the center, she said. She’d been a housekeeper at her then-future husband Melvin’s family home and later played the piano at their own home after they wed.

“I remember Mel would come dancing in when I was playing,” she said, noting she especially enjoyed country western tunes as well as religious songs.

Lundgaard said she grew up as the oldest girl in her family, the daughter of Frediof and Lillian. As a youth, she and her siblings joined her parents in working on her grandparents’ farm, the John Gilbertson dairy.

“I helped with the cooking, milking—everything,” she said, noting she grew up at a place near Beldenville. Her two brothers are Lawrence (now retired and living by Frederic) and Howard Nelson, while her four sisters are Margaret (Don Driscoll) now of Prescott, Florence (Howard Miller) of River Falls, Joyce (Kenneth Johnson) of Ellsworth and Grace of Hilary, Ohio.

When not assisting with attention to the garden—filled with her favorites like tomatoes, peas and beans—she enjoyed sliding in the winter, Lundgaard said. Her education began at the former one-room Cloverdale School and then, after the family moved to Martell, she attended the one-room school there. In her final year—the eighth grade—she was back at Cloverdale.

“We had about six practice teachers,” she said, explaining they relieved the regular teacher.

For more please read the Jan. 22 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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