Grace and Val Ogden, in traditional Philippine dress, enjoy a dance at a Rotary party in 1957 in Tagaytay City. Courtesy photo
The United Church held a small family service Aug. 2 at Aspen Ridge Lodge to honor the memory of Grace L. Ogden, a small-town girl from a frontier town who grew up to be a loving and devoted family member—and something of a world traveler.
Grace’s only child, Charmian Ogden Schaller, spoke at her funeral. Charmian’s husband, Stuart Schaller; both of Grace’s grandchildren (Edward Schaller and Eric Schaller); and Edward’s wife Cathy and all four of their children (Grace’s great-grandchildren) attended the service.
The Rev. David Elton from the United Church read from Isaiah 40, Mark 9, and Romans 8. And United Church Choir Director Suzanne Johnson played some of Grace’s favorite hymns on the piano.
Like many people of her time, Grace was shaped by two world wars and the Depression.
She died in Los Alamos, N.M., on Sunday, July 25, 2021—at 101 years old. Friends and family had celebrated her birthday just a few days earlier, on July 9, bringing her flowers, singing her songs, and sharing stories.
Grace had ambition. She was a good student; as a young women, she served, on occasion, as a guide at Aztec Ruins, she worked hard to pay for two years of schooling at New Mexico State University, and she learned the necessary skills (shorthand etc.), passed the Civil Service exam, and got a job as a secretary-in Boulder City, Nevada.
It was in Boulder City that she met Val C. Ogden, who became her husband. He was from a farm near another very small town – Deary, Idaho. He greatly valued education too, but he also wanted to “see the world.”
They married; World War II started; and he joined the Navy.
They moved to Virginia. He trained troops at Camp Peary, and she worked at the Naval Gun Factory The dreaded day came at last, and she accompanied him to the train station, where he got a ticket to California. He had been chosen for a post as chief gunnery officer on a warship headed for Japan….
She had just gotten into a taxi and was looking back at the station, when she saw her husband walking toward her. She told the driver to stop, and both of them listened as he told them the news: The war had ended.
When he got out of the Navy, he took immediate advantage of the G.I. Bill. He asked Grace what the winters were like in Las Cruces and whether NMSU had a good Engineering Department—and they were off again, to New Mexico.
He breezed through NMSU in just over two years with straight As. Grace worked for a while, then got pregnant. Charmian was born in Las Cruces.
Val spent some time with an oil company in Oklahoma, then headed East again. This time, he went to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Grace became a fulltime homemaker in Ft. Belvoir, Va.
And then he accepted a job in the base engineering department on Sangley Point Naval Air Station, Cavite City, Philippines. It was a “hardship post.” Security was tight, and heavy-duty recovery rigs were still pulling crumpled ships out of Manila Bay because of the bombing runs that had taken place when the Japanese took the Philippines and later when the Americans freed the islands.
The family spent almost five years on Sangley, and then took ship and returned to the United States in 1959 (by way of Hawaii). It was December when they sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. Val had arranged a train ticket and enjoyed pointing out the winter snow scenes in the Rockies to his “tropical” family.
They went to Wisconsin, picked up a new Nash, and drove to Lewiston, Idaho, to visit his family. They got an apartment and stayed in Clarkston, Wash., while Val hunted for a new job. And then they moved again, this time to Alamogordo, N.M.
Charmian graduated from high school in Alamogordo, then graduated from NMSU four years later with a degree in journalism and began her own wandering. Her parents bought a house in Alamogordo, and this time, they stayed put for more than 30 years.
Val died in 1995. Eventually, Grace ended up at Aspen Ridge Lodge, where she lived for the rest of her life near her daughter.