Born into a farming family in 1932 in the village of Cabot, Vermont (home of the Cabot Creamery and its famous cheeses), Erlene was a fun-loving, happy-natured, can-do, warm-hearted and beautiful soul. She passed away peacefully in September 2020 in Concord, California, with family at her side.
Being the only sister of four brothers, her early years in Cabot prepared her well for the joys and pitfalls of life. Her brothers were protective of her but, as the youngest, she was often subjected to their boyish antics like the time she was nailed into a wooden crate by her brother Ken and launched down a snow-covered “little hill” to see if she would survive. She did. Ironically, she had a strong aversion to cows. While living in California and thinking she was safe from cows, a neighbor’s cow stuck its head in the kitchen window one day while she was washing dishes at the sink, giving her a start and eliciting a response of “udder” disbelief and disgust.
She loved her parents and brothers and, as an adult, was happiest when she had a baby. She had eight children of her own, 14 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great-grandchildren. Her grandchildren loved her open-door policy and sense of fun and were captivated by her storytelling. They thought that everything was an adventure with her, even a trip to Thrifty’s because that meant that ice cream cones would be had! More on ice cream later.
Her home was also open to the neighbor kids. She let a teenage band (friends of her older children) practice in the living room for a time; the amplifier was there for so long it actually took on the nature of furniture. The open-door policy of the Elwood home created quite a lively and rollicking environment. One family friend described it as “dust flying, babies crying, mothers sighing…”
Erlene could also be no-nonsense and firm on certain ideals. Her children always left the house with clean, mended and pressed clothes, said “please” and “thank you” and were taught not to ask but to wait until offered something in other people’s homes. She said that two wrongs don’t make a right and that one shouldn’t be vengeful or vindictive. She advised her children to be happy every day from the time they woke up. She said if you find something, there’s no such thing as finders/keepers; it belongs to somebody. She counseled honesty – you’ll sleep well and you won’t have to look over your shoulder. Some of her children thought she loved to drive fast, while others thought there was a tendency to brake late; in any event, it was always an adventure riding with her in her Big M (the name given to her late 50’s model Mercury).
Erlene had a sense of fun and a quick wit but often found herself accidentally playing the straight man to her children’s irrepressible urge to capitalize on verbal foibles with quips, wisecracks and ripostes. And sometimes, her kids placed her in awkward positions she could never have imagined possible. In one instance she was made the focus of airport security. It seems three of her boys had inherited a shotgun and some ammo, and she didn’t want the two stored together, so she slipped the ammo into one of her coat pockets and forgot all about it. Later when traveling to Vermont to attend a brother’s funeral, she set off the alarm at the airport and had to quickly do some explaining!
Now, about that ice cream. One warm day, her children assembled in the kitchen, she was scooping out Thrifty’s ice cream from its box. She had to give the near-frozen ice cream a bit of muscle, and when the scoop slipped, the ice cream was launched into the air and landed in the farthest of a line of bowls. One of the boys said something to the effect that she couldn’t do that again if she tried. Without a word, Erlene dug into the ice cream, and into the next nearest bowl…she did it again. Thanks for the ride, Mom. We all love you and miss you. After all we put you through it is comforting to know you can now rest in peace.
Erlene's burial will take place in Durant Cemetery in Cabot, VT on Friday, September 25th at 11am. Masks and social distancing guidelines will be observed. The des Groseilliers Funeral Home is in care of arrangements. Memories and condolences may be conveyed at dgfunerals.com.
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