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Ila Mae Sorensen
Ila Mae Sorensen

MONONA/MCFARLAND – Ila Mae Sorensen, age 97, passed on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, peacefully in her sleep. She was born Feb. 4, 1922, on the Schultz Family Farm in Lafayette County, Wis. Ila (nee Schultz) was married to Jack Sorensen in Chicago on Feb. 28, 1944. The couple had three children: Mark, Jan Alita, and Jay. Daughter, Jan Alita died within a day of birth in 1953. Ila is survived by her sons, Mark and Jay (Laura); grandchildren, Annika, Anton, Aleksei, Kelli (Clint) Starks, and Krystal; and great-grandchildren, Cole, Mariah, and Austin Starks.

Ila’s first home was the family farm of her parents, Louis and Lena Schultz, which was passed from her grandparents Henry and Erika Schultz. Her father, Henry would die when she was only 12 years old. This left the hard farm work to her older brothers Art, Mervin, and Cecil. Her mother would remarry to Henry’s brother, Emil. The family was loving, closely connected, and life on the farm represented one of Ila’s most fond and enduring memories. The family revolved around her mother Lena which Ila described as a “beautiful woman who would do everything.”

The era of the depression and World War II were events that molded Ila as a child, teenager, and young woman. Chickens were caught to make dinner, water was carried from a distant well, and work was ever present. Fun times included playing with kids from neighboring farms, riding a pony called Midget, and watching her brothers tease each other. Ila graduated from South Wayne High School in 1939. She would move to a stately home in Warren, Ill., with her mother at age 17.

She met her husband Jack in Warren at the age of 20 in 1942. Two years later they would marry in Chicago and her husband would be inducted into the U.S. Army. There was no honeymoon and the couple lived on an army base in McComb, Ill. Ila returned to Warren to work and save money while she waited for the war to end. Her husband would be gone for two years and mail from the front would take two weeks to arrive home. But finally, the most important telegram arrived from Jack, “Three cheers, home for good in a few days. Can’t wait to see you. All my love, Jack.”

The first home for Jack and Ila was a 21-foot trailer parked in Monroe, Wis. The trailer had a bed and eating area, and access to a toilet was at a nearby gas station. They purchased a $4,000 mail-order home called a Home-Ola from Chicago which was erected in two days at the corner of 24th Street and 13th Avenue in Monroe. Money was scarce and Ila worked in the Frito-Lay plant in town. Next, they would move to Cobb, Wis., where Jack purchased a half share in the town’s hardware store. Ila set up a home in the unfinished second story of the building and was a clerk in the store for 12 years.

For many years, Ila would be Jack’s silent business partner in his sometimes, wild endeavors. The next move would be to Florida where the couple built a Travelodge motel. Ila would describe this time as “three tough years” with rooms rented for $5 in the winter and almost no business in the summer. With kids Mark and Jay in tow, the family moved to Clinton, Iowa for the opening of another Travelodge. It was closer to Wisconsin, but not close enough. The motel was sold before it opened and the family settled in Monona, Wis. All during this time, Ila was a mom, wife, front desk clerk, room housekeeper, and co-manager.

Her home in Monona on Cardinal Crescent would be her joy for the next three decades. Along with the family farm, this was a place Ila loved because it finally brought the stability she craved. Her husband would always be a wandering soul, and the family would have a cottage on Lake Waubesa, and later the Wisconsin Dells, and Gills Rock in Door County. Winters were often spent in Sarasota in the Windward Isle trailer park. Wherever she went, Ila always created lasting friendships that were fueled by card games, desserts, coffee, and abundant conversation. Her husband and sons would often complain “Mom is always the last one out of church, she just can’t stop talking.”

The home in Monona would eventually be sold and Jack and Ila moved to the Skaalen Village retirement community in McFarland. The corner unit was perfect because it offered Ila a big view of everything that was happening. Ila loved her extended family sprinkled throughout southern Wisconsin. Cheese Days in Monroe and Pumpkin Days in Warren were highlights because these events brought her home and allowed her to spend hours chatting with her brothers, nephews and nieces. Ila’s family gratefully thank the staff at the Heritage Unit at Skaalen in Stoughton, with a special mention of Judy, Kathy, and Rita, for their wonderful care, concern, and kindness.

Memorial services will be held at ST. PAUL’S LUTHERAN CHURCH, 209 Clinton Street, Warren, Ill., at 12 noon on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Coffee, cake, and a luncheon will be served after the service. Visitation will be held at the church from 10 a.m. until the time of the service on Saturday. Online condolences may be made at

Gunderson Stoughton

Funeral & Cremation Care

1358 Highway 51 N. @ Jackson St.

(608) 873-4590