Elna Vadnais Hawkes, age 84, of Madison, died Sunday, January 19, 2020, at the Good Samaritan Society in Howard. A graveside ceremony and interment will be at the Fielding Memorial Cemetery, in Idaho Falls, ID, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2019. 3:00 p.m.
Out of the turbulence of the dust bowl 30’s, came Elna Lavern Vadnais, the seventh of twelve children born to Alfred and Lavern Behling Vadnais in Kilgore, ID, On Feb. 23, 1935. A blessing of growing up on a remote cattle ranch in Southeastern Idaho was knowing the value of work. Most summer days she worked long hours beside her brothers and sisters. There were no girls-only or boy’s-only work on the Vadnais ranch. Planting, harvest, hauling and stacking hay, feeding livestock, calving, branding, gardening, everyone was hands-on.
But it did puzzle my mom why the girls in the family had to milk cows while the boys often got off that chore scott free! The family supplemented their income by milking a dozen or so cows by hand. And, these weren’t dairy cows, they were Hereford range cows converted into dairy cows who had less of a disposition to be milked than the will of the kids who had to milk them.
Her favorite chore were the cattle drives that involved a 10-mile trip from the family property in Clark County to the east slopes of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest where her dad had purchased an annual permit to summer his cattle. The cattle drive was a sometimes slow affair that gave time for lots of casual talk, which Elna loved to hear.
Another blessing of the early years on the Vadnais ranch was the closeness it cultivated—in the most literal of ways. She remembers sleeping four to a bed with her sisters. The bonds of their closeness forged as children lasted through decades, especially between the eight girls in the family. In their later years, often in groups of 2, 3, or 4 at a time, the Vadnais sisters could be seen together although they lived cities apart.
After elementary school in Kilgore, Elna went to Clark County high school in Dubois. Dubois was the county seat at a population of about 300 in the 1940’s. It was too far to make a daily drive, so Grandpa Vadnais rented an apartment in town. There, Elna and her sisters spent most of the week during the school year together in that apartment, and at home in Kilgore on the weekends, except for harvest time. In high school she was a stand-out basketball player, though she thought it unfair that the girls had to play half court when the boys played full court. She also competed in track and field. Elna was more about blending in than standing out, she was more comfortable celebrating the achievements of others rather than her own.
She met and married Harold Hawkes, of Blackfoot, ID May 13, 1960. With stops in Los Angeles, CA and Conda, ID, they settled in Blackfoot, ID where they raised three sons. She was an extremely dedicated mother helping her three sons in scouts, church, school, band, hobbies and sports. She worked full-time throughout her life in retail as a sales clerk, a potato processing inspector, and school lunch cook. She worked well into her 70’s as a Walmart greeter.
In 1984 she parted ways with Harold. In 1994 she married Casey Gibbs of Chubbuck, ID who died in 2009. A hobby farmer in her later years, she was at home and at peace with daily chores of feeding horses, burros and goats. Living with her memory close to their hearts are sons Mark (Joy) Hawkes of Madison, South Dakota, and Tony (Cheryl) of Hermitage, Missouri, and brothers Edward (Donna) of Rigby, Idaho, and Charles (Sharon) of Kilgore, ID. Loved ones who moved on include son Alfred (Lydia), her parents Alfred and Lavern, sisters, Maxine, Lois, Barbara, Elenore, Dorothy, Shirley, Ailene and brothers, Tom and Ted.
Her final years were spent in Madison, SD in the company of family members. Curious, but not long after her arrival in Madison the local grocer had to bulk order more bread as she could keep a 4-slice toaster going eating copious amount of split-top white bread. There was also curious run on Diet Coke on Thursdays because folks learned to get their purchases in ahead of grandmas weekly Coca-Cola carton run on Friday’s. Her sense of humor and quick laugh was in play to the end.
She enjoyed Sunday afternoon rides on the South Dakota Prairie. She loved the country tours of old farms and barns, feed lot and pastured cattle, and deer sprinting across the road into open corn fields. She always admired a tidy farmstead. She received daily visits from family, and she enjoyed watching and hearing about her grandchildren’s activities and whereabouts.
Elna was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She had a strong belief in a divine creator, and that he must love His children in a similar way she loved her own.
Her 10 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren . . . and counting, will admiringly reflect on the emotional strength of their grandma Elna. Her incredible life of unyielding love and perseverance in tragedy and in joy is the rich inheritance she leaves them.