Ella May Stumpe, 110, Frederick County author

August 20, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Ella May Stumpe, a former teacher and longtime Frederick resident who was in her 90s when she wrote her first book, died in her sleep Tuesday at the Record Street Home for Ladies in Frederick. She was 110.

She was born Ella May Leonard, July 12, 1895, in Dunseith, N.D., during the second term of Grover Cleveland's presidency and the reign of Queen Victoria.

When the Wright Brothers took to the air at Kitty Hawk, N.C., she was a precocious 8-year-old.

Mrs. Stumpe spent the early years of her life in a sod house that her pioneer parents built. The family later moved to a large timber farm house they had constructed.

"This had been Indian territory populated by Indians and buffalo for ages. The native Indian did not welcome the white man into what had been his hunting ground for generations," she wrote in Ladies of Record Street Home in 1998. "They were somber neighbors that I avoided, with a sense of fear, at every opportunity."

After graduating from high school in 1913, she earned a teaching certificate and taught school for three years before becoming deputy county auditor for Rolette County, N.D.

Mrs. Stumpe recalled the horrors of World War I, the veterans she described as "battered and shattered men who returned home," and the veterans who didn't.

After marrying her first husband, Bill Grobman, the couple moved to Indiana where they owned and operated a drugstore. After his death, she married Guy Billeter, and moved to Chicago, where she managed the executive tearoom of the Benjamin Moore Paint Co., after her second husband's death in the 1940s.

She and her last husband, Walter Stumpe, manager of a manufacturing company, moved to Mountain Home, Ark., after his retirement.

After his death in the 1960s, she moved to Leisure World in Silver Spring, and finally to Frederick where she lived with the Wilms family until 1996, when she moved to the Record Street Home for Ladies.

When she was in her 90s, Mrs. Stumpe enrolled at Frederick Community College, where she completed computer and technology classes. Her first book, 100 Years, My Story, was published after she gained centenarian status, which was followed by her second book, a history of the Record Street Home for Ladies, founded in 1982 for "Ladies who were the victims of circumstances over which they had no control."

"Not many people experience that much change in their lives. But she was a very adaptable person, and with every change, she brought something from the past," said Sue Anne Wilms, a longtime friend. "When something new came along, like an appliance, she got it. When the computer came along, she learned how to use them."

Mrs. Wilms described her friend as a "strong-willed person that was backed by conviction. If something needed to be done, she did. That was part of her pioneering spirit."

An accomplished bridge player, Mrs. Stumpe was in her 70s when learned the craft of china painting. She also enjoyed painting still-lifes in oils.

Mrs. Stumpe, who did not smoke or drink, preferred having her dessert before her meal.

"She loved raisin pie, strawberry shortcake and angel food cake. She was a wonderful cook and was known for her rolly-polly fruit wraps, square and round pies that were made with the most outstanding flaky crusts," Mrs. Wilms said.

While she ate some meat and vegetables and preferred mashed potatoes made with plenty of butter and fresh cream, she followed no particular dietary or physical regimen.

Vigorous and active until the end of her life, Mrs. Stumpe continued to enjoy her various activities and kept in touch with family and friends by e-mail.

Throughout her life, she had been active in church and mission work and was a member of Calvary United Methodist Church in Frederick.

After funeral services Thursday, Mrs. Stumpe's body was transported to Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick by horse-drawn carriage.

Surviving are a son, Ralph L. Billeter of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; a daughter, Lenore Reiter of Plainfield, N.J.; 14 grandchildren; 26 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.

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