Seniors & Aging

Lynden retiree stays positive despite some tough times

Frances Stone, 95, still gets around her Lynden Manor home with a prosthetic leg.
Frances Stone, 95, still gets around her Lynden Manor home with a prosthetic leg. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Frances Stone, 95, of Lynden has seen change aplenty: Stone has been widowed twice, she has moved several times in her retirement years, and she lost a leg seven years ago. Yet she still gets around fine with a walker at Lynden Manor, where she has lived since 2003.

In fact, she's so mobile with her prosthesis that visitors are often shocked when they learn she walks with an artificial leg.

Ups and downs: Stone had many wonderful years in two marriages, but has also endured tough times. Her first husband, Bill Ehlers, died in a farm accident in 1978 after 44 years of marriage to Frances.

Eight years later, she married Macrae Stone, a retired Bellingham battalion fire chief. He died in 1999.

Four years after that, she lost part of a leg due to a circulation problem that threatened to develop into gangrene.

Family support: Stone got through her tough times with the help of family. She has two sons in their 70s, Darryl Ehlers of Nooksack and David Ehlers of Edmonds, plus numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

She's proud that Darryl still maintains the family farm.

"Darryl is the one who likes to write letters to the editors of newspapers," she says with a grin, admiring her son's spunk and positive attitude.

Downsizing: Stone lived more than three decades on what she and her first husband turned into a dairy farm while they raised their sons.

When she remarried, she moved to her second husband's home near Berthusen Park, and then moved with him to a Homestead Farms condo in Lynden in 1994.

"A young person wanted to buy our home in Lynden and that worked out fine," she says. "We used the money from the sale to buy a condo on the Homestead golf course, and that turned out to be a nice move."

"When I lost my leg I was 88, and that's when I moved to Lynden Manor after recovering for three months at Christian Health Care Center next door," she says.

Determined to walk: Stone was so determined to walk that she was up and about with a walker less than six months after losing her leg.

Not a packrat: "I didn't have too much trouble moving," Stone says. "I was able to keep personal stuff, and my kids helped me a lot.

"I wasn't hard to move (from the farm) the first time, because the farm stayed in our family. And I moved a lot when I was young, so that helped me learn to adjust early in life."

Olympia memories: Stone was born in Vermont in 1914, but came to Olympia as a baby.

She gained early lessons in practical living because her parents ran a classic mom-and-pop grocery store downtown.

"That building was 100 years old when it burned down not long ago," she says.

Stone moved to Whatcom County with Bill Ehlers as newlyweds in 1934.

On the road: As retirees, she and Macrae Stone enjoyed traveling, and spent a couple of months in Arizona every winter. In the early '90s they got a chance to visit China.

"It was a group tour and we had another couple with us. I really enjoyed that trip," she says.

Neighbors at Lynden Manor: "I knew when I lost my leg I did not want to become a problem for them, because I knew they would be concerned about me," Stone says. "They had their own lives and I knew I had to adjust.

"It was hard, but I've made out. I do sometimes get sore, and I have to watch out. I do have some troubles, but it's either walk on my own or use a wheelchair, and I don't want to be in a wheelchair."

Friends: "It's very good to be with the others here at Lynden Manor," she says. "I was touched when a woman who had just lost her husband (they lived together at Lynden Manor) told me it was so nice to be around people who care.

"I like to be friendly," she says. "It's a good feeling to help as many people as I can."

Practical philosophy: Stone isn't one to complain.

Her philosophy can be summed up by her phrase, "I just do what I have to do."