- 88 years old
- Date of birth: Nov 15, 1925
- Place of birth:
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
- Date of passing: Nov 8, 2014
- Place of passing:
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
|Let the memory of John be with us forever|
There will be a service of remembrance and reception on November 14, 2-6 pm at the First Unitarian Church at 569 S. 1300 E. Salt Lake City, UT
"Happy Birthday Dad. Mom broke her knee but it healed up pretty well. She's coming to Portland for Thanksgiving. BTW, Donald Trump won the election."
"Missing you today, Dad. Skip joined you last week but otherwise everyone's doing fine here. The family reunion was great. Believe it or not a Socialist almost got the democratic nomination and Donald Trump is running for president. We'll find out tomorrow who won...might be Hillary Clinton."
"Fiona and I are remembering Granddad and looking at the photos. Fiona's grade will be honoring veterans and she will bring a photo of Granddad in his uniform. Lots of love, Lisa"
"Thank you for the photos allowing a peek into John and Eddie's past with their beautiful family and revealing a life well lived. I miss you, John."
I've been reading some of the tributes to Uncle Johnny and what struck me was how early our memories are formed. Of course, it's in childhood that we first meet the people who are going to have an impact on us and, because we're at such a formative stage, that impact can be profound and permanent. When I think of Uncle Johnny, so many memories come flooding back and, even though I've been lucky enough to live here in Salt Lake and know him while an adult, those first memories were all of childhood.
And the memories are vivid, whether home-movie induced or from repeated stories, not only the pictures are there but the feelings as well. I feel being in the ocean with Uncle Johnny and my dad, being thrown into the waves, I can feel being in the Poconos where, as we emerged from the lake covered with leeches, Uncle Johnny and Dad peeled them off our body, I can even remember being freezing at a football game in Connecticut. And what stands out to me is the overwhelming sense of security--that these two men would never let anything happen to me. Uncle Johnny could throw me into wave after wave until I couldn't breathe and I could just be happy.
Way before Trivial Pursuits, there was the Jeopardy Board game with the little red, see through cover. You'd remove the $20 piece of cardboard read the question underneath. I clearly remember thinking Uncle John was probably the smartest man in the world. Whoever was on his team won. At least that's what I remember.
But then simplistic memories of childhood give way to the more complex memories of an adult. Uncle Johnny was a man of deep passions and huge commitments. As a kid, I just saw this as exciting. All of my family knows that our family can be loud when things get rocking and the alcohol is flowing. I clearly remember my then very Republican dad, who didn't see the light until his later years, debating with Uncle Johnny some point..it could have been one of a hundred on which they politically disagreed...calling him first a liberal, moving on to damn liberal, then socialist and finally a communist. All I knew is that these discussions were exciting and when we got to the communist piece, things were really going to take off and be fun!
As an adult, I know what I was seeing back then was Uncle John's values at work, his strong sense of justice, of right and wrong and his commitment to the greater good. While I agree with my brother who calls him "cool, calm and collected", I think of it as mellow, when he felt strongly about something, he could 'lose it' just like the rest of us. He felt deeply--especially about the wrongs of the world.
So, this is Uncle Johnny to me--a man who made me feel safe as a child, who challenged my thinking as an adult, who loved his family--that's all of us--who felt injustice profoundly. He was very smart, complicated man who still took the time to make me feel important and loved first as a child and then as an adult. I loved him; I'll miss him; and will always be grateful that he was my uncle.
"On the way out from Portland the view was fantastic. There were high clouds in a blue sky. The wheat fields rolled away and there were clusters of windmills dotting the landscape. I thought about my father. He didn’t appreciate landscapes. Maybe it was his color blindness. In fact, the only National Park he really appreciated was the Grand Canyon because it was a really big hole. Another thing about my father was that he was a cheapskate. When I toilet trained he told me that there was no reason for a person to use more than three panels of toilet paper.
