Resident feature: Children’s author Ida Luttrell

If you want to get to know Ida Harbison Luttrell, you have to learn to say her last name correctly. 

“It is LU trell, not lu TRELL,” explains Ida.  “My husband always said, ‘After we make our first million dollars we will change the pronunciation to lu TRELL!’” 

Ida loves language and is a published author of many children’s books, as well as the story of the life of her father Pell Harbison, who was a Texas Ranger in the wide-open country of South Texas.

Ida herself was born in Laredo, Texas, and grew up on 1,000-acre ranch seven miles outside of Hebronville on the road to Randado. There was plenty of work to do on the ranch including running a dairy farm and raising cattle.  Ida had four sisters and one brother.

“My poor brother, they about worked him to death!” recalled Ida.

At one point, during WWII, Ida’s father moved the family to Austin to get away from the border on chance that the Germans might invade the U.S. through Mexico.  After a year, though, he couldn’t stand being in a house so close to other houses and moved his family back to the ranch.

Ida’s mom had gone to The University of Texas during WWI, so when the siblings got older, five of the six also attended the university, including Ida. 

“I thought I would have to be a teacher, but my roommate was studying bacteriology, and I decided to take a class!” said Ida. “My mom was a teacher, and I had no idea I could do something else. Even today I think children need to be educated as to what other career opportunities are out there.” 

Ida went on to earn a four-year degree in bacteriology in 1955 and landed a job at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, where she would later meet her husband Bill. She spent many years working at the hospital determining what things caused children to get sick and determining the best ways to treat them.

Ida also loved a ladies writing group she joined. The 10-member group included authors of plays, novels, and children’s books. They met regularly to encourage each other’s works, and, remarkably, over the next forty years all ten of them would be published in their area of interest.

“My fondest memories in life were times with family on the ranch and some wonderful trips, especially around the U.S.,” Ida said. “My husband Bill was spontaneous and we would go all over the country collecting Libbey Glass, coins, and about a dozen other types of things. 

“One trip that stands out to me is a trip we took with the kids to San Antonio for Easter.  We got there but Bill decided just to keep heading West. Next thing we knew we were at the Grand Canyon! We had to go to the Army Navy Surplus to buy the kids and ourselves warm clothing because it was snowing outside.  Those were some wonderful times.”

Ida recently moved to Longview to be near one of her four children (she also has nine grandchildren and a great grandchild on the way). 

“I had always heard people from East Texas were nice, and the people that said so were right!” said Ida. “I walked into Buckner after shopping several local retirement communities and the feeling was puzzling. There was just something about the place I was drawn to.  Everyone has been so genuine.” 

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