Back then, they called her a mongoloid. This is now considered a derogatory term, but Eda Stek was born in 1903, one of eleven children. Her parents were John and Henrietta (De Wild) Stek. She was a considered a special member of the family, having what we would now call Down’s Syndrome.
Eda was short, sturdy and round. She always wore a dress (with corset) and sturdy black old lady shoes. She didn’t speak very clearly but her family could understand her. It took longer than others, but she learned to write. She would write Bible verses or short, simple letters. When Eda’s mother was on her death bed, she made her other children promise to take care of their sister, and they kept their promise. In those days, the only alternative would have been a poorhouse.
When she stayed with her sister Nellie, she always had her own room in the large farmhouse. Eda was given the room above the stove, to help keep her warm. The many children in that family had to share rooms, but Eda had her own spot. She could be heard at night calling out for another sister, Marie who was a favorite of Eda. But when she was at Marie’s, she would call out for Nellie.
Eda was terrified of storms. Sometimes her nephews would tease her about that.
Mainly, Eda helped. She fed chickens and helped her sister Nellie with many household chores to her ability.
A great-niece recalled how much Eda loved children. One day when her great-nieces arrived for a visit, Eda (by then in her fifties) was waiting. She was so excited to see them, that she jumped up and down, cheering “Goody! Goody! Goody!”. She filled her scrap books with magazine and calender pictures of children, animals and nature, and she would give the scrapbooks as gifts.
Eda moved around frequently. Census records show that in 1930 she was living with her sister, Jennie and in 1940, she was staying with her brother, William and his family. She might spend a couple of years with one family, and perhaps 6 months with another, but her siblings kept their promise.
When asked what she remembered about Eda, an acquaintance from church remarked,
I remember her most for her child-like faith.
All these family stories tell us a little bit about Eda. But there is one special story my grandma told me about her when I was seven years old. I have never forgotten it. This story has encouraged my faith in God, and my hope of heaven for many, many years.
For the last five years of her life, Eda resided in the Pleasant Park Nursing Home of Oskaloosa, Iowa. She became increasingly unresponsive. A minister who visited Eda before she passed away told me that he read the Bible and prayed for her, but she did not respond.
On December 20, 1979, after weeks of being bed-ridden and not speaking, Eda miraculously sat up in her bed. Looking up, seeing something nobody else in the room could see, she exclaimed with delight,
MAMA! PAPA! Pretty Pretty Pretty!
Eda sunk back into her pillow and died.
Special thanks to Rev. Carl Klompien, Mrs. Delmar VanKooten, Mr. Leo Nikkel, Mary Vlietstra, Joanne Vlietstra, Esther Uramkin, April Hoeksema and Ava Davidson (Pella Chronicle).
This is a post that was published previously, but I did a little editing. Of all the posts I have written I would say this is my favorite. I really enjoyed researching and talking to people who had met Eda. Before this post, the only thing I knew about Eda was the story of her passing. She was my great-grandmother’s sister.