ELLEFSON, Carol Jeanette

March 22, 1931 – January 7, 2021

Carol Jeanette Ellefson Obituary

On Thursday, January 7th, 2021, Carol Jeanette Ellefson passed away peacefully at 89 years of age.

Carol is survived by her 3 children – Arlys Juhn (husband Helmut), Joanne Ertman (husband Morris), and Stephen Ellefson (wife Tara); grandchildren Jeremy Garrick, Luke Ertman (wife Trina), Holly Panisiak (husband Curt), Jesse Ertman, Kalen Ellefson, Connor Ellefson and Hannah Ellefson; great grandchildren Helen and Lucy Ertman, Cole and Logan Panisiak; sister Marilyn Mazza, and brothers Robert (wife Judy) and Don Nelson (wife Jane).

In passing, she joins beloved husband Dale Ellefson, and sister Arlene Gill.

Carol was born on March 22nd in 1931 in Kyle, Saskatchewan to parents Dorothy and Ruben Nelson. She was the oldest of five siblings and is remembered as a wonderful sister who gave guidance to her younger siblings. In 1952, she married Dale Raymond Ellefson in Calgary, Alberta, beginning their 53 year life together. Their lives took them to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – where daughter Arlys was born; Nelson BC – where daughter Joanne was born; Winnipeg Manitoba – where adopted son Stephen was brought home with much celebration; Unionville, Ontario; Lethbridge and finally Calgary, Alberta.

Family was everything to Carol. She will be remembered for being a loving embrace whenever her siblings, children or grandchildren needed support. And it was practical as much as sentimental. All attest to that. Carol was a Sister, Mother and Grandmother who infused the legacy of family into the lives of those who came into her care. She will be missed.

Carol Jeanette Ellefson Tribute

written by Morris Ertman

Jo’s Mom – Carol Jeanette Ellefson – passed away on Thursday, January 7th. So, here are a few thoughts in memory of an elegant lady – the use of the word “lady” being something she would have embraced.

As Luke, Jo and I packed up some of her belongings on Thursday afternoon, we came across numerous keepsakes that she had set aside for different children and grandchildren. With each keepsake, a handwritten note that described the significance of the treasured object. She was like a curator of family memory. Everything held meaning. This was nothing new to us. We have antique furniture in our house that was refinished by Carol and Dale in another time. And tucked away somewhere in a drawer, or taped behind a burled maple headboard is a note in Carol’s handwriting describing the historical and familial significance. There’s a hand-made christening gown passed down from the 1800s. There are little boxes containing simple elegant jewelry passed down from grandparents. There’s a suitcase with all of the letters from Morris Ellefson – a Canadian paratrooper who lost his life after landing in France the night before D-Day. It was Jo’s Dad who assembled all the letters and pictures of his older brother, with translations of the letters that were sent home by the French family who tended to his grave. Both Carol and Dale were curators of family history. It’s not a wonder that they found each other and married in 1952.

As we packed Jo’s family history overflowing boxes and drawers, we came across newspaper clippings that noted connections to people Carol found fascinating or significant. Jo tells the story of seeing Fred Varley – a member of the Group of Seven, as she came home from school one day. Jo’s family lived in a neighbourhood in Unionville, just outside of Toronto, where streets were named after the iconic Canadian painters. How she recognized the elderly gentlemen was in part testament to a mother who was deeply curious about creativity, artistry, music, and Canada, passing it on to her children, grandchildren and anyone who showed the least bit of interest.

Carol’s curiosity extended to more than just admiration. She played the piano with infectious joy-filled flourish – and I do mean flourish! She played entirely by ear. Hers was truly a gift. She simply sat down and played whatever she had heard from memory – and she did it from the very first time she sat down at an old upright as a young girl. She was a little girl when her Dad built a banjo from recycled box wood, and the two of them started playing music for community and church events. And when the brothers  were older, they joined in the family jam session music making. Later Carol and her two sisters became “The Nelson Sisters”, and for a time in the early history of Calgary they sang commercials in beautiful harmony live on the radio.

And she painted, walking in the footsteps of her father Ruben – where one of his particularly memorable paintings hung in the room where she left the earth. One of Carol’s rosemaling paintings hung on the wall beside it – exquisitely rendered. We all have versions of traditional Scandinavian rosemaling folk painting gifted by Carol in our homes – beautiful detailed folk renderings connected to the Nelson heritage.

Her curiosity extended much further than the tangible details in her crafts and painting. She loved to talk about unexplained happenings. Her grandchildren were regaled with stories about extraterrestrials and UFOs. She went so far as to trick children and grandchildren into places of wonder. Joanne recalls an elaborate card game called “Mr. Mystic” – a card identifying hoax Carol carried out on the phone with her brother Bob or dad Ruben. Arlys remembers an April Fool’s Day joke that repeatedly sent grandson Luke and then Arlys, Jeremy and Joanne all out into the daylight to look for Haley’s Comet – which of course can’t be seen during the day – the subterfuge ending with Carols’ “April Fools” on the other end of the telephone.

… Carol the April Fools Day trickster.

If there was a secret to be explored, Carol was out front, dragging children and grandchildren along with her. Even the locked door of a Masonic Lodge room in Manyberries Alberta would not stop her from somehow gaining access and exploring the room with her daughter Joanne – mother and daughter in a forbidden room full of man mystery.

… Carol the breaker of ridiculous rules mother.

Unexplained mysteries were a source of amusement to her, and she was able somehow to reconcile expansive cosmic ideas with her traditional Lutheran faith. She was a mystic of sorts, a Lutheran lady with a quiet, deep and enduring faith in the Gospel – among her belongings two well worn Bibles, one with larger print from her later years.

