Nell Newton Henningsen

Honored by:Her children
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Nell Elizabeth Newton was born to Warren and Effie Newton on their farm outside of Newell, Iowa on Friday the 13th, 1917. Nell though was no bearer of ill-luck. Her mother had labored three days to deliver Nell and the arrival of a healthy child was greeted with joy as It was by then clear there would be no other children. Slender and petite the remainder of her life Nell arrived weighing a hearty thirteen pounds. Nell grew and thrived raised by her parents with discipline and love and indulged by her paternal grandparents known affectionately as Graggie and Hiya who lived in Newell. She survived measles mumps scarlet fever chronic tonsillitis and dental braces and helped her mother whose health suffered for years after Nell's arrival and father on the farm.

In 1934 Nell graduated as valedictorian of Newell Consolidated High School and the next fall attended Buena Vista College in Storm Lake on a half scholarship. She had intended to go to Iowa State University but her father was ill with sleeping sickness. The prognosis was uncertain and her father wished her to stay close to the family. Over the winter her father was very Ill with influenza and ran a temperature of 105 that burned the sleeping sickness right out of him. In the fall Nell was allowed to go to Iowa State University. In 1938 she graduated with a degree in dietetics.

Nell took her internship at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and loved the big city. At the end of her internship she was told she and another girl would apply for a position as assistant dietitian in a private hospital in Detroit, Michigan. She prayed that the other girl would get the position but she was chosen. Nell stayed 18 months and then Jumped at the chance to return to Chicago when there was an opening for an assistant dietitian at Cook County Hospital. She was in charge of 400 beds and worked the swing shift from 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM and rarely got the intervening hours off. Nell tried to advance but her supervisor had enough pull to keep her.

On the 19th of July in 1941, Nell married Etlar Henningsen with whom she had attended high school. Etlar was finishing a six-week ROTC course at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and Nell met him at St. Louis where they were married in a Presbyterian church. Then Nell returned to Cook County Hospital and Etlar went to his summer Job at Cedar Falls, Iowa. Etlar was in the process of completing an agricultural engineering degree at Iowa State University but they knew he would be going overseas as soon as he was done. And so he went loading out of Fort Dix in the dark and sailing by the Statue of Liberty with transport ships as far as the eye could see and landing eventually at Casablanca for the campaign in northern Africa.

Because of her career stalemate Nell Joined the medical unit being formed at Presbyterian Hospital in 1942. It was a crack unit: the doctors were hand-picked and they were very well-supplied. They were sent overseas to New Guinea on a Dutch luxury liner. They were unescorted though and when a Japanese U-boat took after them the Dutch captain settled himself in Auckland, New Zealand and waited until the orders were changed. New orders sent them to Sydney and then Brisbane where they waited for six months for the general hospital camp to be established in a Lever Brothers coconut grove on New Guinea.

When they finally arrived the camp was still pretty raw and far from civilization. Women were not allowed out of camp without an armed escort. Nell had the 5:00 AM shift. At one point she was sent to a station hospital but was returned to her duty at the general hospital camp. After she contracted strep throat Nell developed neuritis. It did not respond to treatment and so Nell was sent back to the States to Chicago for treatment. They tried everything even pulling teeth but eventually she recovered after extended bed rest. She was then put on limited service as a dietitian in a beautiful lakefront hotel that had been converted to a hospital.

When Etlar returned in the fall of 1945 Nell had enough “points" to apply for discharge. However when the discharge came through she had to try for a month to pass the strenuous discharge physical before she finally succeeded. Etlar was in the training program at International Harvester and so she tried to work at Illinois Central Hospital but It was heavy work and the neuritis returned. In the fall Nell enrolled at the University of Chicago at Hyde Park on the GI Bill and worked on her master's degree in chemistry. Nell was working on her thesis and they were living in an apartment on the South Side when Nell became pregnant with their daughter Ann. The thesis was never completed but the baby was born October 19, 1948.

A series of moves..and babies... followed as Etlar advanced in International Harvester. Mary was born August 22, 1951; Beth was born April 9, 1954; John was born February 12, 1956. Like most women of her generation Nell became  an active, full-time mother: the chauffeur, chef, and cheerleader. For several years they lived in a large home on Bartram Road in Riverside, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Then, in 1959, the family moved to Geneseo, Illinois, when Etlar moved from the International Harvester to John Deere.

The four children all graduated from J.D. Darnall High School in Geneseo. Ann graduated from Illinois Wesleyan majoring in English education and lives in Danville, Illinois, with her husband Allen and children Ned and Mandy. Mary graduated from Drake University in history and economics and lives in Geneseo, Illinois, with her husband David and daughters Martha and Elizabeth. Martha attends Iowa State University majoring in engineering. Beth graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in special education and lives in St. Peter, Minnesota, with her husband Dan and their four children: John, Maren, Ben, and Nels. John graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in landscape architecture and lives in Port Byron, Illinois, with his wife Lisa and their daughter June and son Ian. June will neter Iowa State Univeristy in the fall of 1995 as a psychology major.

As the children grew older, Nell developed interests in plants and photography. Etlar retired from John Deere Spreader works in 1977. Nell and Etlar have always enjoyed travel. Aside from their wartime travels, they have travelled in Europe twice and to Brazil once while Mary and her family lived there. Throughout their married life they have travelled through most of the United States. Recetnly, they have "simplified" their life style: moving to a smaller home and staying closer to it! Enjoying good health, they keep in close contact with children and grandchildren and follow their lives closely.