Margaret Antoinette Ely, 97, passed away peacefully on Christmas Day at the Wyoming Retirement Center in Basin, Wyo.
Margaret was born October 3, 1917, in York, N.D., to Nicholas and Margaret Katherine (Kate) Deplazes. She was the 14th of 16 children, for Nicholas, who had immigrated from Switzerland, and Kate, from Bavaria.
After graduating in 1936 from St. Mary’s Academy in Devils Lake, N.D., as the valedictorian of her class, she attended beauty school in Fargo, N.D. She returned to work in Devils Lake for a few years before boarding a train to go join up with the Women’s Army Corp in February of 1944. She was then stationed at the March Field Air Force Base in Riverside, Calif., where she would drive a truck loaded with airman back and forth from their planes. Since she was a farm girl, they assumed that she could drive a stick shift, and she did have a blast while learning. Her WAC family became lifelong friends who continued to exchange cards every Christmas, until she was the lone survivor just a few years ago.
While proudly serving her country, she met a soldier, Master Sargent Loyce Ely, who had just returned from Holland where his B-24 had been shot down. As World War II was coming to an end, Cpl. Margaret Deplazes received her discharge on Dec. 10, 1945, and was soon married to Ely on Christmas Day, 1945.
They lived in California for a year, then moved back to North Dakota where they bought a farm near Crocus in Towner County and began raising their large family, along with durum, barley and oats, and of course, livestock and alfalfa. In addition to taking care of twelve children, she raised a huge garden and canned many quarts of vegetables and fruit. She was famous for her wonderful homemade buns and caramel rolls. Her baking skills were outstanding, especially during the holidays.
Before school started in the fall, she would sit at her Singer sewing machine and sew each of her daughters a new dress, between hauling loads of grain during harvest. During the long North Dakota winters, she found time for a mean game of cards, especially pinochle. She also enjoyed reading her daily paper so she could keep up on the news.
Margaret was an active member of the VFW Women’s Auxiliary, both in N.D. and Wyoming.
She was a member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary church in Rock Lake, N.D., and was active in the Holy Rosary Alter Society, until moving to Greybull, Wyoming, after their final harvest in September of 1971. She then became a member of the Sacred Heart Parish and the Altar Society. After moving into town, from their home on Shell Creek, she enjoyed starting her day by attending daily Mass and would always have her Bible open near her. She was well known by everyone for her long walks with Ely nearly every day of her life, until his death in March 2005.
Following the death of her husband, she remained in good health, and looked forward to sharing a cup of coffee with anyone who would stop by. She loved to talk about her family and growing up in North Dakota. She often reminisced about how her mother had to raise her large family after her dad passed away when she was only 3 years old.
Surviving Margaret are her children, Toni (Erin) Talbott of Fairbanks, Alaska, Celeste (Jay) Butler of Billings, Mont., Ruth (Duane) Kram of Bismarck, N.D., Steven (Holly) of Potlatch, Idaho, Marian (Bill) VanGrinsven of Greybull, Denise (Jerry) Stockwell of Greybull, Cynthia (Duane) Powers of Greybull, Patrick (Johnna) of Basin, and Tina (Earl) Miller of Greybull. Also surviving her are 32 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren. Her sister-in-law, Cleo Deplazes of Devils Lake, N.D., also survives her, as well as many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her loving husband, sons Joel and Thomas, and daughter Hope, and grandson Sam. She was the last surviving member of the Nicholas and Katherine Deplazes family.
Funeral Mass was at Sacred Heart Church in Greybull at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, with military burial following at Donald J. Ruhl Memorial Cemetery in Greybull.