To cut the heating bill at one point my father decided that Leslie and I would take baths together. After a couple of baths he left us to fend for ourselves. Of course we started a water fight and when he returned the bathroom was covered with water. He was quite angry. I knew because he said “you saps” which was his most vulgur expression. He tried to spank us but we were so slippery that it didn’t hurt and Leslie and I started to giggle and then we all started laughing and he sent us on our way while he and my mother wiped down the bathroom.
Another thing about my father was he was a big kid at heart. Yes, he was the Chief Engineer and a member of the board of education but he was happiest playing with us kids. When we were teenagers we went to Tuckerman’s Ravine, a place where my father always told us we would go when we were old enough. He was 45 years old, an age considered old for that kind of activity in 1970. You have to climb up to this ravine with a backpack and skis to camp overnight in these lean to’s. He loved it and up there he was no longer a father, but a fun loving friend. He struggled with the climb up a steep slope called Right Gully where he slipped and slid to the bottom without ever putting on his skis. And the event got better with the telling. Later that day they flew in a helicopter to evacuate a climber who had fallen into a crevasse. Our friend Ritner Walling pointed out that the climber had been in the crevasse all night long with a torrent of spring water falling on his head and certainly was not well equipped. My father quipped, “should one have an umbrella while climbing?” an excellent and typical one liner.
A couple of months ago Mom and Dad came to Portland to visit. On the last night we went to Portland for dinner on my boat. When we got to the dock the dock was a little tight and we had to park close to the rocks on shore. We had a nice dinner and then returned to the boat. The tide had turned and we were even closer to the rocks. I needed to do an awkward maneuver to get out and asked my Dad to push off with his cane. It wasn’t working and I thought I could do better and I took the cane and tried to push off but dropped the cane in the water. The boat headed toward the rocks and we barely escaped. At the end of this dilemma my Dad said in a mortified tone “that was my favorite cane”. At first I was concerned and then I realized that it was his first and only cane and it cost about $5. He was pulling our legs.
Here was a man with two undergraduate degrees and a Penn Masters degree, a WWII Veteran, many positions in engineering and business including President who said “it’s a shame that people spend so much time accumulating stuff because it’s heating up the world and eating up everyone’s free time.” He liked retirement most. These last 24 years for my father had his challenges broken bones and mysterious illnesses, but got he got to see the world, spend time with my Mother, his sister and brother, his children, his grandchildren and great grandchildren his nieces and nephews and all his new friends in Utah. So he couldn’t appreciate scenery and he was a little stubborn. No big deal. I’m proud to carry his genes."
"My sympathies and thoughts are with the Ellison family. I know we will remember him with fond memories."
"Granddad used to tell us (Vista and Fiona) that there was an alligator under the couch and that he put it in the oatmeal. We will miss Granddad's humor and stories. Lots of love from Jared, Lars, Vista, Fiona."
""I don't believe a more interesting guy exists than John Ellison!!! He led a most active and fulfilling life--always ready for or a new adventure--or a hike!! He had tons of great stories to tell--and no wonder!!--he'd had a great life!! and will be sorely missed-by Eddie and his family and also by all of us who shared the privilege of knowing him!!""
"Eddie, So sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
Love and blessings,
Debbie (from hiking group)"
"Dear Johnny, whereever you are thanks for being such a good big brother. You taught me to ride a bike, roller skate, ski, swim and dive. And what's more to love the out of doors. Sometimes you were a pain as a tease but then I remember when we went to Cuba on the Domino. I was so seasick. dad was busy as the captain. You would pop in every few hours to see if I needed anything. He was an "old saly" and assured me I would soon have my "sealegs". As usual you were right.
I can't quite believe that I am going out to Utah and you won't be there to give me a big hug, but you will be there in my heart and in the hearts of all of us who are grieving your loss."
"In our galaxy of great friends, a brilliant bright star has faded away. There was never a dull or uninteresting tale from Johnny! So many memorable times together with John and Eddie are stored in my memory bank. I hope he has skiing, Scrabble, and wine time where ever he is now, and throw in a scotch for good measure! To all the family, my condolences for your loss go out to you."
