Mona Rae (Ekleberry) Larson '54
“I came home one day and found my mom in the kitchen praying with friends --and they were praying for me!” Monie had begun to hang out with the wrong crowd, and her mom was concerned. She wanted her to go to a Christian High School, but her dad (who was not a believer) would have nothing to do with it.
Monie's mom called Minnehaha Academy and talked to the principal who told her the cost and the options. They had very little money, so Monie’s mom got a job at a department store, and made enough money for her to attend Minnehaha. “MA turned my life around,” Monie says.
A Long Trip to a Another World
Starting as a sophomore, she took a streetcar from Columbia Heights and transferred twice to get to school. The one-way trip was 1.5 hours, which she used to do her homework.
Minnehaha Academy was a totally different world from the public high school she attended. First, they had chapel every day. She had not heard much of God’s Word and had no Christian friends to hang out with from home. She was shocked that Bible classes were one of the normal, required classes! At MA, she met and made friends who are still friends to this day. She joined the Singers with Harry Opel, did Christian service, was a snow day activities attendant, and her senior year started dating a ‘neat’ Christian guy. “Minnehaha was when my belief took root and I really committed my life to Jesus. It changed the entire direction of my life,” Monie says.
Life After Minnehaha
When it was time to graduate, she had no money and didn’t know how she would ever go to college. Her boyfriend’s dad was the personnel director at the Billy Graham Association, which was just getting started. He asked her, “Why don’t you go and apply for a job?” She did--and she got it! Her boyfriend’s father hired her as his secretary, and that was how her career started in 1954 with the Billy Graham Association.
Monie’s job began as a secretary and continued for the next four years, during which she married Don Larson and had their first daughter, Kim. She then started working from home, typing Billy Graham's sermons that he had preached in his various crusades. The office furnished her with an electric typewriter, dictaphone and supplies. She would type the sermons, send them to the office to get corrected, then type the corrected one with five carbons so that each of the five team members would get a copy of the sermon. She did this from 1957-68.
When she was just 18, Monie was asked to give her testimony on the ”Hour of Decision,” which was a live weekly radio broadcast produced by the Billy Graham Association. The picture here is from that broadcast with Cliff Barrows, the longtime music and program director for the BGEA. She really thought about her testimony and how much her life had changed through her years at MA. “Everyone at the Billy Graham Association was so good to me.”
Monie and Don were married for 61 years when he went home to be with the Lord February 22nd, 2017. They had two daughters, Kim Meyer and Kelly Vavra. Kim’s three children graduated from Minnehaha (Dan ’00, Laura ’03 and Greg ’09), and “MA was huge in their Christian growth,” Monie says. Don was a singer, and their entire family sang together; they even made a CD! They are blessed with seven grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren.
What advice would Monie share with current students? “Take advantage of this opportunity--of being in a Christian high school where you can grow, learn, fellowship and make friendships that can last a lifetime. That is an incredible blessing.”