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Ellen E. Looker died in Des Moines, Iowa, January 13, 2021, at age 101. She witnessed and participated in major events of the 20th and 21st centuries. But in a sense, she experienced life in three centuries, the 19th as well. She was born Ellen Eleanor Castleman July 26, 1919 on a homestead farm in Weldon, Montana, a high plains town that no longer exists. She was seven when her mother died. She and her three sisters then went to live with their stern maternal grandparents on a tenant ranch in central Washington. In winter, to reach their one-room school, they walked behind their grandfather as he broke a trail through the snow on horseback. Her grandmother taught her to cook on a wood stove. Many years later she used her kitchen skills to treat grandchildren to homemade candy and cookies at holiday gatherings.

Those grandchildren remember her as a kind, generous person and a courageous defender of women’s rights.

She learned bookkeeping at a business college in Spokane, Washington before moving to Seattle, where she worked for Columbia Pictures. In 1943, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving in the Waves during World War II as a Storekeeper First Class. She was stationed at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. While visiting nearby Washington, DC, she met James H. Looker, a naval officer on leave. They were in a crowded, shared taxi and by the end of the ride he got up the nerve to ask her for a date, she later recalled. They were married in San Francisco in May 1946.

When Jim finished his Ph.D. in chemistry at The Ohio State University, Ellen studied geology. In 1950 the couple moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Jim was a chemistry professor at the University of Nebraska and Ellen was a homemaker.

She is a descendant of John Augustine Washington, a brother of George Washington, and Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In Lincoln she served as Regent of the Deborah Avery Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was active in the Abigail Adams Chapter of the DAR in Des Moines until her 100th birthday. She was also a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

As a teenager, she saw Franklin Roosevelt dedicate the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington in 1934 and remained a strong Democrat. She met Hillary Clinton in Des Moines twice and in November 2020 was able to vote for Joe Biden for president.

She was a member of Grace United Methodist Church of Des Moines, where she made friends and especially enjoyed hearing choir members play the bells at Christmas. She was in prayer almost until her last breath.

Ellen is survived by her son, Dan (Joan) of Des Moines; her daughter, Rev. Ronni Sue Verboom (Gilles) of Portage, WI; a beloved nephew, Jeff (Heather) Shelby of Manson, WA; grandchildren: Denis Jones- Verboom, Natalie Luhtala, Andrea Haan, Julien Verboom, Colleen Looker, Maureen Kieffer, and Nate Looker; and five great-grandchildren: David Verboom, Nicholas Haan, Jacob Haan, Kathleen Kieffer and Madeline Kieffer. She was preceded in death by her husband, James Looker; her parents, Corbin and Virgie Castleman; three sisters: Emma Lou, Alice and Frances; and her brother, Scott who died in infancy.

A graveside service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, January 21, 2021 at Lincoln Memorial Park, 6700 S. 14th Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. She will be buried beside her husband. You may join the family by watching the service virtually at Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home and Cemetery’s Facebook page.

A Celebration of Life will be held this summer in Des Moines.

Memorials may be directed to the Daughters of the American Revolution – Service to Veterans Program, c/o NSDAR Abigail Adams Chapter, 710 63rd St., Des Moines, IA 50312-1013, to Grace United Methodist Church, or to Save the Children. Condolences to www.lincolnfh.com.

Service Details

Service:
Thursday, January 21, 2021
2:00 pm
Lincoln Memorial Park Funeral Home
6700 S. 14th Street
Lincoln, Nebraska.
Disposition:
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Burial
Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery
Lincoln, Nebraska
Arrangements:
Hamilton's on Westown Parkway
3601 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, Iowa 50266
(515) 224-0078

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