My heartfelt thanks to everyone who celebrated the life of my sweet Aunt Eleanor. My bowling buddy, my swimming partner, my whiffle ball teammate, my inspiration, my hero.
She twice battled cancer, never once complaining, and fought bravely to the bitter end. Her fortitude came as no surprise as she overcame many challenges throughout her life. A lover of music, with an encyclopedic knowledge of artists and songs, I can think of no other lyric that best describes Ellie than this one, fittingly from Springsteen since she always thought of herself as The Boss: “And your strength is devastating, in the face of all these odds…”
Born during a time when people with special needs were often unfairly and cruelly institutionalized, Ellie’s parents (the incomparable Hank and Jo) would have none of it. They proudly raised her in a home filled with the love of her 7 siblings and ensured that she received an education, a job and inclusiveness in a society that wasn’t always accepting of individuals that were deemed “different”. Ellie often would say “I got a life” and boy did she live it to the fullest, proving all those naysayers wrong.
She was the Mayor of Surrey Lane and knew everyone’s name. The lucky ones even got nicknames, some of which are probably unmentionable (mine was Little Man, hers was Stella Dora like the Breakfast Treat). Ellie always made an impression on people, even those who she never met before. She’d walk right up to strangers, shake their hand and say “hi pal”, immediately endearing herself to them and putting a smile on people’s faces.
I truly believe there are certain people put on earth for a purpose and Ellie was one of them. She was one of our greatest role models and taught us all the true meaning of dignity, respect, compassion and unconditional love. During a time of great turmoil and divisiveness in our society, we need more Ellie’s in this world.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize my dear mother Joanne, who lovingly cared for Ellie every day, in sickness and in health, since Hank and Jo passed. She was more than Ellie’s legal guardian, she was her guardian angel and her parents would be so proud of how their oldest daughter took care of their baby daughter.
So as we say farewell for now and remember all the good times and lessons we learned from our great inspiration, I’ll think of her often. Whenever I hear thunder in the sky, I know it will be Ellie knocking down some bowling pins with that infectious smile. I’ll miss my pal Stella Dora. What a treat indeed she was to this world.