Mildred

by Arnold Nelson

      I am writing this for my niece Christian who asked me to write more about her Grandma. Mildred Ollendorf was born in Chicago on April 16 1918. Her parents were Wyllis and Mabel Ollendorf. Wyllis was German his grandparents came to the U.S. in the 1860s, Mabel grandparents came from Wales and Denmark also in the 1860s. Mildred had 1 sister Laverne who was 3 years younger. Mildred studied nursing for a short while.

     After she married Arnold Nelson, he refused to let her do anything except be a housewife and mother. Mildred met Arnold Nelson at a local Baptist church, it was a teenage get-together. Arnold knew right away Mildred was the girl for him. They married on July 18th 1941. They first lived with her parents. Their first daughter (Sandy) was born while they stayed there.

      Shortly after Sandy was born Arnold bought a farm in Michigan and moved his little family up to Benton Harbor. Shortly after they moved there Sandy got very sick with Pneumonia. Mildred didn't know how to take care of it and Sandy got dehydrated and ended up in the hospital for a while. When Sandy was well again, Arnold decided that was too close, he wanted lots of kids so if anything happened to one there were still plenty of others. So shortly after that Arlene was born. WWII was going then and all the young men were being drafted.

     Arnold's father William told Arnold to get a job in a defense factory so he would not be drafted. Arnold did. But he hated factory work he stood it for a couple of years then quit He figured the war was almost over anyway. He got drafted. He went to the Philippines. He served 18 months. His first job when he was there was picking up dead soldiers.

     He got to know the man that ran the motor pool and every chance he could he was in there working. When that man was do to go home they asked Arnold if he could run the motor pool Arnold said sure. Then he was happy. He was always happy when he was working on cars. While Arnold was in the service Mildred took her 2 daughters and stayed with her parents in Chicago.

     When Arnold got home they went back to the farm. They had 2 more daughters Cathy and Linda. In 1949 or maybe 1950 William suffered a stroke. Arnold sold their farm and went back to Chicago to help his father. They stayed with his parents for a little while until Arnold could purchase a piece of land in the new community of Park Ridge, Illinois and build a house for his growing family.

     All this time Mildred was a housewife and mother. She was content to let him make all the decisions. William also bought land in Park Ridge right across from Arnold and he built a house for him and his wife Jennie. Jennie had Arthritis very bad, but she insisted on going down in the basement every day and to do laundry.

    William finally had enough he bought the property next store and started building another house without a basement. William figured that would fix her. But Jennie told William she would never live in that house and she was right. She died before that house was finished.

    While she was in the hospital she said My job here is done I have raised my children I am not needed here anymore I am going home. Shortly after that she died.

    While in Park Ridge the Nelson family grew by 2. This time Arnold got the boys he had been wanting. Arnold Jr. was born first he was named after his father. Then Gary who was named after Gary Cooper and Alan Ladd. They were 2 of Arnold's favorite actors. After Jennie died Arnold decided he had enough of cold weather. And told everyone he was going to drive until he got warm. He took William with him and they drove to Florida first, in the winter of 1952-53. Arnold decided it was too humid and he didn't want his girls growing up around all those black people (Arnold was very prejudice.)

      The next winter he drove to California where Mildred's parents used to go for the winters. He found them in Palm Springs and asked Wyllis to drive him around. Wyllis did and when Arnold saw the little town of Redlands he decided that was where he wanted to live. So he sent William back to Chicago on the train, rented a room and got a job and started making plans to get his family to Redlands.

      By the fall of 1954 Arnold had saved up enough money and made a down payment on a house . He sent for his family and they arrived in October I think. Shortly after moving to Redlands they added 2 more to their family. Mark and Karen. Now there were 8 children. William used to spend summers with his son Bud in Chicago and winters in Redlands with Arnold. That was a big household. About the time Karen was born William met a lady named Betty Gibson. They married and he spent the rest of his life with her.

     All this time Mildred let Arnold make most of the decisions. She did what Arnold wanted she took care of the children and the house. Everyone once in a while Mildred would put her foot done and tell Arnold no, but not very often. Arnold started a sprinkler business and at times made good money. Arnold never knew how to handle money. When he had money he wanted to play. So quite often Arnold and Mildred went to Las Vegas or some where else for the weekend. Leaving the kids home alone. We had fun when the parents were gone.

     The problem was he should have been saving some of that money to get him through the long lean winters. Arnold never saved a thing. He always figured he could make all the money he needed when he needed it. That didn't work too good and when he needed money for Christmas and other things sometimes he would sell family heirlooms. When Arnold Jr. was 6 he had pneumonia and Mildred still didn't know how to take care of it and just like Sandy, Arnold Jr. ended up in the hospital for a while. He was very dehydrated.

    About 1968 the older girls were all out of the house Arnold Jr. knew something was wrong but no one would tell him anything. I guess they all decided he was too young. He was a junior in high school then. In the Nelson family I guess we were all treated like we were younger then we were. Arnold Jr. finally found out that Arnold had a girl friend on the side and was spending lots of time and money on her.

     It really hurt the family because we all loved Mildred so much. She was the one that was always there for us and always willing to talk as long as we needed it no matter what the hour. Mildred and Arnold Jr. used to watch TV late at night after the younger kids were in bed. He would see Mildred get up and go into her bedroom and hear her crying, Then she would come out and be fine again. She never said a word to Arnold Jr. about it. It really hurt Arnold Jr. to hear his mother crying like that and not being able to do anything about it. He didn't even know what the problem was. Arnold Jr. asked her one time why she didn't divorce him. She answered He promised to support me the rest of my life and I am going to make him do it.

     In 1980 Arnold had a stroke. When Arnold Jr. found out about it he felt terrible, Mildred was sitting down there all alone. She didn't drive and didn't have any close friends .Her nearest relatives were about 40 miles away. So Arnold quit his job and headed South and moved in with Mildred and drove her around and kept her company until Arnold got out of the hospital.

     When Arnold came home Arnold Jr. went back to Oregon. If he had only known the future he would have never left Mildred. Mildred died 1 year later of Pancreatic cancer. Mildred never had a life of her own. She lived her life through her children. The children loved her very much. And we miss her terribly. I think Sandy said it best right after the funeral. She said She was a good Mommy. I could not agree more.

    Mildred was very bright. She would do only the hardest crosswords. When we watched the games shows on TV we were always surprised at the number on Questions she got right. She was very good with names. She once said If you are interested in people it is easy. I think there is more to it then that. I am very bad with names.

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