Is there skiing in Heaven? Because if there is, I suspect that Uncle Johnny is right now patiently explaining to St Peter why he should get a discount on his lift ticket.
His manner of death is irrelevant compared to the way he lived his life. How many people can brag about an 88 year old uncle who is still skiing? And how many can say that they have an Aunt and Uncle who not only are still married after 66 years, but actually still love each other ?
When I was young, we spent a lot of time with the Connecticut Ellison’s. And I loved every minute of it. I loved the way Uncle Johnny could tell a story. I would listen to each and every word with rapt attention. Even his stories that were meant to be meaningful were mixed with his unique brand of humor. He was always so calm. No matter what happened, he would be cool, calm and collect. Maybe that is why he and Aunt Eddie made such a good couple, they offset each other. Aunt Eddies frantic pace coupled with Uncle Johnnie’s coolness made them the perfect couple. I remember one time when I was very young, Jackie, John and I were sledding at Sellers Library. Somehow going down the hill I ripped a fairly large cut in my knee. Seeing that much blood in the white snow had me in a near panic. This was long before cell phones; I doubt we even had a nickel to make a phone call. John ran back to Mimoms house to get help. Uncle Johnny and my Dad came to help. It was Uncle Johnny that wrapped my knee, and it was Uncle Johnny that dealt with the nurses at the hospital. He struggled to make me laugh, even though I was on the verge of complete panic. Cool, calm and collect.
He was a second father figure to me. He had a huge influence in my life. My own father was not much of a story teller. So I fashioned my own ability to spin a tale after the way Uncle Johnny did it. With humor, a little self-depreciation and some slightly enhanced facts. I have done the same with his sense of humor. His witty comments always made me laugh. I can now see my son Paul, trying to tell stories and tales the way I do. This is really the way Uncle Johnny did. Some people go through life asking themselves “what would Jesus do ?” When I found myself suddenly in a house raising three teenage kids, I would say to myself “what would Uncle Johnny do ?” WWUJD ?? !!!!!!
There are few people I have met in my life who I can say had a direct influence on me. Uncle Johnny is one of those people. I can say that I would not be the person I am without his influence when I was younger. Having known him has made me a better person. Uncle Johnny may have died, but his influence will be felt for many generations to come.
I have said this before and I gladly say it again. My heroes were never sports stars. My heroes have always been the men who lived their lives for their families .My Dad , Uncle Johnny, Uncle Skippy and Uncle Bill where the men who I looked up to. Men who walk a simple path have made the greatest impact in my life. I will miss Uncle Johnny, but am grateful for the time that God has given me with him.
I may not say much, but when I speak I am heard.
Love, Steve Trexler"
"I am having a hard time comprehending a world without Uncle Johnny
because I always thought of him as some Superman-like figure. I mean
who retires to become a ski instructor in Utah? He was a larger than
life figure to me, much like my own father, and just as Bruce said,
they were and always will be my heroes.
I remember from a very early age feeling like I was part of this
exclusive club of "John Ellisons," Uncle Johnny, John Ellison Trexler,
me and then Jack. We all had the honor of carrying our father's or
grandfather's name, and it defined who I am. It made me pay attention
to Uncle Johnny in a special way because I felt like I had an
obligation to try to be like him. With him and my Dad as role models,
how could one child possibly be so lucky?
Every time I got to be in Uncle Johnny's company, I knew something fun
and exciting was going to happen. From his crazy greetings and lifting
us up by our ears to his seemingly endless catalogue of stories, both
on and off color, he was always a joy to be around and his energy and
joy for life were infectious. As Chris said yesterday, does anybody
know every verse of "The Seven Old Ladies Stuck in the Lavatory" other
than him? Seeing how much he loved living and how actively he lived
his life has always inspired me to try to be the same way. I still
have never met anyone who always seemed to be enjoying whatever it was
that he was doing as much as Uncle Johnny did.
