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Sending to know for whom the bell tolls

Staff writer

The bell at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lincolnville began ringing Thursday and seemed to go on forever.

“I think the church bell broke,” a resident socially posted. “It just keeps going and going.”

Pastor Alan Stahlecker was the bell ringer.

“The ringing of the church bell was the way a death was communicated prior to telephones,” he explained. “The toll bell would ring for the age of the deceased, and members would at least have some idea of who had just died. It’s not a necessary thing anymore, but the tradition continues.”

In this case, the member was Esther Groneman, who died at age 110. She probably was the oldest living resident of Marion County.

Esther was born in 1913. That’s the year the 16th amendment was added to the Constitution, authorizing the federal government to tax all sources of income. That’s also the year when Henry Ford developed an assembly line to speed up production of the Model T.

Esther was born on a farm five miles east of Lincolnville and attended several country schools. For her last few grades, she traveled with her brother, Bill Krause, in a horse and buggy to St. John’s Lutheran School in Lincolnville.

When she married Arthur A. Groneman on June 11, 1935, she moved to a farm less than a mile east of where she was born. She lived her entire life on that farm. The couple raised four children, all who are still living.

She was a hard worker, helping in the field as well as at home, her children said.

Their father had a pull-type combine, and Esther stood on the combine platform to turn a wheel that raised and lowered a eight-foot header.

“It didn’t go very fast,” son Arthur, Jr. said. “Eighty acres of wheat took a week to cut.”

Esther canned produce from her garden and took cans of cream and 90 dozen eggs to town Saturday evenings to trade for groceries.

“We had scrambled eggs and ham every Saturday night to use the eggs that broke when we washed them,” daughter Nancy said.

Esther raised chickens and ducks and once had a goose that followed her around everywhere. She loved to fish in area creeks and ponds. At butchering time, she made laundry soap out of pig fat or beef tallow. Nothing went to waste. She pickled the heart and the tongue.

When the couple first started farming, horses were used to pull a wagon through the fields to shuck corn.

“It was better than a tractor,” Art opined. “You didn’t have to get on. Just tell them to go.”

When Art was 4 or 5 years old, he rode in a Red Flyer wagon pulled behind the corn wagon while his parents worked.

“Mom was a good seamstress,” Nancy said. “She sewed all of our dresses on a treadle sewing machine. She made several formal dresses and made a suit for me from a picture in a J.C. Penney catalog. She helped me make clothes for my dolls.”

When threshing or silo-filling crews came to the farm, Esther killed several chickens, feathered and cleaned them, cut them up, and fried them. She also made pies.

“Mom was a strong woman,” daughter Lois said. “She was still spading in the garden in her 90s.”

Esther was the last to go in a family of 10 children. Her pastor shared some memories.

“Esther was 79 when I arrived in Lincolnville and was very faithful in attendance on Sunday mornings,” he said. “She had a quiet and kind disposition, but there was a toughness to her when she needed it. When it became necessary for me to see her at home, about age 95 or 96, she was always so appreciative that I brought God’s word and the blessing of Holy Communion into her home.

“She had a love of doing things that benefited others. In her 100s, she was still helping the Lutheran ladies group in Marion by cutting Walmart sacks into strips so they could be weaved into mats that could be used by the homeless.”

Lois was working in Hutchinson when she decided to come back home in 1970. She was there when their father died in 1989 and was her mother’s caregiver thereafter.

Her mother was still walking around the house with her walker last week when she got sick and was taken to the hospital.

“Mom wouldn’t have lived this long if Lois wouldn’t have been here cooking and cleaning for her,” Nancy said.

Last modified March 6, 2024

 

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