Nursing Across the Ages

by Sean N. Bennett

Elaine A. Roe



Figure 1. Elaine Roe. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Early Years

Elaine Roe was born on May 20, 1919 in Whitewater, Wisconsin to well-known farmers, Ogden B. Roe and Hester Amanda Godfrey Roe. Whitewater, Wisconsin is a small quaint town located between Walworth and Jefferson counties. However, due to its loca-tion, the majority of the town lies in Walworth County with a total area of 9.06 square miles with 0.30 of that on water ("Whitewater, Wisconsin", 2019). Whitewater was orig-inated at the convergence of the Whitewater Creek and the Spring Brooks. It was named after the beautiful white sands that surrounded the area. The town was established by New England settlers who looked past the dense forest and wild prairie and saw the potential in what the town could become. The settlers helped form the town by establishing farm areas, constructing roads, building government, school, and church buildings and establishing postal routes (see Figure 3)("Whitewater, Wisconsin", 2019). The population around the time Elaine A. Roe was born was 3,215 with 1431 male and 1784 female (Stewart, 2011). Out of that population there were 1019 families, which included the loving one Elaine was born into (Stewart, 2011). During the time Elaine was born, the average farmer in Wisconsin earned about $42.12 per month. This was a little above the national average in the United States for farmers, which was $41.52 a month (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1975).

Figure 2. Walworth County Map, Wisconsin. From Maps of World, 2016, retrieved from

Figure 3. Restored map of Whitewater, Wisconsin. By Norris, G.E., Wellge, Henry, 1885, retrieved from

Elaine's father, Ogden, was a lifelong resident of Whitewater, Wisconsin. He grew up on his family's farm, which had been in the Roe family for nearly 115 years. Due to this long line-age his family roots grew deep in Whitewater. Ogden grew up with many siblings and was the sixth of twelve children ("Ogden B. Roe", 2011). He loved being a part of a large family and the experiences of growing up on a farm. His farming experience taught him the needed skills and the importance of hard work. Due to this strong values he was eventually able to buy out the estate from this parent, which allowed him to continue on his family's lineage in Whitewater. Elaine's mother, Hester, grew up not too far from Whitewater in a small town called Lima, Wisconsin. She grew up in a smaller family and was the youngest of three children ("Hester Amanda Godfrey", 2011). Ogden and Hester married on November 2, 1904 in her family's hometown of Lima ("The Godfrey-Roe", 1904). It was a beautiful quaint wedding that many families and friends were able to attend and celebrate in their joyous day. Ogden and Hester were blessed with their first child, Wilfred Ogden Roe, 2 years later on February 5, 1906. They continued to be blessed with two other children, Clifford Edgar Roe, who was born on January 5, 1909 and then Elaine on May 20, 1919 ("Hester Amanda Godfrey", 2011).

Elaine's parents Ogden and Hester wanted their children to learn from an early age the importance of hard work, responsibility, dedication, and the importance of giving back to the community. They felt the best way to accomplish this was to raise Elaine and her two older brothers, Wilfred A. Roe and Clifford E. Roe, on the families 360-acre farm in Whitewater. Ad-ditionally, Ogden and Hester Roe believed in the importance of God and had the entire family attend the Congregation Church in Whitewater. This happened to be the same congregation in which Ogden had been a member of as a young child along with his parents ("Ogden B. Roe", 2011). Elaine's father Ogden was not simply a man that taught what he believed but showed his family through his actions. Elaine's father was highly involved in the towns farming community and the local school district (see Figure 4). Beyond running the family's farm, Ogden also was a clerk for the Springbrook School in Whitewater for over 36 years ("Veteran School Officers", 1955). Farming and serving others was something that was ingrained in the Roe's DNA and continued to pass on throughout generations. Elaine's brother Wilfred worked on several farms throughout his lifetime. Additionally, he went on to serve on the Executive Board of the Farm Bureau Associates in Rock County in addition to serving on the board member for the local YMCA. He even involved his wife in his passion for community involvement as it is shown that she was active in 4-H work for 12 years. ("Wilford Roe Four", 1958).

Figure 4. Ogden B. Roe (third from left) with fellow veteran school officers. From Janesville Daily Gazette, 1955, retrieved from

In 1922, at the young age of 3, Elaine and her family were struck with a horrific tragedy that rocked their close-knit family to its core. Elaine and her parents were in a terrible auto versus train accident. Elaine's aunt Gertrude Roe was driving when her car became stuck on the railroad tracks. Elaine and her mother were sitting in the backseat when the car became stuck. As her aunt attempted to get the car off the track she could hear the sound of the approaching train. Everyone frantically attempted to get out of the car and away from the approaching train. Elaine's mother did everything she could to make sure her daughter was safe. As soon as they were free from the backseat, Hester threw her baby girl away from the car and into safety. Sadly, the train was approaching too fast and Hester was unable to get herself to safety and was hit by the train. In the accident, Elaine suffered many internal injuries along with a skull fracture. Her injuries were so severe that she remained unconscious for eleven days. Elaine's mother suffered fatal injuries and succumbed to those a few days following the accident ("Ogden B. Roe", 2011). Doctors were shocked that despite the horrific injuries everyone sustained, those that survived were able to make a full recovery. Following Hester's death, Ogden moved to Alabama and worked on a dairy farm for a short period before moving back to Whitewater and taking over his farm again. After this heartbreaking accident, Elaine lived with her aunt Gertrude who helped raise and love her over the years. Elaine's son, John Pieper (personal communication, July 13, 2019) said, "it's a miracle that his mom was able to survive such an accident and living with her aunt helped shape her into who she was." It was important that Elaine had a strong woman she could look up to and provide a positive role model. Due to the values her aunt instilled in her, it helped shape Elaine into the successful woman she grew up to become.

Elaine's Education

Elementary School

The town of Whitewater had three different schools to serve the 1,019 families that lived there. They had an elementary school, one high school, and one "normal school" that served them all. Normal schools were institutions "created to train high school graduates to be teachers by educating them in the norms of pedagogy and curriculum." ("Normal School", 2019). The normal school eventually turned into the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Elaine attended Eastside School, now known as Washington Elementary ("WUSD History", n.d.).

Eastside School was built in the 1850s during one of the biggest growth and building periods in early Whitewater ("WUSD History", n.d.). After World War I, many immigrants came to America and moved to Elaine's quaint town of Whitewater. In the small town of Whitewater, there were a mixture of Irish, Norwegian, and German immigrants. They mostly attended Eastside School while the "Yankees" attended school in the west side of Whitewater ("WUSD History", n.d.). At Eastside School, Elaine received her primary education and was prepped to enter high school. She loved her time spent there and was ecstatic to enter high school with the friends she had made while attending Eastside.

After elementary school, Elaine started school at Whitewater High School, also called City High (see Figure 5). This particular name helped distinguish it from the local normal school that also had a high school. Whitewater High School was built in 1928 and educated all the high school students in Whitewater. Due to this, it meant that Elaine knew every teenager in town. Elaine had many friends during her education at Whitewater and was able to develop interpersonal skills that helped her in school and throughout her life. Having so many friends helped her to work hard and stay active in her education.

Figure 5. Penny Postcard of Whitewater High School. (n.d.). Retrieved from


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