By Lily Kongslien
Special to the Star Journal
Elta Mantor was born July 25, 1904, in a one-room log cabin which had been formerly used by loggers in Marathon County, about four miles east of Abbotsford. Her parents had moved there earlier from their home in Oshkosh. Her father owned and operated a saw mill near Abbotsford, and the children in the family, two older sisters, a younger brother and younger sister, attended a one-room rural school about two miles from their home.
Elta and her sister rode their horse, Billy, into town and tied him in the village stable for the day while they attended their high school classes. Then Billy brought them home again at the end of the school day. All of the children in the family completed high school.
After high school graduation, Elta went to Oshkosh to live with her grandmother Cross to attend Oshkosh Normal for one year and then taught the next two years at the rural school at Corinth in Marathon County. In 1926 she enrolled at Stevens Point Normal and graduated from the three-year course in just two years, majoring in history and mathematics. As she strived to continue her education, Elta worked during the summer months (when she wasn’t attending summer school) at resorts in Kilbourn and later Eagle River to pay for her schooling expenses. After graduation from Stevens Point Normal, she taught junior high school in Clintonville for eight years. In 1944, after four summer schools of classes, she received her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin.
For two years of her teaching career, Elta was in Tangier, Morocco at the American school where she taught English.
In 1932 Rhinelander began to benefit from her expertise in education as she was hired by the Rhinelander School System and taught geography at the junior high for three years. She then moved to Rhinelander High School to teach history and coach debate. After 44 years of teaching, she finished her career at Muskego, retiring at the age of 65. At Muskego, she also took care of her elderly mother along with her teaching responsibilities. Upon her mother’s death, Elta returned to spend her busy retirement years in Rhinelander.
Actually retire? Not Elta Mantor! She did retire from education, but she quickly busied herself in community betterment and volunteerism. She was very active in the newly-formed Retired Teachers Organization in Rhinelander, being one of its earlier presidents. She also served as president of the Rhinelander Woman’s Club from 1983 to 1986. She was active in the local AARP chapter and also was one of the co-chairs of the Rhinelander Area Retired Teachers Association who in 1982 published the book, “History of the School District of Rhinelander.”
Elta was one of the promoters of the rural school museum at Pioneer Park. She helped in locating the school, with fund drives to move the old Tom Doyle School to the park and with the restoration and renovation of the building itself. She, along with others, worked long and hard to prepare the building, and in Jul y1978 this was accomplished. Painting, refinishing, collecting memorabilia and setting up schedules for viewing by the public – Elta always spearheaded the projects, working as hard if not harder than the others. She was the first coordinator of volunteers at the Rural School Museum and served in that capacity until she moved to the Fairhaven Retirement Home in Whitewater. Our appreciation to a former great educator, volunteer and friend!