Ella Kelley died this week. It breaks a piece off of my heart.
She was supposed to outlive me. She was younger than me and her disease came after mine. I teased her about having a “wimpy” ailment, unlike my big bold killer cancer. There’s no question in my mind that she should still be here, putting up with her husband Bruce, trying to straighten out my liberal ways, trying to build a bridge that would be a park, . She had some odd ways about looking at things, odd and funny and wise and, well, odd. When most people say they don’t want to live in the spotlight, you take it with a grain of salt. Ella was serious about it. She was curious about everything, but always trained the spotlight on others.
I am one of many people who want more than ever now to build that park in the sky, to make it available to everyone who comes to Richmond for the next 500 years, and to name it for Ella–even though that naming idea horrified her. I respect her wish to have lived her life quietly, but c’mon. The world needs role models like Ella. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that her obituary didn’t appear until two days after she died. I bet considerable time was taken by her family to make sure Ella’s wishes would be reflected in the writing. It turned out beautiful, of course:
KELLEY, Ella Lippman, 63, of Richmond, died peacefully in her sleep on the morning of Sunday, December 1, 2013. Born in San Francisco, Calif., she moved to Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., with her beloved parents, older sister and two older brothers, where she grew up. After earning a degree in French literature at SUNY Buffalo in 1967, she worked in Paris, France for two years before returning to New York City to begin her career in advertising. It was while working at Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1979 that she met the love of her life, Bruce Lewin Kelley. They were married on September 26, 1981 and had their first son, Devon, in September of 1986. Ella, her husband and son moved to Boston, Mass., at the end of 1987, where she gave birth to her twins, Emily and Connor, in June of 1991. Ella and her family then moved to New Canaan, Conn., where she found complete joy in raising her three children. In Connecticut, she balanced being a loving mother with working part time in marketing. After 10 years, she and her family began the next chapter of their lives in Richmond, Va., where Ella spent her remaining, happy and full years. Ella was a beloved, kind, generous and loving daughter, sister, aunt, wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She made every place she lived a home by filling it with her warm presence and selfless outlook on life. Her determination to create a beautiful life for her loved ones trumped all of her other amazing accomplishments, of which there were many. She was never one to inform others of these, but in her passing her family wished to reveal the successes she humbly kept hidden from everyone she met. She received a full academic scholarship to college, where she became fully literate and fluent in the French language. Her brilliant career trajectory in advertising, which was supplemented by an MBA from New York University, ended only because of her unconditional love for her children, for whom she left the industry. Ella was a member of New Canaan’s Town Council, and thought of by many to be the town’s next mayor had she not left with her family for Virginia. In Richmond, she was an active member in the community; she taught undergraduate classes at the University of Richmond, worked on the development of Center Stage and was the founder of the Richmond BridgePark Foundation, a city-wide project her family hopes to complete in her honor. While her accomplishments were varied and many, she always thought of herself as a mother above all else, a role at which she succeeded every moment of her life. Ella is survived by her husband, Bruce L. Kelley of Richmond; three children, Devon G. Kelley, Emily M. Kelley and Connor B. Kelley, all of Richmond; one stepdaughter, Amanda (Matthew) Forgione; and two grandchildren, Caitlin Forgione and Andrew Forgione of Atlanta. She is also survived by two brothers, Thomas (Sidney) Lippman, Stacey (Diana) Lippman; and one sister, Abigail (Martin) Margolies; and numerous nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held for Ella at The Collegiate School’s Hershey Center for the Arts at 4 p.m. Friday, December 6. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the American Cancer Society, or to the Richmond BridgePark Foundation, P.O. Box 1116, Richmond, Va. 23218. The BridgePark was founded by Ella, and we hope to complete the project in her honor.
Smart, beautiful, funny Ella. Now that I think about it, a disproportionate number of the finest people I’ve ever known have been named Ella.