Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Memorial for Dr. Helen Bridger Ellis

My mother, Helen Ellis, died this morning. I am using this space to post information, and will update it as I have more.

Several people have asked me how old my mother was in the picture above. She was 50.

Update: I have posted more pictures here: link.

Update: On Wednesday, September 23, I buried my mother's ashes in a private ceremony. She has a lovely spot under a tree. The marker should be installed in 6-8 weeks. The location is: Memory Gardens, 2723 Victoria Street North, Breslau, Ontario, Plot 1446A. Here is a photo of the urn that her ashes are in. It's a metal rectangle that reflects her love of Art Deco:

Some interesting links

* Obituary
* UW English Department post (with a photo of my mother receiving an award at her Rollins graduation in 1949, standing next to her best friend Pat Meyer)
* Helen reminisces for the 50th anniversary of the UW English department
* Sale of mother's condo: listing and photos
* Notice in Memphis Commercial Appeal: link

This is the address given by William Wallace Ellis, Helen's brother and my uncle, at the memorial service:

"These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look."

Echoing the lines of Emily Dickinson, I came here today to remember and to honor my remarkable sister.

Helen had a long life of giving to her family and her friends. Twenty years ago she purchased 64 hymnals for this church, listing the name of a relative in each volume. I thank you for nurturing her over the years, and I especially thank you for furnishing transportation to church from her Willow Street apartment.

We were all raised in a small home on a family farm in west Tennessee. Mary Martha was born four years after Helen, Cassandra Ruth three years later, William Wallace in 15 months, followed by Gwyn Watson six years later and Nat Bowe three years later. Then, when Helen was a senior at Rollins College, Nancy Lee was born.

We were surrounded by numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. The home was one and a half miles from teh crossroad village at Capleville, where the local Methodist church and elementary school were of lasting importance. Big Memphis was ten miles to the north-west, and the Mississippi state line was four miles to the south. Seventy miles south in the Mississippi Delta Tibbs, the location of our grandfather's small country store. To the east of Tibbs in the hill country was Oxford, the home of the University of Mississippi and William Faulkner.

We lost our mother in 1984 and our father in 1991. Helen became the matriarch of the family.

In "Absolom, Absolom", Faulkner wrote, "Yes, they lead beautiful lives - women." Twenty pages later he wrote, "Beautiful lives women live - women do." Helen lead a beautiful life.

"Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."