February 10, 1920 - October 6, 2017
Join us in remembering the life of Elsie Mae Olson Lukens, who peacefully passed away at age 97 on Friday, October 6, 2017, in Bakersfield, CA.
A memorial service honoring Mrs. Lukens will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, October 16, 2017 at Erickson and Brown Funeral Home, 501 Lucard St. in Taft, CA, following a 1 p.m. visitation. Burial will follow promptly at 3 p.m. at West Side District Cemetery, 440 E. Cedar Street, Taft, CA.
A first generation American, Elsie Mae was born on February 10, 1920, in Grand Rapids, Itasca County, Minnesota, as the only child of Swedish immigrants Malkolm Olson and Alma Matilda (Peterson) Olson. Her loving parents and grandmother instilled in her the desire for higher education and the love of music.
Elsie Mae’s early education was in the Minnesota Iron Range communities of Taconite and Coleraine. After high school graduation in 1938, she continued her studies and graduated in 1941 from Itasca Junior College in Coleraine. She played the cello and violin in a trio and in the school orchestras, performing for banquets and parties in addition to public concerts. Sundays found her playing piano and pump organ at the Methodist Church in Taconite from age 10 to age 20.
After graduating in 1943 from University of Minnesota Duluth State Teachers College with Bachelor of Science degrees in Education, English and Vocal Music, she gained employment teaching K-12 Vocal Music and 9th grade English for two years in Glenwood City, Wisconsin. Elsie Mae returned to Minnesota for the next school year and started the roll of traveling music teacher for 2 grade schools, the junior high school, the high school and the Teachers' Training College. California then beckoned and off she went after first stopping at the University of Colorado at Boulder to study voice and piano in 1946.
Elsie Mae taught in the Taft City School District in Taft, CA, from 1946 to 1982. During that time, thousands of students benefited from her teaching as she traveled throughout the elementary schools, bringing with her songs to sing and instruments to play. Elsie Mae's home base was Lincoln Junior High School; from there she led the choirs, music appreciation classes, and, at one time, the band and orchestra. In her spare time she still continued her quest for more education and in 1950 gained her Master of Arts Degree in Music Education from Columbia University in New York after only three summers of classes.
Always the traveler and always the student, Elsie Mae traveled the globe during vacations until that fateful day in the summer of 1956 when she received a marriage proposal via telegram to her hotel in Calcutta, India. Paul Lukens traveled from Taft to Hibbing where they were married that August. Even in her new role as mother to Debbie and Vicki, she continued to teach, study, travel and perform.
Even long after her retirement, she still attended piano and chamber music classes at California State University Bakersfield. We can add the following colleges to her already expansive list: UCLA, USC, UC Berkeley, Cal State Fresno, Cal State Northridge, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Institute of the Arts, Taft Junior College, and Chapman College (Europe).
Elsie Mae was a charter member and past president of the Delta Kappa Gamma, past president of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), member of the American Legion Auxiliary, member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO). She served as organist for the United Presbyterian Church in Taft for many years after her retirement and continued to provide the music for the Kern City Community Church in Bakersfield up until her death.
She was preceded in death by her parents Malkolm and Alma Olson, her grandmother Emma (Peterson) Williams, and her husband of 44 years Paul Clement Lukens. She is survived by and will be dearly missed by her daughters Debbie (Bill) Whittaker and Vicki (Craig) Kubitz, four grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.