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Remembering J. Wilton and Ellyne Arnsdorff

POSTED: February 13, 2014 7:32 p.m.
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J. Wilton and Ellyne Arnsdorff

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John Orrin Arnsdorff was born Oct. 23, 1906. He was the son of Johnnie and Lillie (Edwards) Arnsdorff. He was born in Clyo and attended school there at the Greene Morgan School where he completed seven grades. He spent most of his childhood in Clyo and was a member of the Turkey Branch Methodist Church for all of his life.

Lou Ellyne Weaver was born April 2, 1910. She was the daughter of Frank Lester and Lilla Adella (Smoak) Weaver. Born in Screven County, she attended the Beulah and McBride schools near Sylvania.

When she was 11 years old, she moved to Clyo. She attended the Green Morgan School in Clyo and completed seven grades. As a child she attended the Blue Springs Methodist Church and Turkey Branch Methodist Church. She joined Turkey Branch when she was 12 years old.

Orrin and Ellyne met at Green Morgan School. They courted for about three years and were married on Sept. 23, 1925 at the Arnsdorff house by Rev. F.M. Gaines, pastor at Turkey Branch. After they married they lived with Orrin’s parents for a year and a half. Later they moved to the house where Orrin was born and married. They attended Turkey Branch Methodist Church. Orrin farmed for a living.

Their marriage was blessed by two sons: John Lavonne, born Oct. 6, 1926, and Edwin Delmus, born May 3, 1928.

About mid-October 1929, Orrin got sick with pneumonia. He was sick for about six weeks, three at home and three in the hospital. He died Dec. 23, 1929 at the age of 23. His funeral was held at Turkey Branch, and he is buried in the cemetery there.

After the death of Orrin, Ellyne and her two boys went to live with Orrin’s parents, Johnnie and Lillie Arnsdorff. All three fit well into the family and became a real part of the family. Johnnie, Lillie and their youngest son Frank did much toward helping Ellyne rear the boys into the fine men they became. Ellyne was always grateful to all of them for their love and sacrifice during this time.

After a number of years, Joe Wilton Arnsdorff, a friend of the family and distant cousin of Orrin, began courting Ellyne. After a period of four years, they were married. The wedding was on May 28, 1938, at the Methodist parsonage in Springfield by Rev. West.

Immediately after their wedding, Wilton and Ellyne moved into a home of their own. Lavonne and Edwin, who went by “Neb,” stayed part-time with them and part-time with their grandparents, Johnnie and Lillie.

Wilton was involved in a number of different businesses. At first he farmed and worked in timber. Later along with Frank, Ellyne’s former brother-in-law and Wilton’s cousin, they went into business together operating a saw mill.  Eventually Wilton developed his own construction business that cleared land and built roads, etc. Later when he was disabled, he turned this business over to Lavonne.

During all of his life, Wilton was an avid outdoorsman. He loved to hunt and fish. During hunting season, several times a week, he could be found in the woods hunting deer, doves or other wildlife. One of his greatest loves was deep sea fishing. When he was healthy, he took several trips a year to Florida in order to pursue his hobby and also went out three or four times a year from Savannah.

It should be pointed out that Wilton was an excellent hunter and fisherman. Not only did he enjoy it, he was one of the best. He probably killed as many deer in this part of the country as anyone during his time. When no one else could catch a fish, Wilton could.

Although Lavonne and Edwin were stepsons of Wilton, no one who did not know would have ever guessed it from the way he treated them. About the only clue at times would have been the fact that they called him “Cousin Wilton” rather than “Daddy.” When Lavonne and Onnie married, they lived with Wilton and Ellyne for a long time, and Wilton seemed to truly enjoy the arrangement. Even after they moved into their own home, they spent much of their time with Wilton and Ellyne. Any problem that Lavonne and Edwin had became a problem of Wilton’s. No one was ever more loyal to the needs of his stepchildren than Wilton Arnsdorff.

When grandchildren began to arrive, they were a delight to Wilton to hold and tease and play with. As they grew up he continued to work and play with them, as he did with the great-grandchildren when they arrived. To grandchildren and great-grandchildren alike he was called “Granddaddy.” His humor, wit and generally his giving of himself to the entire family was evident to everyone.

Wilton’s health problems began in 1980. His first surgery was for a malignant tumor on his colon. From then on, he was in and out of the hospital two or three times a year. In April 1981, the problem they thought was advancing cancer turned out to be a gall bladder problem. After it was removed, he had another year or so of reasonably good health — at least good enough that he could hunt and fish and do small chores around home.

During the last part of his life, either the cancer or medicine caused his mind to wander somewhat. He did have days of clarity alternating with confusion. Finally, on Sept. 6, 1982, after a few days of being confined to the bed, he passed away at home.

Wilton’s funeral was held at Turkey Branch Methodist Church with Rev. Danny McCain, pastor of Wesley Independent Methodist Church and a former pastor, and good friend Rev. Kell Hinson officiating.  His body was buried in the Turkey Branch Methodist Cemetery. The church could not contain all the friends and family who came to pay their last respects to their dear friend.

Ellyne continued to live at their home. She went to work getting all of the business in order with the help of attorney John Ingram of Springfield. She fixed up the house, bought a car and continues to live in good spirits and fairly good health.

(1985 – This was written by Bernice (Arnsdorff) Jaudon and Rev. Dr. Danny McCain.)

Post note: Ellyne lived alone after Wilton died and stayed in her own home for the rest of her life. She enjoyed family gatherings, social events and traveling with tour groups for a good many years. After she fell and broke her hip, her health declined. Edwin “Neb” and his wife Dora moved into her home and looked after her along with the family until she passed away on April 3, 1997. She was buried in Turkey Branch Methodist Cemetery between her two husbands.

This was compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: hesheraldexley@aol.com.

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