By Jen Bakken
MAPLE PLAIN, MN During a visit to the home of Ellen (Smith) Dufur, near Hennepin County Road 92 in Maple Plain, one may be greeted by feathers, beaks, paws, or occasionally, the giggles of a child.
With four roosters, four geese, two dogs, and chirping zebra finches in her home, it’s obvious Dufur loves animals; and witnessing her caring for her great nephew, Daniel Martinson, provides proof she also loves children.
Dufur graduated from Delano High School in 1977, and joined the Navy with hopes of traveling the world. This is where she met her husband, and soon, three daughters entered her life.
“I joined the Navy in 1985 to see the world,” she laughed. “But all I saw was South Carolina and Florida.”
After a divorce, she moved back to the Delano area with her three girls Kimberly, Mariah, and Claire. Family has always been important to Dufur, and she couldn’t wait to be back home again.
Home meant being close to her siblings, her sister Rebecca (Smith) Martinson, brother Duane Smith, who owns Canvas Works in Monticello, and the late Daniel Smith, of Delano, who passed away two years ago, after a battle with lung cancer.
“My whole family is really into motorcycles,” she said. “But not me. I’m more of an outdoorsy person, I love animals, kids, sewing, and things like that.”
Horses are another passion of hers, and she is fortunate to have neighbors who board her horse “Mooey” for her.
As a single mother, she feels strongly that kids can adjust well to a divorce if the parents do things right and she speaks from experience.
In 1970, Dufur’s parents, Duane and Barbara Smith, were divorced, and her father eventually remarried, but they remained a close-knit family. Her mother and stepmother even took trips together.
“Us kids were never put in the middle,” she said. “And they were always respectful of each other, and we all still spent holidays together.”
Dufur’s stepmother passed away from Alzheimer’s disease, and in 2000, her parents were remarried.
“We joke that my dad’s had three wives,” she smiled. “But I wish more divorced families would be this way for the sake of the kids.”
Having three teenage girls keeps Dufur on her toes. Kimberly is a junior and loves computers. Mariah is a sophomore and the family refers to her as the “baby whisperer” because she has a gift with children.Then, there’s the youngest, Claire, who is an eighth grade student and loves being involved with Destination Imagination (DI).
In March, Dufur was laid off from her job and like so many in this poor economy, she is looking for work.
She admits she isn’t a very social person, and doesn’t have a lot of friends, but she recently began attending a Bible study group at Delano Evangelical Free Church, which she enjoys.
Though Dufur feels she doesn’t have much of a story to tell, she only hopes that her family values have been passed on to her daughters.
“My girls might say I’m always in their business,” she smirked. “Maybe they’d say I’m the most awesome mom ever, but for sure, when something in our family happens, we will all be there to help, because family is everything.”