Penelope (Penny) Ann Ellis, age 73, died December 10, 2020 at University Geneva Hospital of COVID-19, contracted while recovering from surgery. She was born December 23, 1946 in Columbus, Ohio, the daughter of Dr. Edwin Russell and Marion Elizabeth (Stewart) Westcott.
She is survived by her husband, John; her daughter, Marnie; her granddaughters, Hirut and Feven; and her brother and sister-in-law, Russell and Sandy Westcott.
She was proceeded in death by her parents; and her brothers, Douglas and John Westcott.
All her life she taught people things. Teaching was one of her central loves, whether formally, most recently at the satellite classroom of Happy Hearts at Austinburg Elementary, or informally, whenever she happened to find a person who needed to know something. She always found ways to reach the kids who needed her most. She was a 4-H leader and a Junior Grange matron, and long ago in New Jersey, she led a Girl Scout troop; she helped out wherever there were children, whether she was formally in charge or not. She taught people how to cook, garden, knit, tie their shoes, speak their first words, write their names, and recognize a cardinal, not just a “red bird.” She took generations of children into the woods, and if they couldn’t get as far as the woods, to the edge of the school playground and there she helped them make a garden and look at what there was to see.
She cared a great deal about our planet and its future. She cared about people knowing how to take care of themselves and live simply and inexpensively--that they would know how to grow things, can and cook healthy food. She believed in honey and elderberry, simple ingredients, backyard farming, and that everyone would be better off with a compost pile and a few laying hens.
She loved books, especially books about science fiction and nature, and she was good at getting other people to love them too, even people who no one thought would ever be reading books for fun. She also loved family stories and enjoyed telling and retelling them. She believed in making. She didn’t play an instrument or trust her singing voice (although she always sang with children), and didn’t write or draw much herself, but she always encouraged her family to play music and write and draw. She was our best and most enthusiastic audience.
She loved her grandchildren from before she saw their faces and knew their names, loved them from Ethiopia into their new lives in America, and she retired formally from teaching when she knew Hirut was finally coming home so she could spend her days with them and be their Nana and teacher. When they finally landed after their long trips home with their mom, Nana was ready with pancakes for Hirut and baby food and dry clothes for Feven, and Nana was the first person who held them. She was always their refuge.
She loved her husband, John, with whom she spent her whole adult life, her brothers and sisters-in-law and parents and cousins. She preferred to do everything with her family.
Penny did not want any services. In the future, when it is possible again to gather, we will hold a Celebration of Life for her. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the family.
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