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Jim and Wilma Elsea

Yreka, CA

It was a set-up, but Jim and Wilma Elsea, who were married 71 years, fell in love anyway on the Easter Sunday in 1939 when they met at the Lodi City Park.

While teaching, shortly after earning an entomology degree from the University of California-Berkeley's College of Agriculture in 1938 and teaching certification from Cal-Poly, three of Jim's high school students - all siblings - "connived" to introduce him to their aunt Wilma. Jim and Wilma were married three and a half months later.

Wilma, who was born in Fort Morgan, CO on October 15, 1918 and raised in Scotts Bluff, NE, was living in Lodi, CA at the time they met. Jim, a native Californian born in Loma Linda September 3, 1915, was raised in Ontario, California.

After making their first home in Etna, CA, Jim accepted an agricultural teaching position at Yreka High School, and the couple moved their family of five to a ranch just outside Montague, CA, from which they had an incredible view of Mt. Shasta. Their daughters say the farm was often called "Noah's Ark" because their father insisted on having at least two of nearly any animal or bird you could name: pigs, calves, cows, sheep, guinea hens, rabbits, hamsters, etc. - and for this reason say it was quite fitting that their parents were long-time supporters of Heifer International.

Following their retirement from careers in education and retail management, respectively, Jim and Wilma became world travelers, including travel to Israel, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as trips in conjunction with their volunteer work. One such trip was to Bolivia with Heifer International staff and volunteers. For decades, Jim and Wilma dedicated themselves to volunteering around the world and in their own community, including through local hospitals, churches, youth group camps, the Food Bank, Mobile Missionary Assistance Program, and a Hot Meals program which Wilma helped organize.

Jim and Wilma lived their lives together dedicated to "community and world service", and leave behind a legacy that will continue through generations to come.