From dinners at Memom's house to weeks in Ocean City and hanging out at
the beach, I always discovered something new from Uncle Johnny. He
taught me how to body surf. He taught me how to ski (after I first
crashed into one of the neighbor's garages sliding down a hill behind
their house in Newington when I was about 7 or 8). He taught me about
scotch and Rusty Nails. He taught me how to tell a story. But most
important, he and my father taught me how to get what you want out of
this life, and how to really live every single moment of your life like
it is going to be your last. Without that example, I think I would
have never pushed myself like I do or experienced half of what I have
been able to do without that type of role model. With Ben and Adam, I
have tried to show them the same way to live because there is no better
way, and that is what Uncle Johnny meant to me and hopefully all of us.
His presence was just overwhelming, and the idea of his physical
absence is hard to cope with. The only way I can think of to honor him
in the way that he deserves is to continue to try and live the way that
he did. So, that is what I intend to do. If I can do it even half as
well as he did, then I will enjoy a spectacular ride.
Peace, Uncle Johnny. You have certainly earned it.
"Growing up I always admired my Uncle John and Aunt Eddie-aside from how cool it seemed to have an aunt named Eddie, they were the most fun-teaching me to surf, always up for adventures.
I was amazed at their worldliness, their sense of adventure and of course Uncle Johns amazing and colorful stories. They blew away the young and naive idea young people often have of an older generation, and I only appreciated that more as I got older. We don't see you much, Aunt Eddie Ellison but our love and thoughts are with you. Rest in Peace, Uncle John, thank you for showing us all how to take advantage of all this world has to offer. KRISTA JOHN OSTRANDER"
"I think my cousin Krista touched on the most striking thing about my Uncle Johnny (and his wife Eddie) in that they dispel the nasty rumor that getting older means slowing down or being any less interesting. I will never forget the first real conversation I had with Johnny. I was 12 and going through what remain some of the hardest challenges I ever faced with friends and school. Rather than shaming me for the various missteps I made at that point in my life, he walked right up to me at our family reunion and said "hey, this is what makes people interesting, kid!" He kept everyone laughing. I loved bragging about how he would routinely get roles as an extra in movies and still enjoyed (crazy) downhill skiing well in to his 80s. Perhaps most admirably, he and Eddie were so visibly and wonderfully, from high school til his death.
Thank you, Uncle Johnny, for making me feel less alone all those years ago. Thank you for proving that being true to yourself will always make you a fascinating human. I'll miss you. EM KETTERER"
"Except for our sister, YERDIS, I believe that I have known JOHN longer than anyone else likely to leave a tribute.. Initally JOHN was just my big brother, but after DAD's death in 1946 he became also my stand in father. He was always there when I was making important decisions.
JOHN served as a solid advisor for me as I wrestled with questions such as going to a college in the Philadelphia area or going away.This was just one of many issues. I will cite one example: I applied to several colleges and LAFAYETTE COLLEGE was the first one to offer me a full scholarship, meaning finances would not hold me back. I talked with JOHN about this offer. He said, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Take itt" I received several other scholarship offers and went to JOHN and he pointed out that I had given my word to LAFAYETTE.Did my word mean anything? That one discussion exemplified for me how JOHN could simplify what, to me, were weighty issues.
Later in life I still took his advice. Perhaps the best example was his converting me from a very conservative Republican to a much more liberal Democrat! As I write this tribute and realize that I will never again
be able to talk with him, seek his advice, or just be with him I can not hold back the tears ---- HE WILL ALWAYSBE MY BIG BROTHER, MY FRIEND, AND MY ADVISOR!
"What a full, meaningful life John Ellison led. I'm happy to have known him. Condolences to you and your family, dear Eddie."
"I realized the other day that I have known John and Eddie for 40+ years!
I hope that family members will upload stories and pictures here for us to show Eddie. I loved John dearly (and Eddie too!) and always looked up to them as fantastic role models in my own life."
Have a suggestion for us?