Ella Louise, fondly called “Peg” by her friends and family, was born April 9, 1923 to William McCallum and Anna Elizabeth Ranger in Bay City, Michigan where she resided during the Depression along with two younger siblings- brother John and sister Patricia (Szukhent).
Ella was a remarkable woman, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend who had numerous accomplishments despite overcoming many personal tragedies, including the loss of her dear mother Anna at age 11. As a result, she unwittingly stepped into the duties of caring for her siblings, until leaving school after the 7th grade and home at the young age of 14. Ella recalled she “walked most of the way” until a kind man stopped to offer her a ride to Flint where she accepted work as a domestic helper for a family friend. Ella continued to persevere while on her own, developing a keen mind and an extraordinary level of knowledge through her love of reading, including a spiritual acceptance of Our Heavenly Father.
In 1940 at age 17, she met her future husband George Bickersteth in Flint Park where they had responded to fliers advertising tryouts for a travelling aerial act called “Los Aeros”. For several years, both Ella and George succeeded as professional acrobats performing “without a net” as they toured around the country sleeping in tents, as far away as Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, LA. While on tour in Hartford, KY, George proposed to Ella where they married September 5, 1941. The following year in 1943, soon after she became pregnant with her first child, George was drafted into the US Marine Corps. After giving birth, she travelled alone cross-country by bus to San Francisco and back, to visit George who was abruptly deployed to the Pacific theatre. Almost 2 ½ years would pass before Ella would see her beloved George again and the first time, he would see his first-born son Thomas. During the war, Ella supported the family and the war-effort by working at A.C. Spark Plug as a welder, building radar controlled anti-aircraft batteries, which would be later revealed as the “Skysweeper”. The next few years she welcomed daughters Carol then Theresa, who passed away at age 12, followed by son Timothy who was also sent to Heaven shortly after birth. During this time, she worked as an optical assistant and dental assistant while attending the College of Nursing. On April 29, 1959, Ella became a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) which was especially impressive for someone who could only attend school to the 7th grade. At age 38 and 40, she gave birth to two more daughters Amy and Emily. In 1971, Peg achieved her dream of starting her own business with a passion for cooking, gourmet accoutrement and a mere $1500. After being turned down by several banks, she opened Kitchen Potpourri Shoppe in downtown Grand Blanc, MI which she operated for 20 years until retiring in 1989. Perhaps her greatest achievement, along with our Father, was their 72-year marriage.
Peg leaves 4 children- Tom (Maureen), Carol Larobardiere(Rick), Amy Bickersteth, and Emily Rellinger, 8 Grandchildren: Christopher (Margaret) Larobardiere, Julie (Todd) McCredie, Rich (Brandi) Larobardiere, Daniel (Kimberly) Bickersteth, Heather Brooks, Megan (Greg) Davis, George Rellinger, Parker Rellinger, 15 Great Grandchildren, her loving sister Patricia (McCallum) Szukhent and her children.
A celebration of life will take place at 2pm on April 9, 2020 at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly Michigan.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to The Old News Boys of Flint, https://onbflint.org/
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