She had a curiosity that welcomed everyone into her small circle without ceremony. In the aftermath of her passing, son-in-law Helmut expressed his deep appreciation for the way she welcomed him into the family. She was known to him as “Mum,” an endearment born of adoption and inclusion, and ratified by games of back-up-3 where Helmut inevitably lost to the wiles of a mother-in-law who showed no mercy at cards. Carol beat everyone at cards, and taught her grandchildren to do likewise. Grandson Jeremy was a card shark in-training at the age of seven. Granddaughter Holly recalls hours of fun losing to her grandmother.  Among her lodge belongings we found packs of cards in most every drawer – talismans to time with family that was filled with joy and playfulness. 

And it needs to be noted that Carol included people in her life one wouldn’t expect a conservative Norwegian Lutheran lady to include around the family table. It didn’t matter to Carol how a person identified. She found people interesting and worthy of her time – an unceremonious playful reflection of the heart of Jesus.

In son Stephen’s words, “She taught me about compassion, kindness, and love.”

Those were the eyes through which Carol viewed the world. And she was deeply curious about what went on in that world – the Calgary Herald delivered to her almost until the day she died. She read every page, and cut out any article that included those she knew. Son and Calgary City Policeman Stephen’s story can be found in part by clippings saved over the years. Also among the saved newspaper clippings in her room were stories cut from the Entertainment section. When we visited, Carol supplied me with news of Rosebud, Calgary Theatre, Luke’s involvement in The Passion Play, or any other remotely connected story she thought I should be aware of.

Carol was a patron of the arts long before her daughter started dating someone obsessed with the theatre. When we moved her out of the home she shared with Dale some years ago now, she handed me a plastic bag filled with theatre programs. Many of them were from Rosebud. But there were also a stack of programs from shows like the Mirvish Production of Man of La Mancha, and Stratford Festival brochures and programs from when Robin Phillips was a young Artistic Director. She and Dale went to see Hair when it opened in Toronto – Hair! My Lutheran in-laws went to see the first musical that featured nudity on stage in the 1960s! Looking through those programs was like looking through a mini history of the theatre. I had no idea I had married into a family of theatre patrons until that day.

I remember a day in Rosebud when Carol and Dale asked if they could sit in on a rehearsal. I didn’t think much about it. They sat in the Opera House and watched as we assembled a show on stage. In hindsight, it’s kind of wonderful to know that their support was not just about supporting family. It was connected to their own curiosity about the theatre.

And why not … Dale and Carol lived their lives voraciously. Carol didn’t give that up when Dale left the earth. She continued in the pursuit of mystery and wonder, even in the confines of the small room in her lodge. She was always looking to a world outside the few walls she faced in later life. And she welcomed her great-grandchildren to that room with the same delight with which she engaged her own children and grandchildren. The spirit was the same, though her body could not express in baking and painting and crafting like it once could. But it did reflect in the clothes she wore – the necklace tastefully chosen for the day, the sweater that complimented the colour of her eyes, the elegant blouse.

Carol lived her life simply and elegantly, with a mischievous sparkle that belied the fact that she knew so much more than she was sharing. There’s a picture of her and Dale and the kids in the early 60s – a young suburban family. They look like someone from an old technicolour movie – a young family in another time. There’s another picture of Carol when she was 20 or so with a radiant face that could rival Marilyn Monroe. And then another portrait photo where she looks to be in her late 60s – still as radiant as she was in her 20s.

A few select lines from Bob Dylan’s song Forever Young come to mind.

May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung …

May you always know the truth

And see the lights surrounding you …

May your heart always be joyful,

May your song always be sung,

May you stay forever young …

Dylan’s song begins with the line “May God bless and keep you always” – similar words to the prayer Morris Ellefson sent to his parents on the Eve of D-Day.

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his grace to shine upon you and give you peace.

A prayer as much for we who remain as for Carol who now revels wide-eyed in the celestial lights of a mystery even bigger than she imagined.

Goodbye Carol – beloved Spouse, Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Sister, Aunt and Mother-in-law. It all has to end sometime, I guess. A few days ago, you were met by the angels you were curious about, the Jesus whose miracle you believed, your patiently waiting husband Dale, and by family – lots of family, whose history you curated and passed on in your lifetime – with more story than words can ever offer.

Arrangements entrusted to Florence (Flo) Simpson, Funeral Director

Cochrane Country Funeral Home – Ph: 403-932-1039

  1. On 15/01/2021 at 10:45 am Hilda Warkentin Said:

    Dear Joanne,
    You have lost a very precious Mom whom you will miss dearly. I enjoyed reading her life’s story which depicts her character so well. Sounds like you had some great adventures and will treasure her memory and influence in your life. We pray the Lord’s comfort will embrace you as you grieve and look forward to seeing her again in the presence of our Lord.

  2. On 26/01/2021 at 9:46 am Renate Wille Said:

    Dear Arlys,
    your mom will be missed by all, but mostly by her family. Her voice will be in your head and heart as long as you live. I know your mom as a gentle soul, a loving person without a mean bone in her body. I got to know her working alongside her in the Carousel Knitting Shop. There we were like a big family, we shared our sorrows and worries and we laughed a lot! We stayed friends in the years after, updating each other on all the happenings in our lives. In the end, when she could not answer anymore, I was still sending thoughts and prayers her way.
    I hope you find comfort in all the good memories, where grief will turn to just Love.
    Thank you for writing to me.

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