Eleanor Marie Tolk was born in Nassau, Minnesota to Otto and Margaret (Peters) Lau on October 26, 1935. Being that it was the “depression years” the family moved around quite a bit. Eleanor recalled during her second grade that they lived near Belingham, Minnesota amongst other rural communities. Eleanor had two older brothers, Art and George, and a sister Norma, five years younger. One childhood memory that stuck out is when they lived south of Madison, Minnesota, she was at the neighbors and lightning struck the chimney of their house. The shattered bricks made so much dust that it spoiled the tomatoes her mother was canning. When Eleanor started the seventh grade, she had to rise early to ride the bus to Madison. She would finish her education and graduate there.
After graduation from high school, she took Teachers Training School which was in Madison. In her later years, she looked back in amazement that in only nine months of training they were supposed to be ready to teach children in 1st through 8th grade everything! But she did it. She completed the course and at the age of 18, she started teaching at Lac qui Parle County District 49 School. At first she wondered, “how will I keep all these different aged children busy?” But after a couple of weeks she wondered, “how will I be able to get all the material taught in such a short time?” There were joys and challenges of teaching. She recalls one day when the children went out for recess she went to the restroom and just cried. After that she felt better and continued on. And press on she did. She taught in different country schools until they closed for consolidation. She taught seven years in Arco, Minnesota until it closed, then second grade in Tyler, Minnesota. Then many years in Title One in Tyler, then in Ruthton, Minnesota for second grade until her retirement. She taught and influenced many children and was still humbled when grown adults addressed her as Ms. Tolk later in life. Eleanor became Mrs. Tolk in 1957. She was teaching at the country school near Madison and one day filling up her Ford car at the pump, a road construction worker was filling up his Chevy and he made some quip about her driving a Ford. She returned a quip of her own and that started a conversation, then a date night to the movies, and from there a romance. Donny and Eleanor were married at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Madison on June 16, 1957. And Eleanor didn’t switch to driving Chevys but did drive a Buick. Their marriage was blessed with one son, Dale, and many happy years. They enjoyed fishing and camping, especially in Waubay, South Dakota. Eleanor also enjoyed gardening flowers and vegetables and quilting. They also did some traveling. Donny’s sister lived in Oregon so they traveled there and also to Washington State, Kodiak Island, Alaska, and Hawaii. Donny preceded Eleanor in death on June 8, 2015 and on Sunday, September 13, 2020, Eleanor died peacefully at the Avera Sunrise Manor in Tyler at the age of 84 years, 10 months, and 18 days.
Eleanor was baptized in Nassau and confirmed at St, John’s Lutheran Church in Madison. She was currently a member of Danebod Lutheran Church in Tyler.
Eleanor will be missed by her son Dale (Donna) of Brookings, South Dakota; sister, Norma Johnson of Arco; sisters-in-law, Marlene of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sandy of Minneota, Minnesota, and Shirley (Arlen) Reese of Richmond, Washington; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Donald; brothers, Arthur and George Lau; and brothers-in-law, Dennis Johnson and Ardeen.