Featured Resident – Elva Greer
Elva was born In Macedonia, Iowa, to William Elvis and Flora Faye Hopkins. She had three brothers, Leroy, Danny, and a third, Elvis, who died in infancy. She also had one sister, Pauline. Being bore in 1923, the depression came soon and, like many, her father followed the work available in the Midwest. So, the family moved throughout Iowa and Missouri following the farming and mining work. They eventually settled in what was then a coal mining town, called Malta Bend, Missouri, where her father became a barber.
During one year in grade school, both she and her mother contracted scarlet fever, which kept Elva out of school for practically a whole school year. It was in Malta Bend, where later, she met the love of her life, Jim (James Poe) Greer. James (also known as Jim or JP) worked in the coal mine as a mule driver. When the mine in Malta Bend closed down, many of the mining families as well as Elva’s family moved to Corder, Missouri where another mine was still active.
As their romance progressed, JP, age 21 and Elva, age 16 decided to marry. A little over a year later, their daughter, Iris Marie, was born. They lived in Corder for a few years, while mining there was drawing to an end.
JP heard through a friend that there was work to be had in the steel industry in the Kansas City area. So, soon JP, Elva, and young daughter, Marie, relocated to Argentine, Kansas, where JP got a job as a welder at Kansas City Structural Steel, a company that specialized in bridge building and large construction projects, among which were the mile-long bridge in Warsaw, Missouri, and Kemper Arena. Being a natural leader, JP ultimately became the foreman and later the superintendent of the welding area of KCSS.
In July 1951, the family was forced to move from Argentine due to a massive flood in the area. They were rescued from their second-floor apartment by a gentleman in a small boat. They went to live with Elva’s brother, Leroy. This led to Leroy and James deciding to build their own homes in Merriam, Kansas. They built Leroy’s house first. James and Elva lived in his basement while they were building their own house next door.
Elva worked at Parmalee Plastics making eyeglass frames for a while in the late fifties. She sold Luzier Cosmetics (similar to Avon) in the early sixties for a short time before going to work at Baptist Memorial Hospital as a nurses’ aid.
Elva and James attended Merriam Christian Church and were very active members in their Eastern Star chapter, and Masonic lodge, while Marie was involved in Job’s Daughters; once being named Honor Queen. JP and Elva enjoyed dancing of many kinds, including square dancing. And after their Marie was married in 1960 to Don Kersten, over time they became doting grandparents to their two grandsons, Jim and Don II.
In 1968, Marie and Don divorced. Leaving her to be a single mother of boys who were age eight and three. For a year, to allow Marie to get back on her feet, Marie and the boys came to live with the Greers.
JP and Elva took the boys on numerous vacation road trips – leaving in the wee hours of the morning with the boys sleeping on a mattress in the back of the station wagon. They went to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota as well as Minnesota and into Canada. They also drove to Texas, and Mexico. Elva mastered the art of roadside cooking on a Coleman stove, feeding ‘the boys’ as JP or ‘PePaw,’ as the boys called him, played and had hiking adventures. The boys still remember loving the smell of the bacon she’d cook at many a roadside park on those trips. JP and Elva devoted themselves to creating great memories for the boys.
Elva (who the boys called ‘NeNaw’) also made special meals for their birthdays including boiled spiced shrimp and apple crisp. She also delighted the family with her special Lime Pickles.
When Elva and James achieved the status of Grand Worthy Matron and Patron of their local Eastern Star chapter, youngsters Don and Jim escorted them during their installation ceremony, all wearing their formal finest.
Both James and Elva retired in the mid-1970s. They took several wonderful trips just the two of them including going to Hawaii and Mexico. But while those were great fun, they always enjoyed their time with the family most.
James passed away December 1st, 1984, due to complications from an aortic aneurysm. Elva remained in the family house until 1999. By then, Marie had moved from Gladstone, Missouri to Kearney. Wanting to stay close to Marie, Elva moved Kearney Estates for five years. But then, found a nicer place close-by, and settled into Eastwood Apartments. From there, she volunteered at Westbrook Care Center. She also learned to make rugs out of plastic bread wrappers. She made a lot of them and then got to where she would prep the supplies and help others make them. She also took up word-search games and coloring books as hobbies.
Elva is very devout in her faith, getting up every morning spending time in Bible Study. Her Bible is marked up with tons of notes and she has several notebooks that she has filled up over the years. She prays for each of the family members by name every morning when she gets up and every night before she goes to bed. She also recites the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 daily.
Elva had a mild stroke in 2017. She’d always had a great memory, and in many ways, still does. But the stroke made it challenging for her to remember things like medication. So she needed a little help. Since her daughter, Marie had passed away the previous year, her grandsons took over her care. They moved Elva to Westbrook during the summer of 2017. You’ve probably seen Don and Jim around the halls with her, as she loves to introduce them.
Elva has four great-grandchildren. They like to call her G.G. (which stands for Great Grandma) but once in a while the boys still slip and call her NeNaw. Grandson, Don Kersten II has a son, Donald Kersten III, who is in the Airforce. And Jim has a son, Ryan, and two stepchildren, Spencer and Sierra, with his wife Pamela. Elva is proud of and prays for them all by name daily.
Elva’s always been a social person and makes friends easily. She already knew several people living here from her days volunteering. She’s involved with some activities and has made many friends in the dining room and in the halls. Be sure and stop by to say hi to Elva. She’d be happy to swap stories with you.