Loretta Ensor ( 1904 – 1991 )

Loretta Ensor

Loretta Ensor Graduation Photo – 1923

Loretta Ensor grew up on the family farm six miles south of Olathe, KS, and she lived there her entire life. She loved farm life and all the work that goes with it. When Marshall developed a passionate interest in radio in 1917, it was only natural that Loretta would get involved. Marshall needed to increase his CW speed, and Loretta willingly accepted the role of practice partner. The radio environment at the Ensor farm, along with Loretta’s “smarts” and facility with Morse code, allowed her to earn her amateur radio license in April of 1923, becoming the first woman radio amateur in the midwest. In those early years, she and Marshall made contacts all over the US and indeed the world. A ham in Australia wrote in a letter to Loretta that she was “the first YL to cross the Pacific by radio waves.”

Marshall Ensor received the 1940 Paley Radio Award to recognize his significant and unselfish contributions to the nation by ‘Teaching Radio by Radio.’  Loretta helped to maintain the continuity of lessons, because she filled in and transmitted the lessons whenever Marshall’s duties at the high school kept him away from the farm. For this important assistance, Loretta was flown with Marshall to New York City to attend the gala presentation ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Ballroom on June 2, 1941.

Loretta's 86th Birthday in 1990

Loretta’s 86th Birthday in 1990

Marshall retired from teaching in 1965, and he and Loretta began the major work of turning their home, outbuildings, tools, radios, and other treasures into a showcase open to the public. Much had been accomplished by the time Marshall died in 1970. After that Loretta operated the Ensor Museum with the aid of hired help, while continuing to live out her life at her museum home. She showed guests around the historic site, with all of its radios and handcrafted treasures, with pride, and she continued to share her wealth of stories with friends, reporters, and historians. In 1973, after having been a ham operator for 50 years and having had enough crossing the oceans by radio waves, Loretta let her license go.

Her death in 1991 brought to a close two remarkable generations of a radio-pioneering farm family. Not to be forgotten, the memories are kept alive at the ENSOR PARK and MUSEUM.