Eleanor Gwen Robson

Honored by:Cheryl J. Peckenpaugh, Roberta & Richard
Brick location:D:25  map

Eleanor was born in Lewis, Iowa, to Clara and Glenn Livingston on December 7, 1919. Her family moved often as she was growing up, and she had to become accustomed to several different schools. Attending school was very important to her, even though she had to walk several miles each way from her home to school. When she had finished her junior year, some people felt that she did not need any more education. She told of how she cried because she wanted so desperately to continue school. She did finish her senior year and graduated from Anita High School in 1937. She married Morris Henry Robson on June 11, 1937, in Maryville, Missouri. They lived northeast of Anita, Iowa, on a farm until March 1942 when they moved to a farm northeast of Atlantic, Iowa. Eleanor and Morris had three children: Roberta, Richard, and Cheryl.

When Roberta was twelve years old, she became ill with polio. She spent three months in Children's Hospital in Omaha. When she went home, Eleanor helped her exercise the muscles in her right leg. After two years of therapy, the doctor told Eleanor and Morris that Roberta had progressed as far as she could and that she would need to use crutches for the rest of her life. Eleanor and Morris asked if it would hurt to try one more year of exercises. The doctor said that it would not hurt but that it probably would not help. However, Eleanor and Morris decided to continue the exercises for another year. Eleanor exercised Roberta's muscles every morning. As a result, Roberta has been able to lead a life without crutches.

Her work with Roberta made Eleanor interested in nursing, but it would be several more years before she was able to pursue this interest. She helped Morris with the farm work and did the housework and raised her children. In 1965, she worked in a doctor's office for six months until the doctor retired. Once again, she felt the interest in nursing stirring within her. When a Licensed Practical Nurse course became available at the Iowa Western Community College Center in Atlantic in the spring of 1971, she took the aptitude tests and was chosen to participate in the course. She had been out of school for 34 years. Studying was hard after all those years, but she finished at the top of her class. She graduated in August of 1972. She worked at the Cass County Memorial Hospital as a floor nurse for a year. She then took coronary training and began working in the intensive care unit in December of 1973. She continued there until she retired in December of 1982 due to health problems.

Eleanor then became more involved with volunteer activities. She served as president of Heritage House Guild in Atlantic and was active in the First United Methodist Church, Mary Circle, Cloverleaf Club, and the Cass County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

Eleanor was constantly learning. She read daily and always had a bag full of library books. She did crossword puzzles and had a wonderful vocabulary. She remembered details of events years after they had occurred and was very organized. She was a role model for her children and grandchildren, particularly the girls. She showed what a woman could accomplish. She demonstrated that a woman could raise a family and then obtain more education and have a career outside of the home. She was always supportive of her children. She looked forward to her visits with Roberta and her daughters, Renee and Michele, every fall in California. She was proud of Roberta's executive position in a large air conditioning company. She was proud of Richard's position as a professor of biochemistry/biophysics at Iowa State University. She and Morris attended a conference with Richard in Texas at which Richard received a national award. She visited Richard and his wife, Shellie, in Germany during Richard's year of research there. She enjoyed Richard's children, Kristi, Jeff, and Sam. She was proud of Cheryl's musical work with her children, Jenny and Jason, and enjoyed the humor of Cheryl's husband, Jon.

Eleanor believed in other people, regardless of their race, color, creed, etc. She would defend people who were different than herself, even though this was not the popular thing to do. Following are some of her own words written in 1987.

The threat of a nuclear disaster and the catastrophic aftermath is ever with us; we must avoid it at all costs.

The suffering of our fellow humans, whether physical, political oppression, environmental disaster, affects us all.

[In working in ICU,] I saw first hand how precious life is to each individual, and how religious or non-religious they may be, no one wants to give it up . . . . [M]ost patients are willing to fight to the end, and every time we lost the battle, it diminished us also.

Finally, I still believe in the basic goodness of most individuals, and think it is biased and unfair to judge until "We have walked a mile in their shoes."

I am much more liberal in my political beliefs than I was 50 years ago. I vote for the person I feel can do the best job instead of along party lines.

I am 100% in favor of equal rights for women in every area, and do not feel a woman has to marry to find fulfillment in life.

On June 7, 1988, Eleanor voted in an Iowa primary election. Voting was very important to her. Eleanor died on June 8, 1988, due to asthma. She left a void in the lives of all of us, Morris, Roberta, Richard, Cheryl, her grandchildren, and her sister and brothers. As Roberta has said, "She was ahead of her time . . . . She was my mother but she was also my best friend." To conclude, here once again are Eleanor's own words:

In summation, we can control only so much of what happens in life, we develop and learn, hopefully, we go forward two steps for each one that we fall back. A late columnist I enjoyed reading often closed his column with these words, "There is no solution, seek it lovingly."

Submitted on 1/6/95