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Elaine Tollefson, 96 - August 08, 2015

Elaine Margaret Cowan Tollefson, 96, of Gothenburg passed away Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, at Stone Hearth Estates with her daughter by her side.
Services will take place at the American Lutheran Church on Thursday, Aug. 13, at 10:30 a.m. with the Rev. Jon Mapa officiating. Interment will be at the Maplewood Cemetery at Luverne, MN, next to her husband.
A visitation will be conducted at Blase-Strauser Memorial Chapel of Gothenburg on Wednesday, Aug. 12, from 1 to 8 p.m.
Tollefson was born to Ida and Willis Cowan at Luverne on Dec. 10, 1918. She wasted no time occupying herself with adventures and keeping her parents and younger sister, Lylis, wondering what she would do next, according to family members.
While her family ran concessions for a summer carnival in South Dakota, her mother found her playing with her new friends in the side-show: “the bearded girl” and “the lizard-skin boy.” Her love of finding unexpected friendships in unusual places continued throughout her life. Her openness to people from all backgrounds kept her stimulated and surrounded by love all of her 96 years, family members said.
While waitressing at her family’s restaurant, she met a Norwegian band teacher, A.T. “Tolle” Tollefson. The couple were united in marriage on Aug. 6, 1937, and were married 65 years.
Tollefson’s thirst for adventure landed her and her husband in the middle of the most secretive and world-altering government projects in American history. She sent her husband’s resume to an ad she saw in a Chicago newspaper calling for chemists. His work on the Manhattan Project kept the Tollefson family, including a new daughter Mary Eda born in 1941, moving around the country.
After the war, she and her family returned to small-town life and followed friends to Nebraska where there was an opening for a band teacher. Their family of three grew to a quartet with the birth of Thea on May 26, 1947.
The Tollefson family filled a big pink Queen Anne house on Lake Avenue with parties, family gatherings and countless bridge games. The Ernest A. Calling House was added to the National Register of Historic Homes in 1979.
?Residing at Gothenburg, she and her family found a welcoming and enduring home, said family. She joined P.E.O. Chapter AW and the family attended the American Lutheran Church.
?Tollefson’s husband eventually opened a grocery and clothing store. Kampfe and Tollefson held down the corner of 10th Street and Lake Avenue until Tolle retired in 1974.
She became an award-winning painter as a member of the Gothenburg Art Guild. Her paintings continue to brighten the homes of every member of her family. She also helped Gothenburg win an honor from the Nebraska Community Improvement Program with her work on a scrapbook about the city’s strength and growth, something she supported and believed, family members stated.
Besides her husband, the biggest love of her life was bridge. She sometimes played several times a week. She kept many clubs in Gothenburg lively with her sometimes “unorthodox” understanding of the rules.
In her later years, she moved to Stone Hearth Estates assisted living center. There, she thrived with her frequent walks down the hall for meals. She appreciated the fact they made her bacon and toast the way she liked it, burnt, family said. It’s also where she enjoyed Bible study, bridge, happy hour and her giant whirlpool bath tub.
She was preceded in death by: her husband, Tolle; her daughters—Thea, Margaret and Lylis; parents, Ida and Willis Cowan; niece, Karen Tollefson.
Survivors include: her daughter, Mary (Doug) Vap of McCook; granddaughter, Nicole (Drew) Sidener and their daughters Zelda and Harper of Denver, CO; a grandson, Aaron (Alicia) and their children Eleanor and Elliot Vap of Minneapolis, MN; sister, Lylis Bowden and her family of San Diego, CA.
Memorials are suggested to the American Lutheran Church, 1512 Ave. G, Gothenburg, NE 69138.