“And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
“That one small head could carry all she knew.”
That was the unattributed quotation that appeared under the name, picture, and the list of scholarly accomplishments of Esther Taft that appeared in the 1921 Menomin, the traditional annual of Menomonie High School. Those words reflected the appreciation of a young lady who would be named the valedictorian of the Class of 1921 made up of 65 seniors.
Under her name and portrait in the yearbook was a modest list of her achievements as a student of MHS. She had been the president of the class as a sophomore, a member of the Glee Club, active in declamation and in the school’s Literary Society.
For her final three years of high school, she was also active in debate as well as the girls’ Gym Association. As a junior, she was president of the Audubon Society at Menomonie High, and she served on the staff of the Menomin, the school’s yearbook.
Esther’s father, Albert “Allie” Taft, was a printer operating the presses of the Dunn County News for 20 years from 1909 to 1921. His story, especially his amazing accomplishment as a co-founder of the Deluxe Check Printing Co., will have to wait to be told in a future column. However it is obvious that young Esther was pleased with him, her family, and her life in Menomonie.
In 2002, just months before her death at the age of 98, she completed the final chapter in her book, Other Days, Memories from the Last Century. It is a book of 265 pages of memories, with many tales, if not most of them, based on growing up in Menomonie.
It was in June 1937, when she married a medical intern in ophthalmology, Robert Quinn, in New Orleans, La. During their marriage, his career found them living for various period of time in New York, Ohio, Massachusetts and Texas. At the age of 90, while the couple was living in retirement in an apartment in Westwood, Mass., Dr. Robert Quinn died. The family held a memorial service in Madison, Wis. and then buried Robert Quinn’s ashes at the Hilltop Cemetery located on the top of a hill on west-bound County Highway BB, a mile north of Menomonie Junction.
That cemetery is the traditional of the Burt and Taft families. Esther Taft Quinn died, at the age of 98, soon after finishing the book in 2002 and is buried at the Hilltop Cemetery. She was a delightful story teller, and every once in a while we hope to feature some of those stories in future columns.
Next week: Esther Taft’s father, a printer in the Dunn County News print shop.
John Russell, a local photographer and Dunn County resident, writes a weekly column for The Dunn County News. He is curator emeritus of the Dunn County Historical Society.