She was born on July 22, 1919, the oldest of my great grandmothers three girls.
|Eileen, Eleanore, Evelyn|
She went to work in a General Electric factory in Warren, Ohio during World War II. She made headlights for airplanes used in the war. After the war, she continued working for General Electric and got married.
She was unlucky in love. Her husband, by all accounts, was a bad man. He was a womanizer and a gambler and he left her for a divorced Catholic woman in the 1950s. She was married for more than 15 years and she never conceived a baby in all that time so they had no children together. I'll never forget when social security called to tell her he had died and she was entitled to his retirement. She wouldn't accept it at first. She said she wanted none of his money. It took weeks of my grandmother cajoling her before she would accept it.
She had a nervous breakdown after the divorce, moved to Phoenix to live with my grandparents, and she never remarried and never even dated ever again. As a devout Pentecostal Christian, she didn't believe in divorce and she lived the rest of her life celibate. I spent most of my childhood trying to hook her up with strangers in the produce aisle at Smitty's.
So while she never had any children of her own, she raised my mother, me and my sister, and she helped raise my sister's children. We were her children.
When she moved to Phoenix, the division of General Electric she worked for had been bought out by Honeywell and she retired from Honeywell after 41 years of service. When she retired, they included an award for being the longest employee to ever go without missing a single day of work. I don't remember exactly, but it was over 20 years without using a single sick day. She even went through gallstones and bouts of diverticulitis and still never took a single sick day.
One of my favorite memories of her, when I got older, was waking up at the crack of dawn, sharing a cup of coffee, and doing the crossword together and reading the paper together on the backporch of my grandmother's home. When I could smell the coffee brewing, it didn't matter how early it was, I'd get up and go join her. I come by my coffee addiction honestly.
My parent's house was directly across the street from Honeywell on 27th Ave and Thunderbird and she would pick me and my sister up every single Friday night, take us to McDonald's, then take us to the mall to the toy store. We did this every single Friday night my entire childhood. Then my sister and I would climb into her twin bed and read books and fall asleep all squished together. Every single Saturday morning, we'd get up and go to the library. Every single Sunday morning, we'd get up and go to church and every single Sunday afternoon, we'd have roast and mashed potatoes and my mom would come and pick us up and eat dinner.
Surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, this was our routine. We did this every single week without fail. We spent every single summer with her and my grandmother.
When I first started working in insurance, my office was only a mile away from her on 24th Street and Camelback and her house was on 24th St and Indian School, so I would leave work and go eat lunch at her house every single day. I met Greg when I worked there and soon he was eating lunch with me at her house. To say Greg loved my Aunt Ellie is the understatement of the century. He would have ripped someone's arms out and shoved them down their throat if he thought someone was taking advantage of her. He was fiercely protective of her.
Although we moved to Vegas, he did her yard whenever we were in town, he helped her buy a car, and he took care of all her maintenance on her house that my sister hadn't gotten to. In return, she thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. No matter how mad I was at him, she'd take his side.
"There's no dignity in getting old.", she would tell me as her health declined and she watched all her friends and family die.
Whenever someone she knew died a quick or painless death, she would say, "They were so lucky. I hope I go like that."
She never wanted to be a burden. Her biggest fear was that she would be a burden to me or my sister. She didn't care about dying because she was never afraid of death. She knew there was an afterlife.
In addition to devoting her entire life to us, she also devoted her life to Christ and the church. She belonged to the Assembly Of God all of her life and when her pastor left to start his own church in the 1970s, she went with him. His name was Oran Duncan and he started Christian Life Center on Glendale Ave. She was my Sunday School teacher and she counted the money and did the accounting at the church from its inception. We attended every single week no matter what. It's just what we did.
She also tithed exactly 10 percent of her income her entire life. Even after she retired and received a small pension from Honeywell and social security, she tithed exactly 120 dollars of her monthly 1200 dollar stipend. Despite never making much money, she was never in debt her whole life. When she died, she left her house which was paid for, to me and my sister.
A couple years before I had my babies, Pastor Duncan retired from Christian Life Center. For reasons I'll never understand, he gave the church to a traveling evangelist who was living in the church parking lot in an RV. It's too late to even find out now because Pastor Duncan has long since past away, but for reasons I'll never understand, that is what he did. Within weeks of taking over the church, the new pastor, his wife, and various other family members, put themselves on the board with my 83 year old Aunt Ellie and one other 80 year old woman, then systematically stole all the money and sold off the buildings.
Needless to say, Greg called that one.
Who knows where the grifters are now, but they took more than money from that church. They robbed an old lady of her faith. She never once in her life questioned her faith until that time in her life. She was never the same after that. Between my mother dying and losing her church, my Aunt Ellie's health declined and she proclaimed in December of 2003 that she had lived long enough and she wasn't going to live to be 85.
"I've done everything I want to do in this life and I'm ready to go. I'm not going to live to be 85", she told me that Christmas.
I had my babies in January of 2004 and she suffered a major stroke that left her completely disabled in May of 2004. My sister brought her home and paid for round-the-clock care and she died on July 21, 2004, exactly one day before her 85th birthday. True to her word to the very end, she did not live to be 85, nor did she ever become a burden to us.
|Amanda and Aunt Ellie|
I would not be the person I am today if she hadn't been in my life and I know my sister wouldn't have been either. I loved her with all my heart and there isn't a day I sit down and drink a cup of coffee and read the paper that I don't think about her. She was a saint, completely selfless and devoted. She never thought of herself first.
She is proof you never have to have your own children to change the life of a child or be a mother. She made the difference in my life and I was blessed my entire life with having not just an aunt, but a mother and a grandmother all rolled into one. I wish my kids had known her.